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1st Congressional District

John Avlon

By Aidan Johnson

As the primary elections move closer, New York’s 1st Congressional District has experienced some shakeups within the Democratic race. Three candidates, Craig Herskowitz, Kyle Hill and James Gaughran, have exited. 

Herskowitz left the race to instead pursue the New York State Senate 2nd District, saying, “In the meantime, I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work electing Nancy Goroff as our next representative in Congress for District 1.”

In a press release, Hill announced that he was suspending his campaign, stating that he encourages “Suffolk Democrats to maintain their focus on flipping NY-1 because this election is entirely up for grabs.”

Gaughran is no longer running due to the redistricting of the congressional districts. Despite still living inside the new district, and therefore being qualified to run, he feels that his Democratic base has been gutted, saying in an interview that “the redistricting took away all of the large Democratic communities in the Town of Huntington that I represented in the state Senate and gave them to [U.S. Rep.] Tom Suozzi [D-NY3].” Since leaving the race, Gaughran has endorsed the newest candidate, John Avlon.

Owning homes in Sag Harbor and Manhattan, Avlon announced his bid for the congressional seat on Feb. 21, saying in a video posted to social media platform X: “This election is not a drill. It’s up to all of us to step up and get off the sidelines.” He is currently facing off against fellow Democrat Goroff.

Avlon has previously served as a CNN contributor and editor of The Daily Beast. Additionally, he helped found No Labels, a centrist political organization. However, Avlon has since condemned the organization’s attempt to run a third-party presidential candidate in the upcoming election, saying he “hasn’t had anything to do with the organization in more than a decade.” 

Avlon is married to Margaret Hoover, host of the PBS public affairs program “Firing Line.” She is a great-granddaughter of Herbert Hoover, the 31st U.S. president. They have two children.

In a phone interview, Avlon detailed how he first became involved in politics, explaining that his grandparents were immigrants “and like a lot of immigrant families, we grew up really patriotic.”

“My grandfather would talk about Abe Lincoln (R) or Harry Truman (D) like they were present in our lives, and that really inspired me and just got me interested,” he said.

Avlon went on to volunteer for both of Bill Clinton’s (D) campaigns, saying his “third-way approach to politics made a lot of sense to me.”

The new candidate decided to run for Congress after feeling frustrated that the seat wasn’t considered a national priority. 

“I’ve voted here for years, it’s my home,” he said. “It’s a community I love and it’s a district that I have watched with some frustration knowing that it’s a swing seat, knowing the Democrats can compete here.”

Avlon believes that Democrats need to “play offense, not defense,” saying that it was necessary to not just reach out to the Democratic Party, but to independent voters and Republicans who are against Donald Trump (R).

“I deeply believe that hyperpartisanship and polarization is a danger to American democracy and that we need to come up with new solutions, commonsense solutions that can help us reunite as a nation,” he said.

Avlon described one of his fundamental issues as strengthening the middle class in the United States as a whole and Long Island in particular.

He believes that a way to combat the affordability crisis is to “restore state and local tax deductions as they were. If they’re restored, which they will be if Democrats control Congress, that’s real money in people’s pockets.”

Avlon also said that the child tax credit should be expanded again, citing the near 50% decline in childhood poverty rates that the expansion led to during the pandemic. 

While he feels that things are moving in the right direction to address affordability concerns, he said that they are not going fast enough, citing statutes such as the CHIPS and Science Act as “huge opportunities that could be transformative for the middle class, but they’re going to take time to be fully felt.”

“[We have] less inflation than most industrialized nations and a faster recovery from the pandemic, but it can’t come fast enough,” he said.

Avlon stressed working with the communities to build affordable housing that is being built should be “consistent with the character of the communities.”

Additionally, Avlon noted the impact that climate change has had on Long Island’s coastal communities, saying that the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee of Transportation & Infrastructure, which former CD1 Congressman Tim Bishop (D) served on, would be “a perfect place to deal with some of these issues.” 

In a phone interview Goroff, who is now the only other Democratic candidate for the congressional seat, said, “I believe that the voters should decide who will represent them, and that includes primary voters deciding who the candidate should be, and so I welcome anyone who wants to join this fight.”

The Democratic primary is on June 25.

By Aidan Johnson

Three out of the four Democratic congressional candidates for District 1 — Nancy Goroff, Kyle Hill and Craig Herskowitz — attended a meet-the-candidates night at the Brookhaven Town Democratic Committee headquarters Tuesday, Feb. 6. During the meeting, the candidates addressed why they are running, their most important issues and policies they would support. The fourth candidate, former District 5 state Sen. James Gaughran [D-Northport], was unable to attend. The current congressional seat is held by Nick LaLota (R).

Introductions

Goroff, who has formerly served as the chair of the chemistry department at Stony Brook University, and previously ran for the congressional seat in 2020 against former Congressman Lee Zeldin (R), said that she was running “to protect our right to bodily autonomy” and “to build an economy that’s going to work for everybody,” along with environmental issues such as coastal erosion, climate change and water quality.

Herskowitz has interned for Sen. Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy (D) and Rep. Steve Israel (D). The candidate believes that his “judicial, legislative and executive experience, as well as criminal prosecution and criminal defense experience,” which includes him working at the Office of the General Counsel in the U.S. Marshals Service, the FBI and the Department of Justice, before being appointed as assistant counsel to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), before working as a criminal defense attorney and being appointed as an administrative law judge within the New York City Department of Finance, will allow him to connect with the congressional district. 

Hill went to graduate school at Stony Brook University, after which he worked for Israel on Capitol Hill, where he “became a health care policy expert.” He worked on rallying congressional support to update the organ transplant rules, and since coming back to Long Island, he has become a volunteer EMT and is involved with the Brookhaven Town Democratic Committee. He has become frustrated “every single day with [Congress’s] dysfunction,” and believes that by winning the CD1 seat, along with gaining a Democratic majority, Congress can function better. 

Health care

Hill would support passing the Social Security 2100 Act, which, among other things, would change the current law that caps earnings subject to the Social Security tax which, at the time the bill was introduced, was $160,200, but now stands at $168,600, to instead have earnings over $400,000 once again be subjected to the tax. However, all earnings in between would not be subject to the tax. He also said that it is necessary to build upon incentives for doctors and health care agencies to keep folks healthy and out of the hospital

Herskowitz said that he was “the only candidate in this race that’s supporting Medicare for All” and said that “we need to make sure people are paying their fair share of taxes,” and that “people that are damaging our environment are paying more for our health care system because they are the ones who are polluting our water, polluting our air.” He also said that “we need to find ways to ensure that Social Security is available to everyone.”

Goroff called Social Security and Medicare “two of our most successful government programs ever.” She said that it is necessary to “lift the cap on salary at which we take Social Security taxes,” adding, “That one change would make Social Security and Medicare both financially secure going into the future.” She also said that the age to receive Medicare should be reduced. 

Voter engagement

Herskowitz said that it is important to fight against misinformation, activate the voters and get people excited to vote, adding that a strong grassroots campaign was necessary to make sure “every single voter is touched, several times throughout the campaign, to make sure that people come out to vote.” He also said that it was necessary to appeal to the moderate center voters.

Hill said that “we’ve seen cycle over cycle that the Democrats who are coming out to vote have become fewer and fewer and more folks are registering as unaffiliated,” adding that it was necessary to figure out why they are not coming out to vote, and that it was necessary to have a message that brings out both Democrats and those in the middle. He said that Democrats need to lean into their strengths, citing issues such as infrastructure, drug pricing reform and the cost-of-living crisis.

Goroff said that in order to get people to vote who don’t automatically do so, or who vote for either a Democrat or a Republican, “it’s not about the issues, it’s about them believing that this person is going to represent them.” She said that she is committed to making sure voters know who she is as a person, educator and community leader, adding that it matters that they know they would have someone working hard for them “versus somebody who is just spewing talking points.”

Climate change

Hill said that he supports changing every car that the federal government owns to an electric vehicle, including from government agencies such as the post office. “We can use the purchasing power of the federal government to shape the market and make EVs more available, bringing down the price, make it more accessible, have more charging stations everywhere, and that’s something the federal government directly controls and already has its hands on,” he added.

Herskowitz said that it was necessary to move away from fossil fuels and invest in technologies that could remove carbon emissions from the atmosphere and nitrate from the soil and ground that leaks into the water. He also said that it was important to combat misinformation surrounding renewable energy.

Goroff said that the United States should be carbon neutral in energy production by 2035, and in transportation and buildings, along with the rest of the economy, by 2050. She supports the Inflation Reduction Act, which would invest in clean energy: “We need to be investing in clean energy and technologies now, making sure that we’re having proper oversight, and investing in new technologies for the future.”

Immigration

Goroff said that DACA recipients need a pathway to citizenship, and that it’s important to recognize the challenges for communities in getting resources for large numbers of migrants and nonnative English speakers. “The only way we can deal with that fairly is for the federal government to make sure that for school districts, like in Riverhead where they have very large numbers of nonnative speakers of English, that they’re getting adequate funding for those programs,” she said.

Herskowitz said that the vast majority of people who are in this country illegally do so by coming here legally and overstaying their visas, and clarified that coming to the border and requesting asylum is 100% legal, adding that more judges are needed to adjudicate asylum claims. “The migrants that are here want to work, and they should be able to work, and we should be able to expedite [that] so they can work, they can pay taxes, they can contribute to the economy,” he said, adding that comprehensive immigration reform was needed because “obviously the immigration system is broken.”

Hill said that it is necessary to address what’s causing the issues, “which is the rampant gang violence in Central America. Part of all of these comprehensive solutions has been greater investment in our southern neighbors to make sure there’s economic development [and] a reason to stay in their home.” He added, “Every time these comprehensive packages don’t end up happening, those things get left off the table.” He also said the budget, which Congress has yet to pass, would be an opportunity to address the concerns by “more appropriately [targeting] our foreign aid,” and better funding for the Department of Justice “so that judges can adjudicate asylum claims so that folks can enter society and be part of the society.”

The Democratic primary is on June 25. 

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn formally announced her bid for Congress at a June 2 event at the Three Village Inn. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) suspended her campaign to run for Congress. She made the announcement in an email to supporters May 22.

Hahn told TBR News Media it wasn’t an easy decision. “But, I am confident it is the right one,” she said. “Too much is at stake now, this is bigger than me.”

Hahn announced her bid to run for New York’s 1st Congressional District in June last year. The former deputy presiding officer of the county Legislature was set to run against fellow Suffolk Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac) in a primary for the Democratic nomination. U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R) has held the seat since 2015. The congressman is currently campaigning for this year’s Republican nomination for New York State governor.

In the May 22 email, Hahn said she will be uniting behind Fleming.

“I may no longer be on the ballot, but I will not be on the sidelines,” Hahn said. “Our democracy and most fundamental rights are all at stake. In order to combat the dark forces that threaten these values, unity is extremely important right now. In that spirit, I look forward to getting back on the trail and I hope you will join me in support of Democrats up and down the ballot.”

Fleming filed her Certificate of Designation on May 23, according to her office. She is currently the only Democratic candidate in the congressional district.

In thanking Hahn “for running a great race,” in a statement Fleming said, “Kara has been a model public servant with an extraordinary work ethic and commitment to bettering the lives of Long Islanders. I look forward to continuing to work with her in the county Legislature.”

Due to changes in certain districts, some primaries, including the ones for Congress, will be held Aug. 23, which Hahn felt would leave Democrats divided too close to the November elections. Suffolk County Democratic Committee chairman Rich Schaffer, in a statement, said the committee appreciated Hahn’s “hard fought campaign” and decision.

“Kara has a great future, and we look forward to her continuing to serve the residents of Suffolk County,” he said. “Toward that end, with the primary moving back, we appreciate that Kara has put her own interests aside and chose for unity, backing Bridget Fleming in her race for Congress. There is no time for interparty fighting and we’re all ready to get behind Bridget to ensure she is the next representative for the 1st Congressional District.”

Hahn won her sixth term as county legislator last November. This will be her last two-year term in the Suffolk County Legislature due to term limits.

Post updated May 25 to include comments from Rich Schaffer.

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Anthony Figliola, right, is pictured with his wife, Christine, and children Celine, Siena and Anthony. Photo from candidate

A former Town of Brookhaven deputy supervisor is ready to take on Congress.

Anthony Figliola

As the new year began, Anthony Figliola (R-East Setauket) announced his intention to represent New York’s 1st Congressional District. The seat is currently held by U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) who announced in 2021 that he would not run for Congress and would instead run for New York State governor.

Figliola, who is running for office for the first time, said it’s something that’s been a dream of his for a while. When he heard the announcement that Zeldin decided to tackle the governor’s race, he knew it was time to seize the opportunity to run for Congress. Despite this being the first time he’s running for office, the candidate said Congress is a perfect example of being able to be a citizen legislator.

He said he prayed on the decision with his family and reached out to people he knew in the Republican Party. The husband and father of three said his agenda is families first, and he is concerned about kitchen table issues that affect the middle class.

“I decided that I wanted to jump into this, and primarily because, especially with COVID, seeing the way that this country has been going, it’s really been going downhill, and one of the most glaring issues to me is the impact on the middle-class community,” he said.

The candidate said while he knows the district has always been an expensive place to live, after COVID and the state mandates and shutdown, he talked to various small business owners and realized the difficulty they were having keeping afloat and hiring.

“I talked to a lot of families who, with inflation being at 7%, which is the highest since 1982, they literally don’t have the salary to be able to pay all their bills,” he said. “Some prices are up 50% from where they were last year. Something’s got to give, and people need somebody in Washington that’s going to fight for them and — whether they’re Republican, Independent or Democrat — someone who understands how government works, but also with the same struggles that they have. I was tired of sitting on the sidelines, and I want to be in it, and I want to play.”

Robert Cornicelli, of St. James, has also announced his intention to run on the Republican ticket for Congress. However, the Suffolk County Legislature is currently deciding on redistricting so whether or not Figliola will need to run in a primary depends on redistricting decisions.

Anthony Figliola and family. Photo from candidate

The East Setauket resident said he realized he has big shoes to fill in Congress if he were to win and would work not to lose Zeldin’s legacy of “fighting for the working men and women of this district.”

Figliola said taxes, inflation and gas prices are at the forefront of his mind as he runs for office. Regarding gas prices, he said he believes in opening up oil refineries so the U.S. can export oil to other countries, and in turn, build up the U.S. economy and lower the prices at the pump and inflation in general.

“We are now beholden to overseas foreign governments and foreign conglomerates to tell us how much the cost of gas should be,” he said. “We have to stop kowtowing to our enemies.”

Figliola said if elected he would work to help grow the local economy, while also safeguarding the environment, especially protecting the Island’s drinking water. He believes his experience as an executive vice president of a government relations and economic development business, as well as his time as Brookhaven deputy supervisor, will be an asset.

“One of the things that I’ve done in my career is I’ve worked a lot with sewers and the installation of sewers and building sewer facilities,” he said. “What I think is really important is that we work to find a way to sewer more of Suffolk County in the 1st Congressional District, because it’s going to do two things. It’s going to help reduce harmful toxins and nitrogen and other things that are being put into our drinking water and our waterways. And secondly, it allows us to redevelop and reimagine a lot of our downtowns.”

He said he is also concerned with current COVID mandates where he feels President Joe Biden (D) and Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) are making decisions and not involving all branches of government. While earlier in the pandemic former Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) was given emergency powers, the current governor doesn’t have the same authority. An example he said is the mandatory vaccinations and boosters from Hochul which he felt were just edicts.

“There’s no checks and balances,” he said. “There was no debate. There’s no review of the issue, the science, who it’s going to impact. It’s just one day Biden or Gov. Hochul says this is how it’s going to be, and if you don’t follow, you’re going to lose everything that you know. And that’s it, and I disagree with that. I’m going to fight passionately for people’s individual liberties and for their freedoms.”

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn formally announced her bid for Congress at a June 2 event at the Three Village Inn. Photo by Rita J. Egan

More than 150 people, celebrating a local elected official’s announcement, filled the front courtyard of the Three Village Inn, Stony Brook, in the late afternoon of June 2.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) announced her bid to run in 2022 for New York’s 1st Congressional District. Hahn, who is also deputy presiding officer of the county Legislature, will run against fellow Suffolk Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac) for the Democratic nomination. U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R) has held the seat since 2015. The congressman is currently campaigning for the Republican nomination for New York State governor in 2022.

The June 2 event was organized for Hahn to make her first public remarks about her decision. When she was younger, the legislator was a waitress at the Three Village Inn.

Hahn said her father, who was a volunteer firefighter in Stony Brook, gave her inspiration to serve the community.

“I always try to match the level of service my dad gave,” Hahn said. “He is my hero, and my prime example of what it means to show up for your community and help families in need. It’s his example that led me to pursue a career in social work and become a civic leader.”

She said his influence also helped her tackle difficult issues in the Legislature where she has worked on legislation to protect land and water from pollutants, confront Long Island’s opioid epidemic, and helped victims of domestic abuse.

Hahn said more than ever the district needs a leader in Congress, “who actually wants to find solutions for our problems, and that is what I will do — find solutions.”

“I have so much hope and optimism right now,” she added. “We are back together close enough for handshakes and hugs.”

Hahn compared the pandemic to a storm, and said like other storms, residents will come out stronger “if we are willing to face head on together the enormous challenges that need to be tackled for Long Island’s hardworking families.”

The legislator said she recognizes the impact the pandemic has had financially on many. She added Long Islanders’ finances were affected long before the COVID-19 shutdowns when the federal government capped the state and local tax deduction.

“This punitive tax has hurt families and hurt our economy,” she said. “Of course, I’ll stand up for Long Island homeowners and vote to repeal that tax.”

In addition to removing the tax cap on SALT deductions, among her goals, if elected to Congress, are making health care affordable, child care more accessible, investing in local infrastructure and protecting land and water from pollution and having access to parks and shorelines.

“Washington must be better for us,” she said.

Hahn said she believes a campaign can be built with Long Islanders across the political spectrum “while upholding deep-held Democratic values of respect, equality, justice and opportunity for all.” She made it clear she is ready for the task of running for Congress and described herself as a problem solver.

“I work to get things done,” Hahn said. “I lead with respect, and I listen. I have a track record of working with anyone, to put family first and get results. That’s the kind of leadership our community needs in Washington. This campaign isn’t going to be easy, but like a lot of Long Islanders, I’ve never backed down from a challenge.”

Alexandra VanDerlofske, executive director of the Suffolk County Democratic Committee, said in an email statement that voters will have a difficult decision to make when it comes to the primaries.

“Kara Hahn has been a dynamic legislator and has a proven record of getting things done for Suffolk,” she said. “Voters are going to have a tough choice to make, but either choice will be a good one as Kara or Bridget will both be strong advocates for Suffolk in Congress.”

House candidates square off for discussion on health care, the economy, the environment and President Trump in TBR exclusive

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin and challenger Perry Gershon discuss topics during a debate at TBR News Media in Setauket. Photos by Kyle Barr

The result of the race to represent New York’s 1st Congressional District will be monitored by locals closely on election night, but the contest will have far wider implications.

The U.S. House of Representatives has been in Republican control since 2011, but polling suggests Democrats have an opportunity to retake the majority Nov. 6, with the seat of two-term incumbent Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) appearing to be among those up for grabs if polls are to be believed. Zeldin faces challenger Perry Gershon, a Democrat who emerged from a field of five in a June primary, who said he has embarked on his first political run because he wants to put a check on President Donald Trump (R) and his congressional supporters.

The candidates sat down together for an exclusive interview with the TBR News Media in Setauket last month for a wide-ranging discussion on the race and their political ideologies.

“I think it’s really important after this election for our country to do a better job uniting, regardless of whether you come in first or second — whether or not your candidate comes in first or second that you voted or volunteered for.”

— Lee Zeldin

The president and the political divide

The current political climate and national discourse is a major motivator behind Gershon’s decision to run, he said. While the candidates agree a problem exists, they voiced competing theories regarding the source.

“I think it’s really important after this election for our country to do a better job uniting, regardless of whether you come in first or second — whether or not your candidate comes in first or second that you voted or volunteered for,” Zeldin said.

Gershon agreed with his opponent’s sentiment, but criticized Zeldin for suggesting it can wait until after Nov. 6.

The incumbent cited the demand for polarized news consumption from the electorate and an in-kind response from the news media as the genesis for the divisive environment at present. However, Zeldin laid blame on both Trump and his vanquished 2016 opponent Democrat Hillary Clinton for failing to voice a message of unity when the dust settled. He also said the Women’s March, which took place the day after Trump’s inauguration, is a contributing factor to the current tone of politics.

“We all have a responsibility, I have a responsibility too,” Zeldin said.

Gershon was less willing to place the blame on a confluence of factors, assigning most of it to the White House.

“In terms of presidential elections, there was never discussion about not accepting the result until Trump [came along],” he said. “That had never been on the table before and Trump put it up there. It’s part of the fear mongering and the xenophobia that’s besmirched this country. … The idea that it didn’t start and get escalated by Donald Trump is just wrong. He’s proud of it.”

When asked to offer criticisms of Trump’s job performance to date, Zeldin said he wished the president’s demeanor was more befitting of a role model for children.

“You should be able to say [to your kids] that you should be just like the president of the United States when you get older,” the congressman said.

When asked what he viewed as Trump’s successes, Gershon said he supported reducing the corporate tax rate as a means to stimulate the economy, though he said he felt the benefits of the bill tipped too far in favor of corporations and harmed individuals, especially in New York state.

The economy and taxes

“In terms of presidential elections, there was never discussion about not accepting the result until Trump [came along]. That had never been on the table before and Trump put it up there.”

— Perry Gershon

Both candidates acknowledged unemployment rates, gross domestic product, consumer confidence and, generally speaking, the stock market are all trending in positive directions currently. They differed on how much credit the president deserves for it.

Zeldin said unemployment rates, both for the general public and specific demographics, are reaching lows not seen in decades, and were signs of successful Republican control of the executive and legislative federal branches.

Gershon pointed out wage growth for workers is lagging behind. He criticized Trump and congressional Republicans for capping the SALT deduction at $10,000 in the federal tax bill, though he agreed reducing the corporate tax rate was a good idea for stimulating growth.

According to Zeldin, Amneal Pharmaceuticals, with locations in Hauppauge and Yaphank, announced plans to expand its facilities due to booming sales and new products in January. He said the company’s actions are a by-product of the positive economy, adding this is one of several companies making investments in the 1st Congressional District.

The congressman was one of few House Republicans to oppose the federal tax bill, and explained his opposition, which he and his challenger shared.

“I don’t believe that the best way to pay for a reduction on the corporate side is by making people pay more on the personal income side,” Zeldin said.

The legislation reduced tax rates for individuals and corporations, but at a far greater rate for corporations.

While Gershon acknowledged there are components of the bill he saw as positives, he levied substantial criticism on Republicans for penalizing New York with the bill, which he theorized was part of the goal — to punish blue states.

“Every Republican who votes for [House Speaker] Paul Ryan and Republican leadership has complicity in the tax plan passing,” he said, criticizing the majority for passing legislation without any Democratic support or compromise.

“Every Republican who votes for [House Speaker] Paul Ryan and Republican leadership has complicity in the tax plan passing.”

— Perry Gershon

Gershon said, if elected, he would introduce legislation to offset the cap of SALT deductions for New Yorkers. Zeldin said he fought for removal of the SALT deduction cap in the bill that ultimately passed.

Health care

The two candidates are ideologically closer together in their vision for a health care fix than their campaign ads would suggest.

Zeldin said he supported repealing the individual mandate component of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 — what’s commonly referred to as Obamacare — as the fine for not having health care insurance was eliminated under Trump’s tax bill. The congressman is in favor of expanding states’ ability to tailor the federal law to their citizens, and reducing the federal government’s burden in Medicaid costs.

Gershon has campaigned on a single-payer or “Medicare for All” system, which would require all individuals to contribute to a pool that would provide health care coverage for all Americans — a plan with zero Republican support. The challenger criticized Democrats’ passage of the ACA without any Republican support, and agreed compromise is the only path forward on health care.

Both Zeldin and Gershon stressed the importance of a bipartisan compromise to improve the status of the nation’s current health care system.

The environment

Long Island is one of the country’s most susceptible areas to rising sea levels and a warming climate. After Hurricane Sandy and recent storms, environmental protection is a top concern for many.

Zeldin touted his close relationship with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for his ability to obtain funding for projects meant to harden the shoreline. He cited legislation he’d helped advance for water quality protection and called future sea level rise a big concern. However, Zeldin also prioritized the federal government’s role in keeping taxes low and rolling back regulations to improve the business environment when asked what its role should be in stemming sea level rise. He stressed the importance of incentivizing flood mitigation opportunities for coastal residents.

“I don’t believe that the best way to pay for a reduction on the corporate side is by making people pay more on the personal income side.”

— Lee Zeldin

The incumbent added that updated power generation technology and investment in alternative energy sources would be a positive step forward for the district.

“It’s happening, it’s impacting our district,” he said of sea level rise. “What you need to do, for those who are staying here in the 1st Congressional District, is to the extent that you have a barrier beach, is to keep it strong.”

Gershon scolded Trump’s administration for rolling back regulations aimed at protecting the environment and for his decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement, an international climate accord within the United Nations designed to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

“Let’s go at the root of the problem instead of treating the symptoms,” the challenger said. “Let’s lower our use of fossil fuels. Let’s invest in clean, renewable energy.”

Gershon rejected the notion that economic growth and an improved business climate could only come at the expense of environmental protections. He called for more wind and solar energy investment, and a decreased reliance on fossil fuels. Zeldin said he would also be in favor of alternative energy investment.

By Sara-Megan Walsh

A Nesconset man was arrested for allegedly making a terroristic threat against a campaign worker at  U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin’s (R-Shirley) headquarters last July 6, according to Suffolk County police.

Nesconset resident Martin Astrof, 75, was arrested for allegedly threatening one of U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin’s campaign workers. Photo from SCPD

Martin Astrof was arrested Friday after he allegedly threatened to kill one of Zeldin’s supporters and supporters of President Donald Trump (R).  Astrof went to Zeldin’s campaign headquarters on Terry Road in Smithtown and became irate with a campaign worker, identified by Zeldin’s office as Donato Panico,  at approximately 11:15 a.m., police said. After allegedly threatening to kill Panico and other supporters, Astrof backed his car up in an aggressive manner nearly striking the worker, according to police.

“Donato Panic is an exceptional citizen who has dedicated his life to serving our law enforcement and nation’s veterans,” Zeldin said in a statement. “He should never have been targeted like this today for his support of a political candidate.”

Astrof, 75,  allegedly fled the scene and was arrested a short time later in front of his home in Nesconset. He was charged with one felony-count of making a terrorist threat and one count of second-degree reckless endangerment.

“In the United States of America, political scores are settled at the ballot box, not by trying to kill your political opponents,” Zeldin said. “It is unacceptable to resort to actions to kill or seriously harm political opponents or otherwise incite those violent actions by others. It must stop now.”

The congressman said he himself has received several death threats, and his wife and children have been targeted as well since the last presidential election in 2016.

Astrof was arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip July 7 and released after posting bail in the amount of $25,000 bond. A temporary order of protection was issued by Suffolk County police.

 

U.S. Congressman Lee Zeldin's campaign kickoff event was held June 28 in Smithtown

More than 350 supporters attended U.S. Congressman Lee Zeldin’s (R-Shirley) campaign kickoff event at the Smithtown Elks Club last week, but full media coverage of the guest speakers may be hard to come by.

Two members of the local press were kicked out of Zeldin’s June 28 event after an attendee in their vicinity vocally decried one of his controversial featured speakers, former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

“I asked, ‘Why do I have to leave?’ There was no reason given,”said Pat Biancaniello, editor of the site Smithtown Matters and one of the journalists removed from the event.

Chris Boyle, communications director for Zeldin’s 2018 campaign for Congress, said that a protester made an outburst that created a disturbance in the middle of the rally, causing the congressman’s security team to react.

“[I]n an effort to escort all those involved out of a crowded and loud rally, three people, including the protester, were identified as being involved in the outburst and were escorted out,” Boyle said in a statement.

I asked, ‘Why do I have to leave?’ There was no reason given.”

– Pat Biancaniello

Setauket resident Susan Perretti, the woman identified as having created the disturbance at the event, said she had RSVP’d she would be attending with two friends in hopes of getting an opportunity to directly address her congressman unfiltered, saying town hall-style events tend to only allow for prescreened questions. When two friends were denied entry, she proceeded to head inside.

Perretti, a member of the North Country Peace Group advocacy organization, said once inside she had a hard time keeping quiet while hearing comments made by several former advisers to President Donald Trump (R) and what she called “hate” speech from attendees.

“Then when Sean Spicer came out, I just started saying, ‘It’s enough — it’s enough,’” she said.

When Zeldin’s security team approached her, Perretti said she was asked to leave or she would be arrested. Upon asking why, Perretti said she was informed that she was trespassing before being escorted off the premises peacefully.

Biancaniello said she and Dave Ambro, editor of The Smithtown News, were standing in close proximity to Perretti when the commotion began. The editor of The Smithtown News took a photo of Perretti’s outburst, according to those in attendance, before he was the first journalist to be escorted out.

Then when Sean Spicer came out, I just started saying, ‘It’s enough — it’s enough.'”

— Susan Perretti

Ambro declined to comment on the event.

State Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) said he was close enough to see Zeldin’s security team approach both Perretti and the reporters, but he could not hear the conversation over the rally and it was unclear what was unfolding.

“There was a list of people who were known troublemakers [the security team] was on the lookout for who were known to be trying to get in,” Fitzpatrick said, “Two were discovered trying to find their way inside to disrupt the event.”

However, the assemblyman said the reporters kicked out were not associated with the protester.

“I did not witness any problem whatsoever by David or Pat,” he said. “From what I could see, there was no reason for them to be asked to be removed. They were not part of the disruption. When the commotion started, they were obviously paying attention to it as reporters would.”

Biancaniello said she was the second journalist to be forced out by Zeldin’s security team. She alleged she identified herself as a member of the press, was openly wearing a media badge provided by Zeldin’s team and that her camera was hit by a guard when she attempted to take a photo.

When asked to leave, the two other people, later identified as the editor of the longtime anti-Zeldin Smithtown News and a left leaning local blogger, did not display those credentials they were provided …”

– Chris Boyle

“I think it was people were intentionally singled out,” the Smithtown Matters editor said.

Zeldin’s staff said the press failed to appropriately identify themselves to the security team.

“When asked to leave, the two other people, later identified as the editor of the longtime anti-Zeldin Smithtown News and a left leaning local blogger, did not display those credentials they were provided almost as if they wanted to get thrown out to write about it afterwards,” Zeldin’s communications director said. “Following the outburst, they did not contact any members of our team until hours after the event ended.”

Biancaniello said she had called and emailed Zeldin’s office immediately following the event without response. After making her story public in a Facebook post at approximately 8:30 p.m., Biancaniello said she was informed several local residents contacted Zeldin’s office and she eventually received an emailed reply asking why she never properly identified herself as being with the press despite alleging she was wearing her press badge.

The Smithtown Matters editor said she has grave concerns about the precedent the event may set for media coverage of the upcoming race for the 1st Congressional District.

“What does it say when only the people given admission again were the people who you think will cover it positively?” she said. “That’s not where the world needs to be today. We have enough people coming after journalists and the integrity of the media in general.”

File Photo by Alex Petroski

The stage is finally set for what will likely be a fierce campaign leading up to the November midterm elections.

Perry Gershon, a largely self-funded first-time candidate for political office, who spent years as a commercial mortgage lender and a small business owner, defeated four other Democrats aiming to take down incumbent 1st District U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) June 26.

Kate Browning speaks to supporters as she waits for election results to come in June 26 in Patchogue. Photo by Rita J. Egan

More than 20,300 1st District voters turned out to vote in the primary, which was open to only those registered as members of the party, as per New York State law. Gershon secured 7,226 votes, beating former Suffolk County Legislator Kate Browning, his closest competitor, by about 1,000 votes. Vivian Viloria-Fisher, another former legislator, finished third with 3,314 votes. In 2016, about 12,600 registered Democrats went to the polls on primary day to choose between Anna Throne-Holst and Dave Calone.

“The voters showed that we’re tired of what’s going on in Washington,” Gershon said to a room full of supporters and volunteers at his campaign headquarters in Setauket when it became clear his lead would hold up. He thanked his family and those who worked to help him win the nomination, as well as the other four candidates, who he said ran a clean race with an eye on unifying post-primary all along. “Our elected leaders are not responsive to what people are looking for. People want a new breed, and that’s what I stand for.”

Zeldin, who has been quiet about his potential challengers, wasted no time getting the campaign started on Twitter once Gershon became the presumed victor.

“Park Ave Perry may have bought himself the Democratic Party nomination in NY-1, but our Congressional seat is not for sale,” the incumbent wrote. “NY-1 isn’t electing a far left, Pelosi-loving, NYC Democrat who registered in our district very recently just to run for Congress.”

In an interview after his win, Gershon said he intends to make his campaign about health care, the environment and creating high-wage jobs in the 1st District.

Perry Gershon supporters anxiously await election results at his campaign headquarters in Setauket June 26. Photo by Alex Petroski

“I’m really excited, I feel like people believed in me and I’m so happy for it,” he said.

Many of those believers were people who readily admitted they’d never gotten much involved in politics in the past.

“I’ve seen a lot of people, like at my school, very few people who cared about politics beforehand but after the March for Our Lives, after the result of the Never Again movement, and even after what’s happening at the border right now, far more young people are getting involved,” said Scott Egnor, a Ward Melville High School student who helped organize the youth-led local gun control protests in March. He cited Gershon’s desire to ban assault-style weapons and strengthen background checks as the driving force behind his motivation to volunteer for his campaign. “Even at the office, he still wears his March for Our Lives hat, and I think that spoke to me a lot.”

Browning said in an interview from her watch party in Patchogue she’s not sure what her next move might be in politics, but vowed to support Gershon’s efforts to flip the seat in November.

“It’s about taking out Lee Zeldin, and we all need to regroup and support [Gershon],” she said.

All five candidates told TBR News Media in May they intended to support the primary winner.

Reporting contributed by Rita J. Egan.

Perry Gershon. Photo by Kyle Barr

As the five-headed Democratic Primary to select a challenger for 1st District U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) nears, six Stony Brook University faculty members, some with ties to Brookhaven National Lab, have authored a letter endorsing their preferred winner.

The signers of the letter are throwing their public support behind Perry Gershon, a first-time candidate for political office from the private sector, who made a career as a commercial mortgage lender and small business owner, citing his belief that “facts trump opinions.” The group also supports Gershon’s broader dedication to protecting the environment.

The endorsement came with a disclaimer that the signees being affiliated with SBU are for identification purposes only and do not imply institutional support for any political candidate. Other notable endorsements in the race thus far include Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski’s (D-Cutchogue) stated support for Kate Browning, a former legislator herself; and Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) backing Vivian Viloria-Fisher, another Suffolk legislature alumna. Notably, the group of six from SBU’s STEM department did not endorse BNL scientist Elaine DiMasi, who is also among the five candidates in the race.

The full letter from the SBU professors supporting Gershon is below, lightly edited for grammar and style.

Endorsement of Perry Gershon for Congress by faculty and researchers in science, technology, engineering and math at Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Laboratory

An open letter to the community:

As faculty and researchers at Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Laboratory  involved in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teaching and research, we believe it is of vital importance that you vote for Perry Gershon as your next U.S. Representative in Congress in New York’s 1st Congressional District June 26 in the Democratic Primary.

For all of us, at both the university and the lab in Brookhaven, mid-western Suffolk has been our home for many years, just as the South Fork in eastern Suffolk has been Perry’s home for over 20 years. CD1 covers both — we share the same aquifer and the same need for clean water. What happens here locally, in our country, and in the world, matters deeply to all of us.

We need Perry in Congress because he believes that facts trump opinions. Perry grew up in an academic family. His parents are both medical researchers at Columbia University. While a student at Yale, Perry was involved in original research as co-investigator on multiple published papers with faculty. He understands at his core that investigation and evidence must win out over demagoguery.

Perry believes in the overwhelming evidence of climate change and its profound effects at every scale, from Long Island to the entire Earth. Unlike President Donald Trump (R) and Zeldin, Perry would stay in the Paris Climate Accord and work to help America meet its goals. Perry holds that expanding markets for innovative clean technologies generates jobs and economic growth. Research at SBU, BNL, and Suffolk incubators can be at the forefront of turning CD1’s economy into one that supports good-paying, middle-class jobs that offer our young people the opportunity to stay on Long Island.

Perry knows that Environmental Protection Agency regulations, based on scientific study, are made to help and protect every one of us. Yet under Trump (R), EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt (R) and Zeldin, expert scientists are no longer even allowed to provide advice to the EPA, because recipients of EPA grants, who are the most knowledgeable experts, are forbidden from serving on EPA’s scientific advisory committees — the bodies that make sure regulations to protect public health and environmental values are based on sound science.

Perry knows that Department of the Interior decisions should benefit the country, not benefit any corporation that wants to exploit our natural resources for its bottom line. We do not need or want offshore oil drilling destroying our pristine coastline and threatening our tourist industry. While Zeldin feigns opposition, his support of Trump has allowed Zinke to move forward to expedite drilling permits.

Perry stands for the Democratic values that we all share: seeking truth and diversity of opinion. Unlike Trump and Zeldin, Perry actually listens. He actively seeks input and advice. His main goal is to solve problems in ways that benefit the greatest number of people.

On June 26, the Democratic Primary will choose the candidate who will oppose Zeldin in November. We firmly believe Perry Gershon has the intellect, the skills, the fortitude, and the resources to beat Zeldin — a powerful combination that is not matched by any of the other primary candidates.

We ask you to support Perry Gershon, to take back Congress by removing the man who has become Trump’s mouthpiece and enabler — Lee Zeldin. On June 26, please stand with us in returning truth to our government’s decision making.

Sincerely,

Dr. Douglas Futuyma, Distinguished Professor, Ecology and Evolution, SBU

Dr. Nancy Goroff, Chair Department of Chemistry, SBU

Dr. Stephen Baines, Associate Professor, Ecology and Evolution, SBU

Dr. Barry McCoy, Distinguished Professor, CN Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics, SBU

Dr. Lorna Role, Distinguished Professor and Chair, Neurobiology and Behavior, SBU

Dr. Gene Sprouse, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Physics and Astronomy, SBU

This post was updated June 19 to remove Dr. Jeff Keister as a signer and add Dr. Stephen Baines.