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Nancy Goroff

Rich Schaffer, chairman of the Suffolk County Democratic Committee, said he has long seen Suffolk as “a purple district,” despite Republican wins within the county.

This, he said, was made evident by the final polling results that were released at last after weeks of absentee vote counting. President Donald Trump (R) won Suffolk County by just a little over 200 ballots, a far cry from just four years ago when Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton with 46,619 more votes in 2016.

Rich Schaffer, the Suffolk Democratic chairman, said current polling numbers prove the area is more purple than people realize. Photo from Suffolk Democrats

Suffolk “is more of a get-even county in terms of both the registration numbers as well as the enthusiasm, so most races are competitive,” Schaffer said during a phone interview postelection. “And that was just proven by the results that came out.”

Still, Democrats suffered several defeats for both state offices and for congressional seats.  

The Republicans also flipped the 3rd state Senatorial District seat held by Sen. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood). Northport Democrat Michael Marcantonio lost the 12th District Assembly race against Republican Keith Brown by a little over 2,000 votes.

Yet there were some victories in there as well. State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) held onto his seat against a strong challenge from current Town of Huntington board member Ed Smyth (R). Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), a 28-year member of the Assembly, held out over the long weeks of absentee-vote counting for a 6,825-vote win over Republican Michael Ross.

Schaffer said the much greater turnout not just in Suffolk but nationwide also expressed people’s interest in candidates. He said though some candidates have yet to confirm they will be running again in 2022, people such as Laura Ahearn, who ran against Republican Anthony Palumbo for SD1, and Jackie Gordon, who lost her race for Congressional District 2 while winning Suffolk, have good shots if they continue their political careers. He added Gordon has an especially good shot if CD2 becomes redistricted to become exclusively Suffolk-based based on census results.

Though Biden has already been certified as the winner of the election, Trump supporters and the president himself continue to call the results fraudulent. Schaffer said such a thing is ludicrous.

“I mean, I’m the first guy to say, if you can show us widespread fraud, then I’m on board with making sure that it’s not the case,” he said. “But, again, it’s just been this flailing and throwing things against the wall to see what sticks at it.” 

Schaffer sees Democrats in Suffolk as a kind of coalition that is trying to support suburban values. Republicans, he said, have spent the past year painting their opposing party as such things like anti-police. As Republicans pushed the bail reform bill passed in the 2019 budget as a major part of their campaigns, Schaffer said Democrats in the city hurt their suburban or rural colleagues by not having discussions about it prior to its passing.

“The trick for us is to continue to push our agenda out here and make sure people understand that we’re not in lockstep with New York City Democrats,” he said. “The approach needs to be that we’re talking about what it means to the quality of life in the suburbs, and whether or not it’s something that people out here support, as opposed to what the party is advancing.”

He said that Long Island Democrats need to join up and form a kind of “suburban working group,” not as a rebuff to the party, but as a way of making their thoughts and voices heard.

“Just as the city representatives flex their muscles, the suburban representatives do the same. They need to all stick together,” he said.

At the heart of Suffolk Democrats’ woes is trying to create a coalition between the moderate and more progressive ends of the left. Some progressives have expressed their displeasure with the greater party over what they feel is their views being stifled.

Schaffer said just like any other part of the party, their views are accounted for, but what’s also required is compromise. He added that progressives need to stop demonizing people who don’t fully support their policy positions.

“They present their opinions, they can present their views, they can talk about legislation, but they also have to understand that politics is compromise,” he said. “Those that want to say all our views aren’t being listened to, so we’re going to just take our ball and go home, need to rethink that strategy.”

For 2021, Schaffer said there are multiple important local races, including a special election for Town of Brookhaven as well as Suffolk Legislature seats. 

Schaffer said the committee is going forward with Setauket community advocate Jonathan Kornreich as their nominee for Brookhaven Council District 1, as long as nothing changes in the time between now and election.

Otherwise, with races such as county Legislators Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) up for election this year, it will be about maintaining incumbent seats.

“We’re excited about our incumbents — we think they’ve done a good job locally,” he said. “We’re looking forward to put them out there again for reelection.”

Englebright/Palumbo/Mattera Claim Victory in Respective Races

Lee Zeldin. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

*This post has been updated to include updated information about other area races.

With the number of absentee ballots counted so far, the GOP commissioner of the bipartisan Suffolk County Board of Elections told TBR News Media that U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin’s (R-NY1) reelection over Democratic challenger Nancy Goroff is “mathematically certain.”

“I expect to certify the race in about a week — with the results showing Congressman Zeldin won by almost 50,000 votes,” BOE Commissioner Nick LaLota said in an email statement. The incumbent congressional representative had a lead of over 60,000 votes by the end of in-person vote counting Nov. 3. Absentee ballot counting began Nov. 16.

While Goroff and her election staff said on Election Day they had to wait for the results of in-person voting, Zeldin released a statement that night declaring victory. In it he also thanked Goroff for the race.

“As America enters its next chapter, I am confident we will defeat the coronavirus and continue growing our economy,” the incumbent said in that Nov. 3 statement. 

Zeldin’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for any kind of new statement based on the commissioner’s election call.

A representative from Goroff’s campaign said they are waiting for additional absentee ballots to be counted before putting out any kind of statement.

In other local races, state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) was confident that mail-in ballots would make a difference in the 2020 race for his seat in the 4th Assembly District, and he was right.

On Dec. 2, LaLota confirmed that Englebright was reelected and that official ballot counts would be available shortly.

The assemblyman said it was good to have the ballot count finished.

“This election was unique because fully one-third of the vote came in through mail ballots and was not included in the initial election night tally,” he said. “It was, however, worth waiting for.  The final count was a solid affirmation. I’m grateful that the voters gave me the opportunity to continue representing them in the Assembly. And there is much work to be done in the new year. Until then, please everyone, be safe this holiday season and we will come out of this stronger.”

In person voting showed Englebright behind Nov. 4 with 47.44% of the votes, compared to his challenger Republican Michael Ross who had 51.88% of the votes. At the time, there were nearly 18,000 absentee ballots that still needed to be counted in the district.

Ross did not release a statement by press time.

At the same time, victory was declared by current Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), who defeated Democratic opponent Laura Ahearn to take Senate District 1. The seat had been held by Republican Ken LaValle for over 40 years.

“As our new Senator, I will work hard every day to continue the legacy of retiring State Sen. Ken LaValle and build upon his strong record of protecting the environment, supporting our schools, and fighting for taxpayers,” Palumbo said in a statement. “Thank you for putting your trust in me. I am proud and truly grateful to have the opportunity to continue serving our Long Island communities in the New York State Legislature.”

In a statement, Ahearn congratulated Palumbo for his win and said she would “work with him for the betterment of our communities during these difficult times.”

“I am very proud of the work we all did together as we were just 2.7% points away from flipping this seat, by far the closest this race has been in decades,” Ahearn said in a statement. “For now, I look forward to spending the holiday season with my family, who have been through so much during this remarkable time to run for public office. And of course, there is still much work to be done as we continue to help those who need it most.

In Senate District 2, Mario Mattera succeeded Senator John Flanagan (R). Mattera beat out Democrat and former state trooper Michael Siderakis, of Nesconset.

“Now that the counting is complete, we are ready to work together to bring the voice of all who live in our community to our state government and make sure that the needs of our families are met,” Mattera said in a statement. “The time has come to put Long Island first, and I look forward to getting to Albany to fight for our hardworking families.”

This story was amended to add a statement from Laura Ahearn.

Stock photo

TBR News Media published its endorsements in the Oct. 29 editions of our papers, which run from Wading River in the Town of Brookhaven to Cold Spring Harbor in Huntington along the North Shore. As always, these are only our opinions, and we urge you to learn about the candidates and make your own decisions as to whom you will give your vote. We merely share our impressions with you, feeling it our duty since we have personally interviewed them.

Click here for our full 2020 election coverage.

Congress
Nancy Goroff. Photo from campaign

Goroff The Right Choice for NY1

Knowing what’s at stake in this year’s election, TBR News Media endorses Nancy Goroff (D) for the NY1 House seat.

Goroff has a strong understanding of the issues, especially regarding climate change and the ongoing pandemic. In this time, it’s especially important to have experts not just in advisory roles but in the driver’s seat. We only need to look at places like New Zealand or Germany, both with leaders who have science backgrounds, who have handled the pandemic far better than the U.S. has just in terms of the numbers of new or past infected, and how their economies have also already reopened.

We appreciate Goroff’s answers especially regarding health care and think her concept for Medicare could be a good middle ground amongst all the partisanship surrounding the issue. Also knowing just how cutthroat working as an official in a place like Stony Brook University can be, we feel she has cultivated good interpersonal and administrative skills that will be useful in Washington.

The two instruments of U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin’s public life strike a discordant note. At home, he comes off as a soft-spoken team player willing to work together with both Democrats and Republicans in local office. On the national stage, he has supported the president without question, and has only helped broaden the political divide and partisanship overall through his misleading conversations, both on Fox television network and in his Twitter page.

One can support a candidate while not kowtowing to their every whim, but Zeldin has volunteered to defend President Donald Trump (R) during the impeachment. He attended a Trump rally back in June, with a pandemic raging across the country, without wearing a mask. He went in front of the Republican National Convention to proclaim how great the president’s handling of the pandemic has been, despite experts’ assertions that if the president had acted earlier, hundreds of thousands of lives could have been saved. Zeldin claims he disagrees with the president on such things as the tax bill, on several cabinet nominations and offshore drilling, but when do those disagreements turn into action? 

These two sides to Zeldin do sometimes combine, such as when he attended a rally in Port Jefferson where he lambasted the mayor for a controversy over a pro-Trump sign. Why he didn’t first try to communicate with a local government in his home district to get the issue resolved attests to the purpose of such an appearance: To drum up even more division in an already divided time.

While we appreciate Zeldin’s work bringing masks and other PPE to us at home during the height of the pandemic, doing the expected is no longer enough. We need someone to actively work to bring back the state and local tax deductions instead of putting forward bills that never get any traction. We need someone in Congress who does not split their attention between acting on behalf of the president and doing good by their constituents.

As we hope to come out of this pandemic, we will need a scientist’s expertise to help us get out of the social and economic hole we lay in. We hope whoever takes up the seat can help move both the country and New York’s 1st Congressional District forward.

State Senate
Laura Ahearn. Photo from campaign

Ahearn to Keep 1st District First

Knowing we are losing such a strong voice for SD1 in Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) we believe we need a strong and independent voice in the Senate. We believe Laura Ahearn (D) is the right person to do that.

We appreciate her work locally and know she has built connections with both local and state officials that will be critical in the coming months. We like her answers to questions about getting more funding to deal with our aging septic systems and agree with her that bail reform needs to be reformed,  not repealed.

Palumbo is a strong candidate, having worked in public office for years alongside both parties, though there can be no question that being in the controlling party has real benefit. As evidenced by both LaValle’s and John Flanagan’s departure from the state Senate, lacking that control, even with their seniority, can be a real drag. Palumbo has helped in acquiring land in Shoreham for protection, but he does not have as firm a grasp of happenings in our local area as he does on the North Fork.

We believe Ahearn is the right pick to keep 1st District first.

Mario Mattera, left, and Mike Siderakis, right, are both political newcomers running for State Senate District 2.
Photos from campaigns

2nd Senate District Too Close to Call

We feel the race for the state Senate in the 2nd District, between Republican Mario Mattera and Democrat Michael Siderakis, is going to be a close one. Based on our virtual debate, we are not endorsing a candidate in this race.

We feel both candidates have their fingers on the pulse of the area, recognizing the importance of providing local students with the same excellent education they have received in the past and keeping residents on Long Island.

Most importantly, during the pandemic, both understand the importance of strictly following public health guidelines while also assisting businesses to fully operate once again. 

Siderakis’ background as a state trooper and representative for the troopers’ PBA would be an asset during the current conflicting views regarding law enforcement, while Mattera’s work with the Town of Smithtown on its advisory board is a plus regarding bringing new businesses to an area while not overwhelming its infrastructure.

Either will be a freshman senator if they win, and we urge them to partner with their colleagues to learn the intricacies of the office. Republican former Sen. John Flanagan held the seat for 18 years, and either candidate will have big shoes to fill.

Gaughran Has District in Mind

In the race for state senator in the 5th District, TBR News Media endorses incumbent Jim Gaughran (D). His record during his first term has been impressive, and we would like to see him continue his work. He will have more seniority which is needed in the district to get more accomplished.

Even as a freshman senator, after the bail reform act was passed, he and other legislators worked to amend it. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has also endorsed Gaughran.

We encourage challenger Ed Smyth to continue pursuing public office beyond the Town of Huntington. He has good ideas, and as a self-proclaimed “debt hawk,” he can lend an important, practical voice to any budget talks.

Knowing the complicated and challenging time ahead for New York State as we move through the ongoing pandemic, TBR News Media endorses Steve Stern (D) for Assembly District 10.

State Assembly
Jodi Giglio. Photo from campaign

Giglio the Best Choice for AD2

We feel that filling Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo’s seat for the 2nd District is going to be tough and both Laura Jens-Smith and Jodi Giglio (R) are great candidates. And while they both made good arguments, we have decided to go with Giglio for Assembly District 2. 

Jens-Smith’s experience as Riverhead Town supervisor is impressive and we appreciate the efforts she made during her time there, but we think that Giglio will bring a different perspective and continue the work she has done for the town as a councilwoman. A woman with tough skin and many different skills, we think that she will continue to bring more work and people to the East End, while balancing her other roles as well.  

For our areas of Wading River through Mount Sinai, we ask that whoever wins this election gives extra attention to our communities not out on the North Fork. As our communities deal with issues ranging from nitrogen pollution to development concerns, we would like to see somebody listening to the problems of folks a little farther west.

Steve Englebright

Keep Englebright in the Assembly

We feel that, although Michael Ross is knowledgeable in what he stands for and his excitement is honorable, we believe Steve Englebright (D) should continue to lead Assembly District 4 as he has for over two decades. Based on talking to both candidates, we will be endorsing Englebright for
this campaign.

Ross is young and enthusiastic, with life experience that could definitely bring a pair of fresh eyes to the area. However, Englebright has brought many policies that have benefited Long Island’s environment and he continues to strive to do better. 

As we head into a future that will likely involve more severe weather events, and as Long Island’s water ecology remains in jeopardy from nitrogen pollution, it’s imperative that we have scientists at the decision-making table. Englebright has a long history of supporting environmental causes, from the Pine Barrens to the Shoreham woods to Stony Brook Harbor. As we lose environmental stalwarts in the state Senate like Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), voices like Englebright’s will be in even greater need.

Mike Fitzpatrick. Photo by Kyle Barr

Fitzpatrick a Strong Choice for AD8

In the race for Assembly District 8, TBR News Media is looking for somebody with a history of bipartisan activity and deep knowledge of Smithtown’s issues, and that somebody is Republican Mike Fitzpatrick.

He has a good depth of knowledge of issues such as Gyrodyne, and seems to be working toward some kind of compromise that could make both environmentalists and proponents of downtown revitalization happy. The Kings Park state park issue is something Fitzpatrick has a deep knowledge on, in particular, and we hope he may be able to move forward with some kind of funding source to finally remediate that property.

Rice has a good head on his shoulders and his enthusiasm and comprehension of the issues makes him a strong future candidate for public office once he gets a few years’ experience under his belt. We hope he continues in public service in some way, shape or form.

Steve Stern. Photo from Stern’s office

Stern a Man of Common Sense

Stern has the right approach when dealing with COVID-19, and his common sense mindset regarding bail reform is something to be appreciated amongst the constant calls for complete repeal.

The assemblyman’s talk about money for sewer infrastructure is also sorely needed, and we hope he can work with other members of the Long Island delegation in order to bring those funds home to Suffolk County. This is not something local municipalities can do on their own.

Silvestri has some straight answers but does not bring much new to the table. We hope with some years under her belt and some experience in local government she can come back later with a fresh new take on such a diverse area as the 10th assembly district.

Michael Marcantonio. Photo by Kyle Barr

Marcantonio Our Choice to Succeed Raia

In the 12th District race for the New York State Assembly, TBR News Media endorses Democrat Michael Marcantonio, but we do so with a bit of caution. We would agree with his Republican opponent Keith Brown that the Democrat can come across as aggressive at times, and we hope he can manage that trait a bit to ensure that he can work with those on both sides of the political aisle.

However, that passion shouldn’t be reeled in too much as it shows determination to get things done and bring new ideas to the floor. He mentioned many times that if elected he will be part of the Assembly’s majority. This would be a boon to a district that needs original ideas to help it over the hump the LIPA decision will have on the community’s tax base.

We hope that Brown will continue pursuing local office in the future as we feel he has a good grip on what local businesses need to survive. 

 

Stony Brook Democrat Nancy Goroff, left, and Shirley Republican Lee Zeldin, right, are both seaking election for New York’s first congressional district. Photos from campaigns

In a race as hotly contested as that for the House of Representatives’ 1st Congressional District seat, much of the actual policy and positions of candidates is often buried under disinformation and a slate of attack ads. Still underneath all that rigamarole is a decision that goes beyond a question of red or blue. 

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1), who has held the seat for the past five years, is squaring off against Democrat Nancy Goroff, a scientist from Stony Brook who has worked in multiple executive positions at Stony Brook University.

TBR News Media hosted a debate Oct. 23 with both candidates via Zoom, asking them their stances beyond the attack ads on issues from the environment to health care to the COVID-19 response on the federal level. 

Zeldin is looking to retake his seat based on his work in getting masks and other PPE to his home county, the money he helped steer to protecting the Long Island Sound and his help getting the Electron-Ion Collider to Brookhaven National Laboratory.

“When the coronavirus first hit us, I worked with elected officials on both sides of the aisle and all levels of government to secure ventilators, PPE, funding, access to the municipal liquidity facility and so much more,” he said. “We have more work to do.”

Goroff is running on her experience as a scientist, particularly in helping to combat climate change and continue the fight against COVID-19, as well as her administrative work at Stony Brook University working in a department with a multimillion-dollar budget. 

“I want our kids to live in a world where the government is trying to make people’s lives better, and where policy decisions are based on facts and reality,” she said. “I’m going to bring all these experiences to Washington, to be there for the people of this district no matter what.”

COVID-19 Response

The candidates differ greatly in how they see the pandemic was handled at the federal level. While Goroff lambasted the federal government for a “lack of leadership,” Zeldin emphasized the work getting pandemic resources to folks at home.

Goroff said while New York may have been able to dig in its heels early in the face of the virus, the federal government dropped the ball. She cited reports that President Donald Trump (R), and by extension other federal officials, knew early on in January how bad the virus was but misled the public on how dangerous and severe the virus would be in the early 2020 months.

She said the government did not work early enough to get PPE into the hands of those who need it, and that the president still resists promoting the wearing of masks, contact tracing and testing.

“We should have had national action to make sure every community had the PPE they needed, not just whoever makes a phone call to [the president’s son-in-law] Jared Kushner on a Saturday night,” she said. “Here in New York we have no borders, no walls between us and other states, and as long as the numbers are going up elsewhere, we are in danger here.”

Zeldin said the key to dealing with the ongoing pandemic is the same now as it was before, with bipartisan effort. He cited the USNS Comfort coming to New York as well as the Javits Center being converted into a temporary hospital, as well as his connection with the executive officials to secure needed ventilators, testing and finances for New York.

“We were approaching it not as Republicans first or Democrats first, but as Long Islanders, New Yorkers and Americans first,” he said.

Currently, Republican Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has said the Senate will be in recess until Nov. 9 after the election, which means there will likely be no deal on a stimulus bill for now. In terms of economic stimulus for New York, the congressman said it’s “extremely likely” there will be a bill within the next few weeks, which would include money for families, additional Paycheck Protection Program funding, money for state and local governments, food assistance and testing. 

“From all conversations I’m hearing, all these pots of money are quite robust, hovering around the $2 trillion number,” he said. “I don’t think we can have this money fast enough, of course it will take both Republicans and Democrats to agree.”

Goroff said it is imperative we receive assistance from the federal government, both in state and local aid. The problem is though the Democrats in the House have put forward a relief bill that has been rejected by the Republican-controlled Senate, and McConnell has instead focused on rushing the process of the now-installed Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. 

“We are in an economic crisis that will require significant investment in infrastructure, and particularly clean energy infrastructure so that as we rebuild our economy, we can build the future we want for ourselves and our kids,” Goroff said.

She criticized Zeldin for voting against that original House assistance bill. In response, the congressman said that bill was “known to be dead on arrival once it passed the House,” as a “one house messaging bill.” He said there were several so-called “poison pills” included in that bill that would never get broad support.

Environment and Climate Change

While Zeldin touted his bipartisan support of local environmental initiatives such as the Long Island Sound Stewardship Act, Goroff said more work is needed, especially regarding the response to climate change.

Zeldin cochairs the Long Island Sound Caucus, and said as the one Republican voice in the caucus they need to increase the investment into the Long Island Sound Program. He said there is room in the stewardship act to increase the appropriation as well as the National Estuary Program and Sea Grant. 

The congressman added he has worked hand-in-hand with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers so that two-thirds of their budget was for projects in the 1st Congressional District. 

Goroff said the work done so far to impact the Long Island Sound has been “helpful,” but more needs to be done with not only cleaning the water, especially with creating sewering and providing funds for projects to help reduce the amount of nitrogen going into the water from aging cesspools and septic systems. She also spoke on the need for more coastal resilience.

“We should be restoring wetlands to make sure we have as much resilience as possible, but we must be investing in our coastlines because they are so important to tourism, our economy and our way of life here,” she said.

However, Goroff said there’s an even bigger challenge with climate change. She said her office could be a “resource for every member of Congress, Democrat or Republican” about information related to climate change. 

She said the U.S. should aim to be carbon neutral in energy production by 2035. The scientist added the county should invest more heavily in clean technologies from transportation to infrastructure, as well as invest in research currently going on at BNL and SBU. Such innovations could be exported to other heavy polluter countries so they can better reduce their carbon footprint.

Zeldin said he serves on the House Climate Solutions Caucus, and has cosponsored the Carbon Capture Improvement Act to provide financial incentives to invest in carbon capture equipment.

“The way to achieve results on this is to talk to each other, not past each other and work together on these legislative initiatives,” he said. 

He added he has cosponsored legislation to renew solar investment tax credit, and that he supports new research and offshore wind farm developments off Long Island’s coasts.

Health Care

With multiple efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act in Congress over the past four years, the CD1 candidates both had strong words for each other regarding what the future of America’s health care system should be.

Goroff said she believes every American should have access to high-quality, affordable health care. She said the ACA should be strengthened, and the ongoing pandemic has shown how unequal access to health care has been. She said she would expand the minimum age for Medicare, and said she would support allowing young people or employers to buy into Medicare as well.

“I strongly support expanding Medicare and making Medicare a public option,” she said.

Zeldin said despite the way such topics become more politicized closer to election, the best way for the country to move forward on health care is by working in a bipartisan way. He cited efforts in Congress to impact prescription drug costs. A bill to that effect went forward out of committee, but that bill “became a partisan messaging bill, much to the chagrin of the Republicans and Democrats who put the bill together.”

He said he has supported efforts to protect people with preexisting conditions getting access to health care, and that he has cosponsored bills to have policies across state lines. 

Goroff said Republicans have been working to end the ACA, one by opening up the law to judicial action by removing the individual mandate. She also went after Zeldin for his past history voting to repeal the ACA 15 times in the past several years without offering a new plan to replace it.

“They have taken the actions that specifically put [the ACA] at risk and there are 71,000 people in this district who would have lost their health care if Mr. Zeldin and his party were successful,” she said. “To say now after four years of the president would come up with something … when they still have not offered what their vision would look like, is hypocrisy.”

Zeldin said he voted against the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act bill that removed the individual mandate, though he added a one-size-fits-all approach is not the answer with health care. 

“Of 535 members of Congress, I don’t know a single person in Congress who’s actually against covering individuals with preexisting conditions,” he said. 

SALT Cap and LI’s Brain Drain

As the pandemic leads into a new looming economic crisis, many fear more people could be leaving Long Island. As the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act capped the state and local tax deductions at $10,000 per year, both candidates said they would work to end that cap, as well as bring jobs to Long Island to halt the exodus.

Goroff said the SALT deduction is something she would see reinstated in full instead of being capped.

“You don’t need to have a very large house here to have a $10,000 tax bill,” she said. 

She said while working as associate provost at SBU she developed entrepreneurial programs for students and heard from local business leaders whether their kids could stay here.

“The way we deal with it is to make sure we have good jobs for people,” she said, adding that SBU is a resource which should be tapped to help with new business concepts. She added new green technologies like upcoming offshore wind projects will help keep more people on Long Island.

She also criticized her opponent for voting “no” on a bill that would have brought back the SALT deductions introduced by U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY3).

Zeldin said he has introduced several bills to restore the SALT deductions. Suozzi’s bill, which the local congressman said he “would have voted for,” had “required an additional tax increase to be named later” to pay for the deduction’s reinstatement. 

Besides that, he argued the people who benefited the most from the deductions were already relatively wealthy, and those who could already afford to stay.

“Creating more jobs, job growth, bringing down electric costs, controlling tax increases, there’s a lot more that goes into the discussion why for a very long time why we’re losing members of our family to North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida,” he said.

Goroff, center, won out amongst this year's slate of Democratic contenders to run against Lee Zeldin in November. Photo from Three Village Democratic Club

By Kyle Barr and David Luces

After nearly two weeks of anticipation since ballots were first cast, Stony Brook University scientist Nancy Goroff has come out on top of a slate of Democratic contenders running for the 1st Congressional District. She will run against U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1) in November.

With votes still to be certified, officials at the Suffolk County Board of Elections confirmed Goroff won by a margin of 630 with 17,905 votes, after all absentee ballots were finished counting Thursday, July 9. Last year’s Democratic contender Perry Gershon came out with 17,275 while Bridget Fleming, a Suffolk County legislator from Sag Harbor, finished with 13,696. Gregory Fisher had 773 total votes.

Goroff congratulated both Gershon and Fleming for the race, and extolled this year’s turnout of being nearly double that of 2018.

In her message to voters, Goroff also said that Zeldin had put “hyperpartisan spin over science and over the needs of our community.”

Gershon, on Twitter, congratulated Goroff on her winning the primary, adding, “I am confident that Nancy will offer real solutions.”

“It was an honor working to be your representative in Congress and I am very sorry I will not be our party’s torchbearer in November,” Gershon wrote on his campaign Facebook page. “I will be
honored to do whatever I can to assure Nancy’s victory.”

Goroff, 52, has been chair of SBU’s chemistry department until taking a leave of absence to campaign. She is also President of Gallery North’s board of trustees and lives in Stony Brook.

This post will be updated when comments from Zeldin and Fleming become available.

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Ned Puchner stands in Gallery North’s gift shop. Photo by Rita J. Egan

For 2020, Setauket’s Gallery North trustees have set their sights on featuring more Long Island artists and making art appreciation even more accessible to the community. They plan to forge ahead with these resolutions with a new executive director.

With more than 20 years of experience in the arts as curator, manager and administrator for galleries, nonprofits and museums, Ned Puchner took over the role of executive director of Gallery North Dec. 1. The position was previously held by Judith Levy, who recently retired.

“He’s got the whole package, and we’re really excited to have him on board.”

— Nancy Goroff

Nancy Goroff, president of Gallery North’s board of trustees, said a search committee was formed to find a new executive director and dozens of applicants were narrowed down to three for the board to choose from.

She said Puchner had what the board was looking for, with experience producing high-quality art exhibitions and an understanding of running the business of a nonprofit. She described him as personable and community minded, which she believes will help to strengthen connections in the area.

“He’s got the whole package, and we’re really excited to have him on board,” she said.

Puchner said he discovered the nonprofit while job searching online and saw Gallery North possesses some of the same elements as his last place of employment, the Greenville Museum of Art in North Carolina. He said while the staff there was smaller, like the Setauket gallery they would organize various fundraisers throughout the year and worked with the local art community. The North Carolina museum also has other similarities to Gallery North as it has been around since the 1960s and has a university in town.

“It’s really uncanny how I came across Gallery North,” he said. “There were so many various similarities between what I saw in Greenville and what I see in Setauket and the Three Village area.”

Once he visited Gallery North, the new executive director said he was impressed with how casual it was inside with a community feel among the staff and people who visit, where everyone seems to know each other. He added it’s an ideal place to present art in a nonintimidating way as an educational and fun-based gallery.

“I don’t want people to be scared away from the notion of being in an art gallery,” he said.

Puchner said a bonus was that he heard how wonderful the Three Village community was and his research confirmed that. A few weeks after his arrival, his wife, Nancy, and two children, aged 4 and 6, joined him in their new home in Stony Brook. Another plus with moving to New York, he said, is being closer to his family that lives in Piermont, Rockland County. He said his children were excited to hear they would live closer to their cousins and grandparents. His wife, who teaches art history at UNC Pembroke, has been able to continue working for the school by transitioning to online teaching until the end of this year.

As for his first few weeks in the Three Village area, Puchner said he’s been busy helping with Gallery North’s holiday pop-up store and lining up exhibits for the new year. The first exhibit he has helped with is for Paton Miller, an artist from Southampton, which will run from Jan. 17 to Feb. 23. The gallery will host an opening reception for Miller’s exhibit Jan. 16 at 6-8 p.m.

“I don’t want people to be scared away from the notion of being in an art gallery.”

— Ned Puchner

In the future, he hopes to organize a committee to help review work that is submitted to Gallery North. He has been putting together the suggestions of board members and others about artists so that he can review the list and see if the gallery can present the work and if the exhibits will be equitable.

He respects the gallery’s reputation for featuring local artists, and Puchner said he hopes to broaden its vision to also show artists from the East End, Brooklyn and Long Island at large.

“One of the great things about Gallery North is that it’s so rooted in the local area, it’s so community based, it has a very strong history with that and with the artists that it has shown and promoted over the years, and I certainly want to continue that dynamic to something to be really nourished, because there’s a lot of great talent in this region,” the director said.

In addition to his work in Greenville, Puchner earlier in his career worked at the former Luise Ross Gallery in SoHo, where they also trained artists. His interests include folk/self-taught/outsider art, and he said his experience at Luise Ross was one of the things that inspired him to focus on the community-oriented aspect of folk art and self-taught artists.

Goroff said after talking to the president of the board of the Greenville museum, she was impressed to hear about different ways Puchner got the community more involved by reaching out to artists in the area. To complement the museum’s permanent collection, he brought in the work of local artists who produced work that was related to the permanent collection.

“It was something he chose to do when there were other ways that he could have enlivened his exhibitions down there, but he chose to do it by reaching out to the members of the art community so that really spoke to how committed he is to that and how much he values it,” she said. 

Puchner has spent much of his first weeks here by visiting local art centers such as the Wang and Staller centers at Stony Brook University as well as the Reboli Center and Long Island Museum in Stony Brook. He is looking forward to visiting The Brick Clay Studio & Gallery and The Atelier at Flowerfield, both in St. James, in the near future and working with all of them “to try to build on some of the work that all these organizations are doing to create a really vital
and important art community here.”

“I think that’s something that is really vital to helping to create a very family oriented community,” he said. “I want to play a role because I have a family of my own so I want to do what I can to nourish that art community here in the Three Village area.”

Goroff, center, won out amongst this year's slate of Democratic contenders to run against Lee Zeldin in November. Photo from Three Village Democratic Club

By Donna Newman

Three candidates have announced their intention to seek the Democratic nomination for the House of Representatives for the 1st Congressional District in 2020. They were invited to a Dec.12 meet the candidates night held by the Three Village Democratic Club. Club president, Virginia Capon, welcomed the audience and introduced the evening’s moderator Dave Calone, who was a candidate for the seat in 2016. Capon was pleased by the size of the crowd, which was approximately 120 people.

Questions were solicited from club members prior to the event.

The candidates are Bridget Fleming, Perry Gershon and Nancy Goroff.

Bridget Fleming (D-Sag Harbor) is a three-term Suffolk County legislator representing District 2. She was first elected to the Town of Southampton Town Board in a special election and went on to win a full term a year later. Prior to that she served as a prosecutor in Manhattan for nearly a decade, eventually specializing in fraud in government programs. In her opening remarks she said she saw a clear path to victory next November.

“I have run and won, again and again,” Fleming said. She noted she has 10 years of experience delivering for this district — and her record speaks for itself.

Perry Gershon, of East Hampton, was a mortgage broker for commercial properties until he divested from his company in 2017 to run for office. In 2018 he won the local Democratic nomination for Congress by being the top vote-getter in a field of five. Gershon lost to incumbent Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) in the general election, garnering 47.4 percent of the vote to 51.5. Gershon thinks he stands the best chance to win this time because of his previous campaign.

“The hardest part of running for office is getting out the electorate,” Gershon said. “I’ve done it. We built up energy — we inspired volunteerism.” He believes his first experience will be invaluable.

To Nancy Goroff, Suffolk is home. She has lived and worked in the district for 22 years. She raised her children in the Three Village area. Her research and teaching at Stony Brook University have created lots of connections, both academic and governmental. Goroff feels she can bring a new perspective to Congress by offering innovative solutions. A scientist, she said constituents can have faith she’ll make decisions based on science and facts.

“We deserve better,” Goroff said. “[It would be good] to live in a world where government actually tries to solve people’s problems.”

The candidates fielded a question about the elimination of student loan debt.

Gershon said, “The system is broken. [There should be] a trade-off of public service for debt assistance.”

Fleming said, “If you can refinance a car or a home, why not student loan debt?” She created a program while in law school at the University of Virginia offering loan forgiveness in exchange for public service.

Goroff said, “Make education as accessible as possible. Where [students] go should not be limited by parents net worth.”

Another question asked if the candidates would trade a border wall for protection of the Dreamers.

Fleming wanted more details. “We do need firm rules at the border that must be fair and humane. We need a comprehensive solution to immigration issues,” she said.

Goroff said, “We need secure borders, [but] our country values immigrants. We need to give people hope in their home countries, so they don’t have to walk a thousand miles.”

Gershon replied, “Yes. I would do that trade to protect people in this country already. We do need comprehensive immigration reform, too.”

In answering a question on guns, there was consensus among the three that legislation is needed, that the assault weapons ban should be reinstated, that high capacity magazines should be banned and that, if the majority of Americans support universal background checks, the NRA ought not be allowed to prevent such legislation from being passed.

Regarding a question about health care, there was agreement that the Affordable Care Act needs to be improved, that health care is a human right and every American deserves affordable access to high quality care. Goroff and Gershon said they’d favor Medicare for All — as an option.

Should military spending be decreased? All three candidates expressed a desire to restore respect for the U.S. around the world. In light of a recent Washington Post exposé on the waste and corruption of military spending in Afghanistan, Gershon and Goroff called for the military to spend more wisely — with Goroff adding, “First, increase spending on diplomacy.”

What bill would they first introduce as a congressperson?

Gershon answered, “Election reform.”

Fleming responded, “We need to fully fund the EPA.”

Goroff seemed to concur, “Focus on climate-change research funding.”

Perry Gershon, again a Democratic contender for U.S district rep., spoke at a protest early in 2019. Photo by Kyle Barr

The late June Democratic debates hosted by CNBC could have been the first true coal mine canary, telling us that even more than a year out, the race for the White House is going to be a long, complicated and grueling affair.

Nancy S. Goroff, Department of Chemistry Professor, announced her run for District 1. Photo from Stony Brook University

Over two nights, the 20 candidates stood shoulder to shoulder, shouting over each other for attention and sound bites. Though it was talked well enough on every national media outlet, finding North Shore residents who watched the debates, let alone had a full opinion on the Democratic candidates, can be a chore.

However, for Suffolk County and the Suffolk Democratic Committee, it’s business as usual. According to Rich Schaffer, the county Democratic chairman, the focus starts with the local races long before any attention is applied to the congressional candidates, let alone the presidential contenders.

“You won’t get them energized this year until we finish with the local races, so our main focus will be on the town and county races,” Schaffer said. “We had minimal interest in the presidential, a couple of people calling to see about participating in a particular campaign of a particular candidate, but other than that we haven’t much.”

What’s your opinion?

Here is what a few residents from local areas thought about the current Democratic presidential candidates:

Brian Garthwaite, Port Jeff Station:

“Do I think any of the candidates that I saw talk in the last two days will go anywhere? — I hope not,’” he said. “No one really stood out to me.”

Garthwaite guessed at who would be on the final podium come 2020.

“It’s tough to say right now but if I had to guess I think it’s going to be either [Joe] Biden or [Kamala] Harris.”

Judy Cooper, West Islip:

“I’m a Democrat and I like Joe Biden, but I want to hear more about one or two of the lesser known candidates — like Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar,” she said. “I haven’t thought about a ticket yet. I watched the first night of the debate, but then got sick of it the second night. It was inconsequential the second night. The first night there were many candidates, but they seemed to be more substantial candidates.”

Peggy S., Northport:

“I’m a Democrat, I’ll tell you that,” she said. “I’d support anybody but a Republican. I like Mayor Pete the best.”

Anthony Alessi, Northport:

“I want anybody who can beat Trump,” Alessi said. “Kamala Harris impressed me last night. I’d love to see her beat Trump. My ideal ticket is Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris.”

Quotes gathered by David Luces and Leah Chiappino

In local races, the Town of Brookhaven is becoming a hotspot. Though he sees Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) as well established, Schaffer specifically looked at Cheryl Felice, who is running against Michael Loguercio (R-Ridge) for the 4th District, and Anthony Portesy, who is running for Brookhaven Highway Superintendent against Daniel Losquadro (R), specifically having a good shot considering people’s complaints with the state of their roads.

“He’s knocking on doors, and he hears a lot of complaints about the conditions of the roads and the services being provided by the highway department,” he said. 

Two Democrats have already stepped up again to face U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) in the 2020 congressional contest. Last year’s nominee Perry Gershon is again running this year, while Stony Brook resident Jack Harrington is on the sidelines, with rumors he has considered running. On July 9, Stony Brook University scientist Nancy Goroff declared she too would be running against Zeldin, setting up what may be a heated primary race mirroring the 2017-18 Suffolk primary runup.

“As a scientist, I believe in facts,” Goroff said in a release declaring her candidacy. “And it’s a fact that Washington is hurting Suffolk families. I’m running for Congress to use my experience as a scientist to combat global warming, make healthcare affordable, protect a woman’s right to choose and end the gun violence epidemic.”

The Democratic chairman said the committee has been hands-off when it comes to congressional campaigns, letting them hire their own staff and leaving them to their own campaigns. Despite the constant attention paid to national politics, he said he expected the usual number of voters, comparing it to last year’s 22,240 primary votes out of a possible 143,700. 

“It was a little more animated than past years, but on par for where it’s been, 15 to 20 percent turnout,” he said. “It’s definitely going to be animated next year, that’s for sure.”

But to Schaffer, the national race will come down to around five or six candidates, and only then will you see the public become energized around their chosen individual. The next Democratic debate, set for July 17, may be a major tipping point. Politico has reported many Democratic presidential campaigns said they believe the next set of debates could start the culling to the top contenders.

The biggest point on the national and congressional stage is whether he feels they can defeat Zeldin and Trump. If Schaffer had to choose a candidate at this moment, it would be past Vice President Joe Biden, saying he “was part of the successful years of the Obama presidency,” and “if we’re looking for someone who can take on Trump and not just convince Democrats but those ‘persuadables’, I think Biden has the best shot.”

Rich Shaffer at his office in North Babylon. File Photo by Alex Petroski

The Democratic chairman sees Suffolk’s population as more conservatively minded than what may be seen in New York City or other progressive hot spots. 

This is despite the rise of more progressive candidates such as Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, with Harris’ poll numbers, in particular, surging after the CNBC debates, but Schaffer said what’s important is defeating the incumbents.

“If we win, we win as a party. If we lose, we lose as a party,” he said.