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New York 1st Congressional District

Moderator Dave Calone with candidates Perry Gershon, Nancy Goroff, Bridget Fleming and Three Village Democratic Club president, Virginia Capon. 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.”

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Congressman Lee Zeldin, left, meets with constituents at the Setauket Fire Department on Main Street. Photo from Lee Zeldin’s office

Residents of New York’s 1st Congressional District took time out of their busy schedules Aug. 20 to sit down with their congressman to discuss what’s on their minds.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) held mobile office hours from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Setauket Fire Department on Main Street Tuesday. Constituents were invited to sit down, either one-on-one or in groups, with Zeldin or one of his staff members.

Congressman Lee Zeldin, left, meets with constituents at the Setauket Fire Department on Main Street. Photo from Lee Zeldin’s office

While many declined to discuss their specific questions, other residents waiting to speak to Zeldin said they were prepared to bring up issues such as background checks when buying guns, how to curb easy accessibility to assault-style rifles, Medicare, providing for veterans, immigration, health care for preexisting conditions and mandated vaccinations. One attendee wanted to know whether or not Zeldin is in favor of slashing the payroll tax and, if so, what other methods would he suggest to fund Medicare and Social Security.

Among the 71 who attended, several parents had their children in tow to provide them an example of civic engagement.

Sarah, 13, daughter of former Setauket congressional candidate Dave Calone, said this was the first chance she had to speak to an elected official about an issue.

“I wanted to talk with him about gun control,” she said while waiting to get an opportunity to speak with Zeldin. “I wanted to ask him about what measures the government is taking to ensure students are safe in school and other places as well.”

Kathleen Thornton, of Stony Brook, was with her son Jack.

“I thought it was good for him to get a sense of how government works,” the mother said.

The Stony Brook resident wanted to talk to Zeldin about the Excelsior Scholarship Program in New York and the income cutoff. She said the Excelsior funds also were not released until the initial payments to State University of New York schools were due, adding she only discovered issues with the scholarship program while helping her niece with her financial aid forms. While waiting to meet with the congressman, she said she hoped that he would know the right people to connect with to address her issues with the program.

Barbara Kantz, of East Setauket, who waited around two hours to meet with Zeldin, said she came to him with advocacy issues related to the environment and was satisfied with the strategies Zeldin offered, including those she can use as a citizen. She said to him that she knows he is an environmentalist, and she wanted to know how, as a congressman, he translates that to action programs “when we’re living in a time when science is somewhat dismissed, and we have an EPA that actually doesn’t believe in some of the notions of what an EPA should do.”

Three Village resident George Henik, before his meeting with Zeldin, said he would like to get a time frame from him about specific indictments.

“Why is [former FBI Director James] Comey still walking around and writing books and not in prison?” he asked.

Henik said he believes many have used the Congress as their weapon of choice and that some politicians, such as U.S. Reps. Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler, both Democrats, are out of control.

His wife Susan Henik said she also had questions for the congressman including concerns about voter fraud, especially on the federal level.

The couple were optimistic about meeting with the congressman and felt they were addressing issues that people from both parties are concerned about, such as justice and voter fraud.

“These two questions that we have, or topics of discussions that we brought up, no one would want their election being tampered with, no one wants a coup of the president,” Susan Henik said.

According to a press release from Zeldin’s office, those interested in participating in a future meeting, including after work or during the weekend, can call 631-289-1097.