It was an example of preaching to the choir when five of the six Democratic candidates hoping to unseat Republican U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin in November gathered on Friday at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Amagansett for a forum sponsored by the East Hampton Town Democratic Committee.
Before a standing-only crowd of party faithful who filled the church sanctuary, former Suffolk County Legislator Kate Browning said she was the best candidate to beat Mr. Zeldin, who she characterized as “out of touch” on issues ranging from gun control to immigration. “I never give up, and I never back down, and that’s why I can beat Lee Zeldin,” she said.
Elaine DiMasi, a former physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory, said her scientific background would serve her well. “I’m accountable to taxpayers, I am a symbol of truth and facts, and I’m a non-politician in this insurgency time for the disgruntled left and right,” she said.
David Pechevsky, a former New York City Council staffer, said the current Republican administration is dismantling programs and policies that will hurt many ordinary Americans and charged that Mr. Zeldin has too often been an apologist for President Donald Trump while ignoring the needs of his district.
“This is not a time for us to be cautious,” he said. “This is a time for Democrats to say we are the party of working people, we are the party of fairness, we are the party of inclusion.” If Democrats stick to that message, they will win a sweeping victory in the November mid-terms, he said.
Perry Gershon, an East Hampton businessman, said he decided to enter race because he was fed up with the right-wing politics of the Trump administration and Mr. Zeldin, who he charged was enabling President Trump “who is dividing our nation instead of bringing us together.”
After a visit to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., he said he was “struck by the similarities of what was going on at Trump rallies and what happened with the rise of Nazi Germany.” If elected, he promised to work for better jobs, housing and a single payer health care system.
Mr. Zeldin is vulnerable, he said, because the Republican tax measure will begin to have negative impacts on his constituents, he is weak on gun control and has been among the Republicans opposing the Mueller investigation. “He is supporting Trump at a level we need to highlight,” he said. “That’s where we are going to nail him. That’s where he is vulnerable.”
Vivian Viloria Fisher, a former county legislator, said her family came to the United States from the Dominican Republic when she was an infant. When her father died when she was young, her mother raised six children by herself. Ms. Fisher became a high school teacher before entering politics.
“I can speak to the people of the 1st District because I understand that we have to look at the values we as progressive Democrats have,” she said. She offered a litany of issues she would fight for, from providing universal health care to providing better job training and insuring that all people are treated fairly by the government.
Brendon Henry, a bartender and employee of a plumbing supply business, could not attend the event but was represented by Kyle Cranston of his campaign. Mr. Cranston said Mr. Henry was running a grassroots campaign based on retaking control of American government from special interests and lobbyists. “We, the people, must take control of our government,” he said. As a bartender and community activist, Mr. Henry would best be able to carry the populist banner, he said.
A handful of candidates were asked of each candidate, with the most pointed directed to Ms. Browning, who was asked to explain her past membership in the Right to Life party. Ms. Browning said she joined the party briefly after first becoming a citizen but said she soon left it and became a member of the Working Families Party. She assured her audience that she was pro-choice, as did all the other candidates.
All candidates said they would support whomever wins the Democratic primary on June 26, although Ms. Fisher said she would not campaign for Ms. Browning. The two candidates have clashed in the past over Ms. Browning’s stance on immigration during the administration of former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy.