Fleming To Seek Democratic Party Nomination to Unseat Zeldin

Bridget Fleming.
Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming.

Just three weeks after securing reelection to her seat on the Suffolk County Legislature, Democratic Legislator Bridget Fleming on Tuesday morning announced plans to seek the Democratic nomination to challenge U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin for his seat in the House of Representatives in 2020.

“I’m stepping up,” she said on the phone, “because this race is so important.

She said community members have been asking her to run for Congress for a number of years: “It’s been a drumbeat for some time.

“I love my job, but I felt I would answer the call,” she continued. “This district needs representation from someone who’s very committed to change. I feel I’m best positioned to achieve that change.”

In a video titled “Tide” accompanying the announcement, Ms. Fleming launches the first volley of verbal shots across the bow of Mr. Zeldin, a Republican.

With classic montages of Ms. Fleming walking charming village streets and chatting with constituents, the video features her promising to be “somebody who gets back to the basics of representing us, not just being part of the free-for-all in Washington.” Instead, she says, she will be “someone who remembers who sent her” to Washington.

Her opponent, Mr. Zeldin, prioritizes President Donald Trump over the constituents of the district, Ms. Fleming charged. “Lee Zeldin ran on a promise to fight for this district and broke that promise the day he got to Washington. He’s been an unapologetic advocate for President Trump and, despite his friends in high places, has failed to deliver for our communities,” she declared in a statement announcing the challenge. Mr. Zeldin, she said, “seems to spend most of his time on national television defending the president, when we have real needs right here in this community.”

Emphasizing that the outcome of the race was too important for her to stay on the sidelines, she said her decade in the public sector has honed her into someone with a keen awareness of the needs of the district.

Two other candidates have announced plans to seek the Democratic nomination, and a third is seeking the Independence Party line. Democrat Perry Gershon of East Hampton, who lost to Mr. Zeldin in the 2017 general election, plans to run again. Democrat Nancy Goroff, a professor at Stony Brook University, announced her bid last summer. And Brooklyn businessman David Gokhshtein, is reportedly looking to snag the Independence Party line. None of the candidates was immediately available for comment Tuesday morning.

Ms. Fleming said she knows and respects both Mr. Gershon and Ms. Goroff, who, she said, “recognize the gravity of the situation.” Still, she said she believes she has a better shot at beating Mr. Zeldin.

Asked to comment on the new challenger, Mr. Zeldin replied by email through a spokesperson: “Right now, Congressman Zeldin’s focus far and away is on his job representing his constituents of NY-1. House Democrats should follow suit and pass USMCA [the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement], lower the cost of prescription drugs and fix our nation’s outdated infrastructure.

“Congressman Zeldin is committed to delivering results, and, whether it’s ensuring East End employers have the workforce they need or bolstering our communities’ maritime infrastructure, his effectiveness is indisputable. He’ll continue to focus on driving down the cost of living, bolstering our communities’ crumbling infrastructure, like Dune Road, and so many other important issues.”

Taking a seat in the Suffolk County Legislature to represent the 2nd District in 2016, Ms. Fleming, 59, served on the Southampton Town Board from 2010 to 2015. A resident of Noyac, she beat challenger Linda Kabot to retain her seat for a third term earlier this month.

Mr. Zeldin, 39, a resident of Shirley, was elected to the State Senate in 2010. In 2014, he ousted Democratic U.S. Representative Tim Bishop. In 2016, he won his bid for reelection, beating former Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst. For his third term in 2018, he achieved victory over challenger Mr. Gershon.

The 2nd Suffolk County Legislative District is composed of the entire South Fork, including the towns of East Hampton and Southampton, and the Town of Shelter Island, as well as East Moriches and Eastport in the Town of Brookhaven.

The 1st Congressional District for the House of Representatives includes most of Central and Eastern Suffolk County, including most of Smithtown, as well as the entirety of the towns of Brookhaven, Riverhead, Southold, Southampton, East Hampton and Shelter Island.