New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said this week he is continuing to weigh whether or not he will seek the Democratic nomination to challenge incumbent 1st District Congressman Lee Zeldin in 2018.
Mr. Thiele went to Washington, D.C., last week, where he met with members of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and members of the New York delegation to assess their view of the district and the upcoming mid-term elections.
He said he expected to make a decision about whether or not he would run for the seat shortly after Labor Day.
“My sense of it from talking to them is they consider this seat to be competitive, Mr. Thiele said, “although, to be honest, I’m not sure if it is as high on its list now as it was in 2016.”
Last year, Mr. Zeldin handily defeated his Democratic challenger, former Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, and President Donald Trump easily outpolled Hillary Clinton in presidential voting.
Mr. Thiele said he believed Ms. Throne-Holst was hurt by a divisive primary campaign in which she narrowly defeated Dave Calone for the nomination. He said he did not think the national Democrats would be willing to throw major support behind a Democratic challenger if another primary were held.
Besides Mr. Thiele, several other candidates have been considering a run for the seat, including Suffolk County Legislator Kate Browning of Mastic and former Legislator Vivian Viloria-Fisher of East Setauket. Perry Gershon, an East Hampton entrepreneur, has announced he has raised $100,000 for his own campaign. Hannah Selinger of Sag Harbor, a political novice, announced her own bid for the seat earlier this year.
Mr. Thiele said he believed the Democrats are looking for “a candidate who has name recognition and can be competitive.”
The long-time assemblyman who was formerly a moderate Republican, is now a member of the Independence Party. He said he would not change his party affiliation to Democrat in order to secure the party’s backing.
“My record has been one of an independent elected official who has worked with people on both sides of the aisle,” Mr. Thiele said. “If there really is an interest in reversing what is going on in Washington it is going to take coalitions and an affirmative message.”