Registered Democrats in New York State’s First Congressional District will go to the polls on Tuesday, June 26 to decide who will be their party’s nominee to challenge the Republican incumbent, Congressman Lee Zeldin, in the general election on November 6. Polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 9 p.m.
Five candidates are vying for the chance to take on Mr. Zeldin, an ally of President Donald Trump whom the five candidates all charge is too far to the right to represent the First Congressional District. Mr. Zeldin, who edged out veteran incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop in 2014, trounced Democratic challenger Anna Throne-Holst in 2016, winning reelection by a wide margin.
The five hopefuls agree on progressive issues, including health care coverage for everyone, environmental protection and promotion of renewable energy. They also say that President Trump has to be opposed and constrained.
Kate Browning, who represented the Mastic-Shirley area in the Suffolk County Legislature for 12 years and has the backing of the Suffolk County Democratic Committee, has touted her legislative record working on “environmental, quality of life and public safety issues.” She cites her blue-collar roots — she was a school bus driver and her husband is a New York City police detective — and her history winning reelection easily even though more Republicans are registered in her district than Democrats. Term limits prevented her from running for reelection to the legislature.
She points out that she lives in the Brookhaven area, “where 65 percent of the votes are” in the First Congressional District, which stretches from Smithtown and across the East End. She has said the county Democratic Committee backed because “I’m the only one who can win” in November.
Elaine DiMasi worked for 21 years at Brookhaven National Laboratory as a project manager and physicist. “I’m your scientist running for Congress,” she said at a recent candidate debate, touting her longtime professional commitment to “facts, integrity and truth.” She says her experience bringing large projects to fruition within their budgets has prepared her for public service. She says she is the only candidate with a detailed plan “for how to create clean-energy jobs.”
“We need new candidates,” she said at a recent forum in Hampton Bays, “who understand large projects, who understand federal budgets, who understand traveling worldwide to make sure that contracts delivered to the United States government are built here and built well and built for the benefit of the American people.”
Perry Gershon, of East Hampton, is the only candidate from the East End. A 1984 Yale graduate, he founded a sports bar in New York then went on to a 25-year career in commercial real estate lending. His previous political experience was volunteering for the Ted Kennedy and Gary Hart presidential campaigns.
President Trump’s election inspired him to become a candidate, he says. President Trump “has put the causes we believe in nationally and internationally in jeopardy” as well as “the whole Republic and the core that holds us together,” Mr. Gershon said at a recent candidate forum.
The November election, he has said, will be “about health care, protecting the environment, getting guns off the street, gun safety laws and jobs. We need an economic agenda and I can speak to all of these issues and coalesce us together to get elected as a Democrat in the fall.”
Like Ms. Browning, with whom she has sparred ahead of Tuesday’s primary, Vivian Viloria-Fisher, of East Setauket, is a 12-year veteran of the county legislature, where she represented the 5thDistrict. A retired public school teacher, she touts her record winning elections in a politically divided district, striving to protect workers, the environment and immigrants and calling for gun control. She has been named a “gun sense candidate” by the group Moms Demand Action.
She has challenged Ms. Browning for including a Planned Parenthood logo on campaign literature claiming she is the only progressive candidate of the five running. Ms. Viloria-Fisher, a former board member of Planned Parenthood, has said she will not support Ms. Browning’s candidacy if she is the nominee because she is “someone who lies to you about another candidate,” according to a Newsdayaccount of a recent debate in Setauket.
All the other candidates have pledged to support whoever wins on Tuesday in the November election. She and Perry Gershon were the only two of the five who have declined to call for Nancy Pelosi to step down as House Democratic leader if the Democrats retake the House.
David Pechefsky, who grew up in Patchogue and lives in Port Jefferson, is on leave from his job as senior advisor with Generation Citizen, a national non-profit that trains college students to be “democracy coaches.” He previously worked in New York City government as a staffer for the City Council and the Mayor’s Office of Appointments and for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
“I haven’t been an elected official but I know how to get stuff done in government and I’ve also worked internationally,” he said at a campaign forum.
He holds Nancy Pelosi at fault for having voted to support the invasion of Iraq. He believes corporate power is corrupting the national agenda. “I am not someone who woke up after Trump was elected and said, ‘Oh my God; I have to run for Congress,’” he said recently. “This has been my life’s work to see that government is effective and truly working in the public interest and I’ve always been for social justice and for the underdog.”