Zeldin Defeats Gershon To Win Third Term in Congress

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Following his victory over Perry Gershon in New York's First Congressional District, Republican candidate and incumbent Congressman Lee Zeldin welcomes his supporters on election night at the StereoGarden in Patchogue. Michael Heller photo

Democrats took back the House of Representatives after eight years in the minority on Election Day but the party’s momentum did not extend to the First Congressional District on New York.

Incumbent Republican Lee Zeldin of Shirley, a Trump ally seeking his third two-year term, easily turned back his Democratic challenger, Perry Gershon of East Hampton, 130,919 to 115,796, or 53 percent to 47 percent.

“I realize I can’t be all things to all people,” Mr. Zeldin said in a prepared statement Tuesday night. “That’s impossible, but I look forward to working with absolutely everyone and anyone to find common ground however possible to move our community, and great nation better.”

With the battle for Congress seen nationwide as a referendum on the divisive rhetoric and hardline policies of President Donald Trump, voters in the western and central reaches of Suffolk County — a majority of whom voted for him in 2016 — continued to show their support.

But on the South Fork, a majority of voters in all 19 election districts in East Hampton Town supported Mr. Gershon, giving him 5,818 votes to Mr. Zeldin’s 3,174, or 64.7 percent to 35.3 percent.

In Southampton Town, the first-time candidate and retired businessman carried 25 of 42 election districts, taking 52.1 percent of the vote, 10,975 to 10,072. Most of Mr. Zeldin’s support in Southampton Town came from west of the Shinnecock Canal. On the North Fork, Southold Town gave Mr. Zeldin the nod with 52 percent of its vote, 5,126 to 4,273.

The balloting was especially blue in the Sag Harbor area’s election districts, from Northwest Woods to Sagaponack and Noyac, where Mr. Gershon walloped the congressman, 4,886 votes to 1,696.

Democratic Congressional candidate Perry Gershon waits on line to vote at the East Hampton Emergency Services Building on Tuesday. Michael Heller photo

Turnout in the race was high for a non-presidential midterm election, with the vote total exceeding those cast in Mr. Zeldin’s 2014 win over incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop by 43 percent. He garnered 94,035 votes to Mr. Bishop’s 78,772, a margin of 54.4 to 45.6 percent, about a point greater than Mr. Zeldin’s margin of victory on Tuesday. But the total was well below the 323,777 votes cast in 2016, when Donald Trump topped the Republican ticket. Mr. Zeldin won then with 58 percent of the vote over former Southampton Town supervisor Anna Throne-Holst.

“We brought respect to the Democratic side of NY-1,” Mr. Gershon said in a statement on Facebook Tuesday night, “and waged a great battle. I suspect when the dust settles and the absentee ballots are counted, we will have closed the gap to less than 5 percent, with more than 125,000 votes in total. That was a noble effort and I am honored to have had the support of so many of you.

Labeled “Park Avenue Perry” by the Zeldin campaign hours after he won the June 26 Democratic primary — in which he did not carry East Hampton town — Mr. Gershon was a longtime second homeowner in East Hampton until last year, when he registered to vote here in order to mount his run for Congress.

He cast Mr. Zeldin during the campaign as a surrogate for the Trump administration who was out of touch with the voters. “My opponent is a skilled lawyer, a seasoned politician and he’s become an expert at self-promotion on cable news networks,” he said at a League of Women Voters debate in Hampton Bays on October 29, the only public debate held by the candidates on the South Fork. “But is he still in touch with the people of this district and the issues that concerns them … Things like affordable health care, protecting our environment, making sure we have high wages right in Suffolk County and lower taxes?”

In his Facebook statement Tuesday, Mr. Gershon said, “Our battle does not end here. We fought for affordable healthcare and gun safety laws, for protecting the environment and a woman’s right to choose. And a repeal of the cap on SALT deductions, double taxation. These causes outlast our race for a congressional seat. And I am most happy that at least our party took back the House to put a check on President Trump.”

In his statement, Mr. Zeldin said, “I could not be more grateful, and humbled to have your support. I would also like to thank my opponent and his supporters on a hard-fought campaign.It has been a privilege to serve as your congressman for the past four years, and I am energized to continue to work hard on your behalf. In addition to helping grow our economy and strengthen our national security, I have advocated on behalf of our veterans, fought to protect our environment, worked hard to destroy MS-13, and end the heroin and opioid abuse epidemic…just to name a few. I call this just a start.

“As a community and country, we must do a better job unifying to solve important challenges in front of us. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t ever disagree with each other and productively debate substantive issues, because that is one of the reasons why this is the greatest nation in the world …

“I will continue working to advance my New Era of American Strength agenda to protect America’s security at home and abroad, help grow our economy, support our veterans and first responders, improve the quality of education, repair our nation’s infrastructure, improve healthcare, and safeguard our environment.”

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Peter Boody is news editor of The Sag Harbor Express. Previously he was the editor of the Southampton Press for many years and also edited several other papers, including the Shelter Island Reporter and the East Hampton Press, of which he was founding editor. He was a regular correspondent for the New York Times Long Island section and wrote the novel “Thomas Jefferson, Rachel & Me.”