Who will it be? Dems to face off in primary election
David Pechefsky, standing, and four other Democratic candidates seek nomination June 26 to run against incumbent Lee Zeldin for New York’s First Congressional District seat in November. 

Adv/Waszynski

Who will it be? Dems to face off in primary election

Story By: TARA SMITH
6/14/2018


 

Voting for the Democratic primary will take place on Tuesday, June 26. Five candidates are on this year’s ballot, each hoping for the chance to face incumbent congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1) in November’s midterm election.

Candidates include former Suffolk County legislators Kate Browning and Vivian Viloria-Fisher, former Brookhaven National Lab physicist Elaine DiMasi, entrepreneur Perry Gershon and former NYC Council staffer David Pechefsky. 

With little nuance between the candidates’ views on key progressive issues, one question becomes particularly urgent: Why are you the candidate that can beat Lee Zeldin?

At a candidate forum in Patchogue in April, DiMasi said she’s a fresh face who will vote for science in Washington and represent all aspects of the district. “I worked side by side with the technicians who are the blue-collar workers here, with foreign nationals, with immigrants, with people who have moved to Long Island,” she said, emphasizing that all voters need to be mobilized.

Gershon said he’s always been interested in politics, but felt compelled to get involved after the 2016 election. “I got into this because I’m outraged at what’s going on in the country,” he said. He said voter turnout will be key in flipping the district blue. He says his team can organize and get out the vote. “I think my story will help do that,” he said, of getting progressive and swing voters out to the polls.

Viloria-Fisher, a former term-limited Suffolk County legislator, retired teacher and native of the Dominican Republic, cited her “forward-thinking” legislation as her strength. “I support women, I take care of the environment and I look out for injustices towards immigrants,” she said. “Working people wear all color collars. We don’t want to typecast. We want to be there for everyone.”

Browning, who was also term-limited from seeking re-election to the Suffolk County Legislature, acknowledged that the district tends to favor Republicans. But she attributes her past victories, sometimes earning as much as 58 percent of the vote, to her background as a school-bus driver and union rep. “We need to connect with the blue-collar voters,” she said.

Browning, who was born in Ireland and raised in Belfast during The Troubles, also cited name recognition as an asset to her campaign. If she clinches the primary nomination, it would set up a hometown battle — both she and Zeldin are Shirley residents.

Pechefsky grew up in Patchogue and has worked in NYC government, with nonprofit organizations and for the National Democratic Institute in Somalia. He cites his experience crafting both domestic and foreign policies as the main reason he can go toe to toe with Zeldin. “Beating Lee Zeldin would send shockwaves across the country,” he said.

He’s right.

New York’s First Congressional District voted overwhelmingly red in the 2016 election, with Donald Trump earning 51.77 percent of the vote in Suffolk County and Zeldin re-elected with 58.22 percent of the vote against former Southampton supervisor Anna Throne-Holst.

This field of Democrats, though, is pledging to support whoever wins the primary on June 26, recalling a divisive 2016 primary between Throne-Holst and venture capitalist Dave Calone.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is eyeing over 100 seats nationwide to flip blue, including NY-1.