The second debate for the First Congressional District Republican primary was supposed to be held Tuesday evening, yet one of the candidates failed to show. George Demos did not attend the scheduled 7 p.m. debate at Southampton Full Gospel Church.
His opponent, Lee Zeldin, who did attend, claimed the debate was already agreed-upon and expressed dissatisfaction at Demos’ absence.
“It just goes to show the complete lack of respect my opponent has for the people of the First Congressional District,” he said.
However, Demos’ campaign is challenging the legitimacy of Tuesday night’s event. Campaign manager Kevin Tschirhart said the second debate was an unnecessary follow-up to the first debate.
“Clearly, Zeldin did very poorly and his supporters are attempting to have a do-over,” said Tschirhart in a statement. “A debate organized, sponsored and moderated by Zeldin supporters is illegitimate.”
The initial hour-long debate took place at LI News Radio on Friday, May 23. Both campaigns are claiming victory for the first debate. Spokespeople for Demos claim Zeldin was an unpolished debater, while Zeldin’s campaign claims Demos is disconnected from the people of Long Island.
Controversy has plagued the race between Zeldin and Demos for months. Both sides have made multiple attacks targeted at their opponents in the past.
Demos targeted Zeldin over a 2013 vote that Demos says allocated federal funding for the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare. Throughout the first debate, Demos pressed Zeldin on his voting record, which Demos characterized as liberal.
Zeldin’s attacks toward Demos also revolve around allegations of liberal connections. He maintains California Democrats with ties to Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi fund Demos’ campaign. Demos’ father-in-law, Angelo Tsakopoulos, who is contributing to his campaign, previously contributed to Democrats.
The Republican primary election takes place on June 24. The chosen candidate for the GOP will face incumbent Democratic U.S. Representative Tim Bishop in the November vote.