Gregory-John Fischer, Bridget Fleming, Perry Gershon, and Nancy Goroff all want a shot against Congressman Lee Zeldin — but only one will get the chance, at least on a major party ticket.
The race will be decided on June 23 when the Democratic Party primary takes place. Voters have the choice of going to the polls or mailing in ballots.
On June 1, the four candidates traded salvos at the annual debate hosted by the League of Women Voters.
Needless to say, the race mirrors the mood of the country, and Zeldin, firmly and proudly in the pocket of Republican President Donald Trump, was lambasted for giving short shrift to local concerns.
“Zeldin fights more for Trump than he does for his own constituents,” said Gershon, setting the tone for the evening.
Goroff said she was stepping down as chair of the Chemistry Department at Stony Brook University to make her run.
“I’m frustrated with Trump and Zeldin for hawking unproven remedies to the coronavirus,” she said.
The pandemic brought to the forefront one of the most frequent criticisms of the administration: the lack of a coherent national health care system.
“Health care is a right,” Gershon said.
One of the evils of the pandemic was the number of people with or without adequate health care, Fleming said.
But Fischer said relaxed immigration policies tax the system further.
“We must have humane immigration — people who come in that can function in our society,” he said.
The candidates agreed a renewed commitment to clean energy is essential. Goroff said it is a bipartisan initiative she feels confident she can advance in Washington. It should be a top priority to take immediate action, she said.
Fleming said she is leading the polls against Zeldin, a proven vote go-getter who beat Gershon two years ago by about 4 percentage points and knocked Tim Bishop off his 10-year perch in the First Congressional District in 2014.
“We have to think about who can take Zeldin on,” Fleming stressed. “We need to win. I’m winning the race.”
Goroff dismissed the poll Fleming referred to, which is her own private poll. “It means nothing,” Goroff said.
With the COVID-19 pandemic crippling a nation now also torn apart by racial strife, all four candidates agreed Trump’s policies of isolationism and confrontation would be a disaster for the county and Long Island going forward. Health care, affordable housing, and clean water through aggressive sewer and septic system upgrades are critical local measures that the candidates believe are not being addressed, at least adequately, by Zeldin.
Fischer, a self-described long shot in the race who acknowledged he’s been “excluded” from other debates, castigated the efforts to contain the coronavirus in the critical first days the nation saw signs it’d entered the country.
“Our facilities were inadequate. We did not isolate properly,” he charged. “It affected people of color. No one needed to die.”
He warned that without a vaccine, the disease would return.
Fleming, of Water Mill, is an attorney and a current Suffolk County Legislator; Gershon, who lives in Manhattan and East Hampton, is a business man; Goroff, who holds a Ph.D., is a scientist; and Fischer, from Calverton, is a consultant.