Democrats Vie for Congress, State Senate Nods

Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming, left, and Perry Gershon are two of four Congressional candidates for the Democrats who live on the South Fork.
Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming, left, and Perry Gershon are two of four Congressional candidates for the Democrats who live on the South Fork.

Tuesday, June 23, is Primary Day and on the East End there is an open State Senate seat and a race for which Democrat will get to make a bid for Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin’s seat.

Voters have been casting ballots by mail and by early voting, but voters will also head to the polls Tuesday in support of Democratic presidential candidates. While that primary was initially canceled in April in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, a federal panel ruled in May that the primary had to go forward.

But, the Democratic primary in New York’s 1st Congressional District, which includes eastern and central Suffolk County, is one that is being watched closely. Zeldin has the backing of President Trump, and was with him at the president’s controversial campaign rally in Tulsa on Saturday.

Perry Gershon, a businessman who lost to Zeldin by just 4 percentage points in the 2018 vote, is hoping to make another run as the Democratic candidate.

Before Gershon can take on Zeldin in November, he will have to defeat three new challengers Tuesday: Bridget Fleming, currently a member of the Suffolk County Legislature, Nancy Goroff, a scientist who is a faculty member at Stony Brook University, and Gregory-John Fischer, a business consultant.

Gershon, an East Hampton resident since 2017, has had a career in a commercial real estate private equity firm. He  founded his own firm, LoanCore Capital, in 2007.

Fleming, a Noyac resident, was first elected as Suffolk County Legislator in 2015. She had served on the Southampton Town Board for five years, after moving to the South Fork full-time. She had been an assistant district attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.

Goroff, who lives in Stony Brook, has served as head of the university’s chemistry department before taking a leave-of-absence last year to campaign full-time.

Fischer of Calverton, is a consultant for businesses and non-profit organizations. While he is a registered Democrat, but identifies as a Libertarian and ran unsuccessfully for Suffolk County executive as the Libertarian line last year. He also has previously run for state Senate in 2016 and 2018.

The New York State Senate seat held for 44 years by Republican Ken LaValle is wide open, as LaValle is retiring. Anthony Palumbo, a State Assemblyman, has already been anointed as the Republican party standard bearer for LaValle’s seat.

On the Democratic side, there are five candidates vying to be Palumbo’s challenger on November 3: Laura A. Ahearn, Valerie M. Cartright, Nora Higgins, Skyler Johnson, and Thomas Schiavoni.

Ahearn, a Port Jefferson resident, is the executive director of the Crime Victims Center/Parents for Megan’s Law, a rape crisis and crime victims center she founded nearly 25 years ago. She also holds a law degree.

Cartright, a civil right attorney and Brookhaven Town councilwoman, will be on the ballot this November, win or lose in the primary, as she is also the third-party candidate for the position for the Working Families Party. She lives in Port Jeff Station.

Higgins, is a Ridge resident and a nurse who has worked in the neonatal intensive care and oncology units at Stony Brook University Hospital. As a union activist, she has been a leadership in labor and nursing.

Johnson is by the far youngest candidate on the ballot. At 19, he is a Suffolk County Community College student. The Mt. Sinai resident served as the former campaign manager for Sarah Deonarine’s unsuccessful bid for the Brookhaven Town Board.

Lastly, the candidate known locally as Tommy John Schiavoni, is a Southampton Town councilman, elected in 2017. He is a retired teacher, working for 32 years in the Center Moriches School District. He has also served on the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals, the Sag Harbor School Board, and on the North Haven Village Board.

Democrats are, of course, voting for a Presidential candidate. While former Vice President Joe Biden is the favorite, many other names appear on the ballot, like Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg, despite suspended campaigns.

According to Newsday, an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots were requested statewide — 1.6 million — and on Long Island ahead of the Democratic. Because of this, results will likely be delayed at least a week as the mail-in ballots cannot be counted until July 1 to allow for them all to arrive.

The polls in Suffolk County open at 6 a.m. and close at 9 p.m. Some polling places were consolidated due to the COVID-19 outbreak, so voters are being encouraged to check with the Suffolk County Board of Elections before they head to the polls Tuesday.

The BOE said all voters are required to wear a mask or face covering and maintain six feet of social distance when entering any polling site.

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