Crowded Field: Candidates Line Up to Replace Zeldin

Lee Zeldin, Jackie Gordon
Lee Zeldin, Jackie Gordon
REUTERS/Leah Millis

Nine candidates have drawn more than $1 million in campaign donations combined in the race for New York State’s 1st Congressional District, which was recently redrawn to stretch from the East End to Nassau County.

The fundraising tally is based on the latest Federal Election Commission (FEC) data and statements from the six Democrats and three Republicans running in the June 28 congressional primary for a chance to replace outgoing four-term U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who is running for governor instead of seeking a fifth term.

“Our fundraising success is a direct result of Kara’s ability to connect with Long Islanders of all walks of life and earn their support,” said Kelley Hardon, campaign manager for Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), who had one of the biggest war chests in the race with $584,683 in donations as of December 31, according to the FEC.

Kara Hahn
Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn, right, seen here with Surfrider Long Island Eastern Chapter Coordinator Colleen Henn.

Zeldin is among three of LI’s five-member congressional delegation not seeking re-election. Four-term U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City), who represents most of the southern half of Nassau County, bowed out last month and four-term U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), whose district covers the North Shore, is running a Democratic primary in his gubernatorial bid instead of seeking another term. Twelve-term U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens), whose district includes a sliver of western Nassau, and freshman U.S. Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-Sayville), whose district spans the South Shore of Nassau and Suffolk, are both running for re-election.

The race will be the first since New York State lawmakers recently redrew the congressional district lines under the decennial redistricting process that GOP advocates filed a lawsuit to block, alleging Democrats tilted the odds in their favor. Zeldin’s district currently runs from Orient and Montauk points to eastern portions of the Town of Brookhaven. While it will still cover most of the East End next year, it was redrawn to stretch across the North Shore of Brookhaven town, through the middle of Suffolk to a sliver of eastern Nassau. Garbarino’s district stretches into the Town of Southampton as of next year.

The redrawn lines opened the door in the 1st Congressional District for the Suffolk County Republican Committee to nominate Nicholas LaLota, a former commissioner of the Suffolk board of elections and ex-Village of Amityville trustee who currently serves as chief of staff to Suffolk Legislator Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), the newly minted presiding officer of the county legislature. LaLota is in the process of moving his family into the new district. It was not immediately clear how much LaLota has raised since he joined the race after the FEC’s campaign finance reports for the fourth quarter were released at the end of 2021. The FEC will share the data for the first quarter on April 15.

Nick LaLota
Nick LaLota

“I accepted the nomination and pledge to do my part to put the House’s gavel back in the right hands,” tweeted LaLota, alluding to the GOP’s bid to flip the U.S. House of Representatives from its current Democratic majority under House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in November’s midterm elections.

Suffolk County Democratic Chairman Rich Shaffer said his party is declining to nominate a candidate, leaving it up to voters to decide the primary for themselves.

The first candidate to throw a hat in the ring was Suffolk Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac), who had $649,493 in donations as of the fourth quarter. The four-term legislator who has represented the South Fork since 2016, previously served on the Southampton Town Council and as a Suffolk County prosecutor. She placed last in 2020’s three-way Democratic primary in the race to unseat Zeldin, which challenger Nancy Goroff lost.

Bridget Fleming
Bridget Fleming

“Bridget’s fundraising advantage is just one of the many early successes in her campaign’s effort to flip NY-1 in November,” her campaign said in a press release last month while touting early endorsements from local Democratic officials.

Also running in the Democratic primary is former Babylon Town Councilwoman Jackie Gordon (D-Copiague), who unsuccessfully ran against Garbarino in 2020. Gordon, a combat veteran, retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army and educator, was a councilwoman from 2007 through 2020. She won almost 73% of the vote in her Democratic primary against perennial candidate Patricia Maher before losing to Garbarino.

Democrats who also announced plans to run in the Democratic primary preceding the race for Zeldin’s open seat are Nicholas Antonucci, an educator and nonprofit advocate from Southold who raised $13,795; John Atkinson, who reported $6,996 in donations and works with people with developmental disabilities, and Austin Smith, who did not report any donations as of New Year’s Eve.

On the Republican side, LaLota faces a potential GOP primary on June 28 from two candidates: former Brookhaven Town deputy supervisor Anthony Figliola of East Setauket and Edward Moore Jr., an entrepreneur from Smithtown. Figliola reported $7,800 in donations. It was not clear what Moore had received.

Of course, with nominating petitions not due for another month, it’s possible that some fresh faces may make their way onto the primary ballots in this race by the time all the paperwork is filed.

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