Primary 2022 Preview: 3 Republicans Vying to Replace Zeldin

Election Day
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Getty Images

Three candidates are running in the 1st Congressional District Republican primary to get their names on ballots in the November midterm elections that will decide who represents the East End in Congress.

The Suffolk County Republican Committee nominated in the race 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 new presiding officer of the county legislature. Challenging him are former Brookhaven Town Deputy Supervisor Anthony Figliola and Michelle Bond, a cryptocurrency trade group leader originally from Miller Place.

The winner will face in the general election Suffolk Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac), the Democratic nominee in the race who faces no primary challengers. And the winner on Election Day will be the first new congressional representative for the East End in seven years. They will replace U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who has represented this East End district since 2015, is seeking higher office instead of re-election. He won the June GOP gubernatorial primary in a bid to unseat Gov. Kathy Hochul.

The district lines were recently redrawn to include the North Shore of Suffolk County, but it still includes all five East End towns.

The race is considered competitive since it’s an open seat without a current congressman having the advantage of running on their record, among other electoral advantages that come with incumbency. It is one of four congressional primaries on Long Island on August 23, three of which involve open seats amid an unusual bout of turnover. The early voting period runs from August 12 to August 21.

All three candidates were invited to participate in a Zoom debate hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons, Shelter Island and North Fork. The debate, scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, August 8, will be hosted by Southampton Town’s SEA-TV and can be viewed at YouTube.com/c/SeaTVSouthampton.

Here are the three congressional hopefuls asking Republican voters on the East End and North Shore to make them their candidate in the general election this fall.

Nick LaLota
Nick LaLota

NICK LALOTA

The married father of three and U.S. Navy veteran is in the process of moving his family into the new district, which is allowed under the law.

“Nick LaLota has been a dedicated public servant in Suffolk County for years and will work hard to tackle inflation, expand American energy production to lower the price of gas, and empower our law enforcement to protect our communities from an epidemic of gang violence,” said Suffolk County Republican Chairman Jesse Garcia.

“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. Republicans are hoping that a repeat of last year’s so-called red wave — a surge in Republican voters — will put Congress back in GOP hands to block Democratic President Joe Biden from advancing his agenda.

“Long Island needs a strong, bold representative to fill Lee Zeldin’s shoes,” LaLota said during a recent debate hosted by Dan’s Papers sister publication PoliticsNY. Among his top priorities are combatting inflation, securing the border and enhancing public safety. He said his years of government experience make him well versed and best suited to tackle these issues.

LaLota said that while he supports restoring the State and Local Tax (SALT) exemption that was called at $10,000 under the administration of former President Donald Trump, he believes if it’s reinstated, it should mandate local governments that drive property taxes to reduce spending and borrowing.

Michelle Bond
Michelle Bond

MICHELLE BOND

A married mother of two and cryptocurrency trade group leader who graduated from Miller Place High School is the most recent candidate to throw a hat in the ring challenging LaLota for the GOP line.

Michelle Bond is CEO of the Association for Digital Asset Markets, a former senior counsel to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, rents a home in Port Jefferson and attended Stony Brook University. She touts her business acumen as giving her the experience needed in Washington, D.C.

“I’m a businesswoman, not a politician,” said Bond. “We need problem solvers, not more career politicians looking for their next gig.”

She described herself as pro-life, pro-border wall, and an “America First conservative” opposed to defunding the police.

“As Long Islanders struggle with prices at the pump, high taxes, cost of living and inflation, we need to send someone to Washington who knows and understands how to get our economy moving again,” she said on her campaign website.

Bond did not participate in the PoliticsNY debate.

Anthony Figliola

ANTHONY FIGLIOLA

This married father of three from East Setauket and lobbyist with Empire Government Strategies is running because he believes the district is in crisis due to higher costs making it harder for families to make ends meet. Also among his top issues is repealing COVID-19 mandates.

“Power hungry politicians in Washington and in Blue states such as New York have found a way to bypass the legislative process issuing edicts to the people,” he said on his campaign website. “As your congressman I will fight against these unconstitutional mandates that are trampling on our individual liberties. This is a pivotal moment in our nation’s history. Let us now make history by reclaiming the freedoms that originated here in America.”

Figliola says his deep ties to the community makes him the candidate who is most familiar with the issues most important to its residents.

“I’m not a politician,” he said during the PoliticsNY debate. “This is my first time running. And I think that’s an important statement to make because I’m somebody who’s really focused on the people.”

Figliola said he, too, will push to repeal the SALT cap.

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