Suffolk Closeup: Dems battle to take on Zeldin

03/14/2016 6:00 AM |

Lee Zeldin defeats Tim Bishop for Congress

While the leading election event in November will be the vote for president, for this area another important contest involves the House of Representatives.

The 1st Congressional District seat is now held by Republican Lee Zeldin of Shirley. Anna Throne-Holst and Dave Calone are campaigning against each other to challenge him on the Democratic ticket.

Mr. Zeldin, although a freshman, has become a prominent national conservative figure, especially in speaking out against terrorism. A former Army officer in Iraq, he’s become a regular on the top-rated cable TV news outlet, the Fox News Channel.

Ms. Throne-Holst of Noyac, after three terms as Southampton Town supervisor, chose not to run for what would have been an easy re-election victory and instead run for the House. Before elective office, her work included director of the Bridgehampton Child Care Center and international duties at the UN.

Mr. Calone of Stony Brook, is a businessman and Harvard Law School-trained attorney, a former federal prosecutor, former trustee of the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) and, for seven years, chairman of the Suffolk County Planning Commission. This is his first bid for elective office.

There is a remarkable split among Democratic officials and party leaders between those supporting Ms. Throne-Holst and those backing Mr. Calone.

Tim Bishop of Southampton, who held the 1st District seat for six terms until being unseated by Mr. Zeldin, has endorsed Ms. Throne-Holst. Last week he said Ms. Throne-Holst “has demonstrated her ability to work productively in a divided government and has spent her entire career using her position to solve problems, two attributes that our current Congress desperately needs.”

Ms. Throne-Holst studied conflict resolution on the graduate level at Columbia University and served with the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations, notably in helping guide an election process in the Congo. These days that would be good preparation in assisting Washington to get things done.

Others supporting Ms. Throne-Holst include U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand; the now lone Democratic member of the House from Suffolk, Steve Israel; Representatives Jerry Nadler of Manhattan and Carolyn Maloney, whose district includes parts of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens; State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. of Sag Harbor; Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman; Suffolk Legislator Bill Lindsay; Southold Town Democratic Chair Art Tillman; and Southampton Town Democratic Chair Gordon Herr.

Backers of Ms. Throne-Holst from Shelter Island are Democratic Chair Heather Reylek and Shelter Island Town Supervisor Jim Dougherty.

Mr. Calone’s backers include State Assemblyman Steve Englebright of East Setauket; Representative Gregory Meeks of Queens; Suffolk Legislators Bridget Fleming of Noyac; Sarah Anker of Mt. Sinai; Al Krupski of Cutchogue; Rob Calarco of Patchogue, East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell; East Hampton Town Councilwomen Kathleen Burke-Gonzales and Sylvia Overby; East Hampton Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc; and Southampton Town Councilman John Bouvier.

Mr. Calone has an advantage being from Brookhaven Town, where the Democratic Committee has given him its nod. It’s the biggest town in the 1st C.D., in fact in all of Suffolk and that provides an edge in Suffolk voting which often favors geography.

Ms. Throne-Holst and Mr. Calone share strong opposition toward Mr. Zeldin.

Last week she scorned Mr. Zeldin’s closeness with Donald Trump, saying they had a “mutual admiration society.” Mr. Calone called Mr. Zeldin “the Tea Party congressman.”

But there are differences between the two candidates. In a debate last week in Southampton, Mr. Calone stressed that he has been an enrolled Democrat since he was 18. Ms. Throne-Holst, through most of her years as a town official, was enrolled in the Independence Party, although also running on the Democratic line. She recently has been an enrolled Democrat. This could matter to some Democrats.

On energy issues, Ms. Throne-Holst spoke about Mr. Calone’s support, as a LIPA trustee, for the proposed Caithness Energy $5.2 billion gas-fired power plant in Yaphank, subsequently found by state officials to be unnecessary.

Mr. Calone pointed to his leadership as Suffolk Planning Commission chair developing a county-wide code for home solar power installations, but Ms. Throne-Holst countered that Southampton hasn’t joined in that code because it didn’t want “red tape” to interfere with solar power advances, plus Southampton is now the “single most solarized town” in Suffolk.

The Democratic candidate to run against Mr. Zeldin will be chosen on Primary Day, June 28. Southampton Democratic Chair Herr closed last week’s debate by saying: “We have two great candidates here and one of them is going to beat Lee Zeldin.”

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