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Five Democratic candidates vie for chance to challenge Zeldin

06/25/2018 6:00 AM |

Five candidates are gearing up for the Democratic primary June 26, vying for the nomination to challenge incumbent Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) in November for a seat in the House of Representatives.

They’ve spoken at candidate forums all around the 1st Congressional District, including one at the Hellenic Snack Bar in East Marion in February.

The ballot now includes five candidates: former Suffolk County legislator Kate Browning of Shirley; former Brookhaven National Lab physicist Elaine DiMasi of Ronkonkoma; Perry Gershon, an East Hampton businessman who has worked in commercial real estate; former New York City Council staffer David Pechefsky of Port Jefferson; and former Suffolk County legislator Vivian Viloria-Fisher of Setauket.

Ms. Browning, who was a school bus driver while her children were in school, is running on a message that she will fight for working families. On Tuesday, she earned the support of Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue).

“I’m proud to endorse Kate Browning for Congress,” Mr. Krupski said in a statement. “As a colleague of Kate’s in the Suffolk County Legislature, I saw firsthand her ability and willingness to work with everyone regardless of party or faction, for the benefit of Suffolk County residents. She has a proven record fighting for open space and farmland preservation and she will continue that good work in Congress.”

Kate Browning, left, and Elaine DiMasi.

As a physicist, Ms. DiMasi points to her science background contributing to a commitment to facts and truth. She’s running on a campaign to grow the clean energy sector, for jobs and environment, as well as growing trade schools to keep the workforce up-to-date on clean energy technologies.

Mr. Pechefsky, acknowledging his experience working in government, has said he’s running to make the economy work for everyone. He also favors investing in infrastructure.

Ms. Viloria-Fisher is campaigning as a progressive candidate and touts her time spent as a county legislator.

The candidates tend to see eye-to-eye on health care — each supports a move to a single-payer system — protecting the environment and supporting women and the LGBTQ community.

Perry Gershon, left, and David Pechefsky.

Mr. Gershon, who has said he’s running as a businessman and not a career politician, has raised the most in campaign contributions among the candidates. As of June 6, the Federal Election Commission reported that he’d raised $2,110,371 and spent $1,660,210, ending with $450,161 cash on hand.

Mr. Zeldin has $1,501,640 cash on hand, having raised $2,467,972 and spent $1,339,419, according to the FEC.

The Democratic candidate with the second-highest amount raised is Ms. Browning, with $493,850, according to the FEC. She has $112,486 on hand.

The Southold Democratic Committee decided not to endorse a candidate ahead of the primary, chairperson Kathryn Casey Quigley said.

Vivian Viloria-Fisher

“We really decided it was important for our role to be to help educate voters that are out there and to be a resource in that way and allow them to make the decision,” she said.

The committee is ready to enthusiastically back whoever voters select as the Democratic candidate next week, she said.

Ms. Casey Quigley said her feeling is that issues people on the North Fork care about are similar to those held nationally, including health care, the environment and ensuring that the working class can find jobs to make ends meet.

“My sense is it comes down to who is the best person to beat Lee Zeldin and that’s the priority,” Ms. Casey Quigley said. “These are all great candidates who I believe will be strong on the issues. My hope is that voters will look at each candidate and make their decision on who is the mostly likely to win against Lee Zeldin.”

Polls open Tuesday, June 26, at 6 a.m. and close at 9 p.m.

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