Editorial: Nick LaLota must stand on his own in 1st Congressional District

Much has changed in America since last week’s midterm elections, when scores of Trump-backed candidates who touted the Big Lie lost. Every election denier running for a key state office lost, and the U.S. Senate will remain in Democratic hands.

This is very good news for American democracy and the rule of law. Within hours of election results being posted, many Republican party members were quick to toss aside their loyalty to Trump. Even the pro-Trump New York Post turned against him.

This brings us to Nick LaLota, who handily defeated Bridget Fleming in the race for the 1st Congressional District. The position was vacated by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) who chose to give up a safe GOP seat and run for New York governor. He lost. His strident, unwavering support for all things Trump did not serve him well.

Mr. LaLota is young — just 43 — and given the political makeup of his district, which stretches across Brookhaven and west into Smithtown, he could possibly hold his seat for years to come. What is imperative in this time of bitter political division is that he make the interests of district residents his main priority.

With the GOP expected to hold a slim majority in the House of Representatives, Mr. LaLota will be under pressure to go along with his party’s leadership and their agenda. Trump’s announcement this week that he’ll run for president again in 2024 will only add to the fractures within the Republican party.

When Mr. LaLota came into our offices before the election he said the 2020 election was fair and honest. He was clear that Biden won. It would be a big step backward if, once he’s sworn in, he sided with members of Congress who say otherwise.

Many far-right Republicans in the House will want to do everything possible to keep the Big Lie alive and take revenge on President Biden.. Impeachment efforts, congressional investigations of the president’s son and more will be on the table. On Tuesday night, Trump portrayed himself as a victim and sounded like a man out for retribution.

For the 1st District’s sake, Mr. LaLota needs to carve out his own path, be his own person and serve the interests of constituents, not the party. Had Mr. Zeldin followed that path he might today be the governor-elect of New York.

We urge Mr. LaLota to work tirelessly for his district, and for everything that makes this region the best part of Long Island — preserved farmland and the farming industry, our salt creeks and the Peconic Bay system.

Mr. LaLota, we ask you to stand on your own. Put the district’s interests before whatever political punishments the new Speaker of the House wants to inflict. If you do, Mr. LaLota, you could own CD 1 for years to come.