With New York’s First Congressional District up for grabs again this November, Democrats will vote to select their nominee to face off against Lee Zeldin when November comes around. But first is the primary, which is just around the corner on June 23. Legis. Bridget Fleming, Perry Gershon, and scientist Nancy Goroff are the three candidates who have taken significant measures to be considered serious contenders for this race.
In terms of fundraising, Goroff leads the pack. However, Fleming joined the race late last November and raised more funds in 2020’s first quarter than either Goroff or Gershon. Gershon’s numbers are not astronomically far behind Goroff’s total funds raised, either.
The three candidates joined the Suffolk County Progressive Coalition via Zoom last Saturday night to share with voters why they are the best candidate for the nomination.
Fleming is currently serving in her third term in the Suffolk County Legislature in which she is involved in several committees. She is the chair of the Ways and Means Committee and the vice chair of the Public Safety Committee. Fleming carries the reputation as a champion for environmental causes, public health, infrastructure investment, and underserved communities.
Before serving in the Legislature, Fleming was a councilwoman for the Town of Southampton for six years, as well as an assistant district attorney for 10 years in the New York County District Attorney’s Office.
Fleming has received endorsements from more than 20 public officials who serve Long Island, as well as significant support from major labor unions.
“We need someone who can hit the ground running in Congress after taking on Lee Zeldin,” Fleming said. “I believe that is what I can do because of my relationships.”
Fleming noted that she is the only candidate who has been elected to public office and has beaten Republicans on five separate occasions.
A keystone point for a win against Zeldin is a win in Brookhaven — a notion which all three candidates mentioned. Fleming pointed out that Brookhaven is a purple area, meaning that Republicans have a slight advantage.
“The candidate who we choose to go up against Lee Zeldin has to appeal not only to the far left but to the center, and even some Republican,” she said. “And that is something I have done. When I was on the Southampton Town Board, I was the only registered Democrat. I am known as someone who bridges divides, and I do have support from folks who are not only on the far left.”
Fleming said she would not be running if she was not confident that she could win in Brookhaven.
“We need to win Brookhaven. It is a matter of being smart. It is a matter of winning races like I have won races over and over again,” she said.
Gershon ran against Zeldin in the general election the last time the seat was open. But Gershon has remained on the campaign trail, spending a significant amount of time in the public throughout the last year, up until the health pandemic made that impossible. He has held 10 town halls — essentially one each month — and has one more scheduled before the primary.
During the COVID-19 crisis, Gershon held his town halls virtually.
“I am willing to take questions even from the guy in the front row who is wearing a red MAGA hat,” he said. “We have been everywhere in this great district targeting communities that are often ignored. We brought in a diverse crowd and working-class forum. I have never been afraid to go to Republican strongholds.”
Gershon said he has been spending a considerable amount of time in all areas of the district coming into contact with voters.
“I spent the last summer and fall attending fire department barbecues and just about every festival and feast I could find,” Gershon said. “There is no substitute for true voter contact, and the years I have spent in all nooks and crannies of this district have prepared me well for the upcoming election — meeting voters, talking to them, and building relationships.”
Organized labor groups have also signed up with Gershon, and he considers himself a leader for them.
“They want someone who can think independently and hold leadership, and that is exactly what I will do when I am in Congress,” Gershon said.
Goroff is a scientist, teacher, and leader at Stony Brook University, which is the largest employer in the district, and she has been there for 23 years. Her research lab works on developing new materials for solar energy, and she stepped down as the head of the chemistry department in order to focus on this election run.
“I have been so infuriated at Trump and Zeldin’s willingness to ignore the facts and evidence on issue after issue — from climate change to health care to reproductive rights and on and on,” Goroff said. “I knew that what we need is a government that is actually trying to make people’s lives better and is making policy based on facts and reality. What was clear to me last summer has just been further crystallized: We need a scientist to have a seat at the table.”
If elected, Goroff would be the first female Ph.D. scientist to serve as a member of Congress. She plans to bring her expertise to fight against the COVID-19 crisis, fix the health care system, and face the slew of issues that will come about during the recovery.
Goroff suggests that her platform is unique and the most understandable for voters from both sides of the aisle to get behind.
“As a scientist, I can appeal to the most progressive of our voters because they are excited to send a scientist to Washington to lead on critical issues like climate change, health care, and solving COVID-19. But I can also appeal to voters across the spectrum who are infuriated with Trump and frustrated at his failures,” she said. “They know that as a scientist, I have been trained to come at questions with an open mind and listen to all sides, and I can appeal to those people as somebody from outside of the political spectrum.”
She has several notable endorsements, including four members of Congress and many local leaders from Brookhaven, which covers the national and local influence.