Congressman's Would-Be Challengers Vie for Attention

This year brings midterm elections, and progressives in the First Congressional District are wasting no time as they look for a Democratic candidate to unseat Lee Zeldin, the two-term Republican incumbent. 

On Saturday at 3 p.m. at Stony Brook Southampton’s Chancellors Hall, the Southampton Progressive Caucus will present a forum with six Democratic hopefuls: Suffolk County Legislator Kate Browning of Shirley; Vivian Viloria-Fisher, a former county legislator from East Setauket; Perry Gershon of East Hampton, a businessman with a background in commercial real estate finance; Brendon Henry, a bartender from Center Moriches; Elaine DiMasi of Ronkonkoma, a former Brookhaven National Laboratory physicist, and David Pechefsky, a Patchogue native and former New York City Council staffer.

Networking and an activist fair will precede the forum from 2:30 to 3 p.m. Stephen Kotz, an editor with The Sag Harbor Express, will moderate the discussion with the candidates. Those who have questions they would like to pose have been asked to email them to juliesheehan@optonline.net. 

Another group, Progressive East End Reformers, had the first in a series of Democratic candidate forums on Tuesday night in the community room at Bridgehampton National Bank in Bridgehampton. Ms. Viloria-Fisher and Mr. Pechefsky were the guests. A video of their discussion can be seen on PEER’s Facebook feed. The group will host Ms. Browning and Ms. DiMasi on Jan. 23 at 6:30 p.m. and Mr. Henry and Mr. Gershon on Feb. 13 at the same time.

Mr. Gershon has announced on Monday that he had raised more than $1 million to challenge Mr. Zeldin.

“We’ve been overwhelmed with this outpouring of support for my campaign, and the momentum is building from every part of the district,” Mr. Gershon said in a statement. “Long Islanders are fed up with Lee Zeldin’s extremism and inability to protect our community from Donald Trump’s dangerous agenda. These new fund-raising numbers reflect an encouraging vote of confidence in our campaign, and now it’s time to ensure our congressman fights for us and not their personal agenda.”

Along with his fund-raising total for 2017, Mr. Gershon’s campaign finance report shows more than $800,000 in cash on hand. Mr. Gershon is one of several candidates seeking the Democratic Party’s nod to take on Mr. Zeldin, a second-term Republican who defeated Anna Throne-Holst, a former Southampton Town supervisor, in 2016, with approximately 59 percent of the vote. 

The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan newsletter that analyzes elections, campaigns, and political trends, puts New York’s First District in its “likely Republican” column, which it describes as not considered competitive at this point but having the potential to become engaged.

A meet-and-greet and fund-raiser for Ms. Browning will be held on Saturday in East Hampton. 

Ms. Browning, who immigrated from Northern Ireland and lives in Shirley, was a school bus driver before taking office in 2005. Term limits prevent her from another run for legislator. 

The hosts of Saturday’s event are Suffolk Legislator Bridget Fleming, State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., and a number of well-known local Democrats, including Judith Hope, Ana Daniel, Linda Bird Francke, Jeanne Frankl, Betty Mazur, Randy Parsons, David Posnett, Diane Saatchi, and Robert Wick.

Those who plan to attend the event on Saturday have been asked to email Andrew Batcheller at jandrewbatcheller@gmail.com. Ms. Browning’s supporters have said contributions to her campaign ranging from $50 to $1,000 would be welcomed. They can be sent to votekatebrowning.com/contribute.