Two Democrats vying to run for Congress on eastern Long Island didn’t directly criticize each other during a two-hour forum Wednesday night but had harsh words for the Republican they are hoping to unseat: Rep. Lee Zeldin.
Anna Throne-Holst and David Calone got applause from the roughly 100 Democrats in an Amagansett church as they previewed attacks the party is likely to use against Zeldin (R-Shirley).
They said Zeldin’s conservative views on guns, climate change and Planned Parenthood were out of step with his moderate district and criticized the freshman congressman for his appearances to talk about foreign policy on Fox News.
“We have a member of Congress who is a climate change denier, and we live on Long Island, where our economy is our environment,” said Throne-Holst, of Sag Harbor, who served as Southampton Town supervisor from 2010 through 2015.
“He’s on Fox News all the time,” said Calone, of Setauket, a venture capitalist and former Suffolk County Planning Commission chairman. “He’s talking tough. How about working tough for the people of Long Island to help grow our economy?”
Zeldin spokeswoman Jennifer DiSiena said Democrats “may be shocked to learn from their ivory tower just how much more in touch with reality Congressman Zeldin is with the highest priorities of the constituents he so proudly represents as their voice in Congress.”
She said Zeldin, who defeated then-Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) in 2014, has worked across the aisle to pass legislation and “has been sought after for interviews on national and international TV to discuss American security at home and abroad.”
Calone and Throne-Holst took only indirect swipes at each other as they touted their resumes and Democratic credentials.
Calone, a former federal prosecutor, repeatedly stressed he has been a Democrat since age 18; Throne-Holst was an Independence Party member aligned with Democrats for most of her political career, but switched her registration last year to Democrat. She touted victories by herself and her Democratic running mates in GOP-dominated Southampton.
Throne-Holst harshly criticized the Long Island Power Authority without mentioning Calone, who served on its board of trustees from 2009 to 2012.
“We should get away from our dependency on LIPA,” she said in response to a question about alternative energy. “They’re a moneymaker.”
Former East Hampton Democratic Committee chairman Charles Hitchcock, who moderated the forum, predicted the eastern Long Island race would be “one of the most hotly contested races in the country” and include “a deluge of negative TV advertising” by Republicans and super PACs.
He invited the Democrats to anticipate their vulnerabilities. Throne-Holst said she expected to be criticized for coming from an affluent town on the East End. Calone said Republicans may scrutinize his business ties and highlight that he has never held elected office.