The five Democrats running to replace outgoing Congressman Steve Israel debated in Great Neck Tuesday night, each billing themselves as the candidate most likely to keep the seat in Democratic hands in the general election.
Suffolk Legis. Steve Stern, former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, former North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman, North Hempstead Town Board member Anna Kaplan, and attorney Jonathan Clarke, all touted their credentials to an audience of more than 150 people at the Great Neck House.
The debate was organized by the Great Neck Democratic Club ahead of the June 28 Democratic primary for New York’s 3rd Congressional District, which spans most of Long Island’s North Shore — from northwest Suffolk, through northern Nassau and northeast Queens.
Stern, who received Israel’s endorsement earlier this month, told the audience he would focus on initiatives to help veterans and seniors, including advocating more funding to address Alzheimer’s disease.
“This primary is about who is going to best represent our core Democratic values,” Stern said.
Suozzi, a two-term county executive, told the audience he was running to “stand up to powerful interests,” adding that “politics in America is in a very bad place.”
“I know that people are sick of politics, they are sick of politicians,” Suozzi said.
Kaiman, who also served as chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, said he had a record of navigating “complex” issues and could handle the demands of a district that spans three counties.
“I understand how government works and what the needs are,” Kaiman said.
Kaplan said as a town board member she had worked to “build bridges between different communities,” and would try to build bipartisan relationships in Congress.
“I’m running to be your voice in government,” Kaplan said.
Clarke, a Jericho resident and supporter of presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, described himself as an “outsider,” running to reform government ethics and “fix the broken campaign finance system.”
“I believe that ethics is the most important thing in government and law,” Clarke said.
State Sen. Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury) is also running for the seat, but it’s unclear if he will face a primary challenge.
Last week, a State Supreme Court justice dismissed a bid by Phil Pidot, a Republican Glen Cove businessman, to remain on the ballot. Nassau’s elections department said he fell 16 petition signatures short of the 1,250 minimum needed, but Pidot’s campaign attorney contends he collected 2,100 signatures and was weighing an appeal.