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Perry Gershon, Kate Browning file petitions in First District race

Perry Gershon on Tuesday became the first Democrat to file petitions to run in what is expected to be a crowded Democratic primary for the right to challenge Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin for the First District congressional seat.

Gershon, a former Manhattanite who registered to vote at his East Hampton seasonal home last June, filed 3,281 signatures at the Suffolk Board of Elections in Yaphank, with 1,250 valid signatures needed to qualify for the June 26 primary.

Later Tuesday, former Suffolk Legis. Kate Browning filed more than 2,500 signatures to qualify for the Democratic primary ballot.

Browning, a Shirley Democrat, also submitted petitions to qualify for the November ballot on the Women’s Equality line. Browning was designated as the minor party’s candidate, needing only five valid signatures to qualify for the line. There are 168 Suffolk voters registered in the party.

The other Democratic contenders — Vivian Viloria-Fisher, David Pechefsky, Elaine DiMasi and Brendon Henry — have until Thursday to file or have their petitions postmarked.

Gershon backers say the bulk of the candidate’s petitions were gathered in the Smithtown and Brookhaven portion of the First District.

“We’ve been overwhelmed with the momentum and energy building for my campaign,” said Gershon.

The campaign said a majority of signatures were collected by volunteers, but some paid canvassers were used. Gershon himself got more than 250 signatures.

Keith Davies, Browning’s campaign manager, said, “We didn’t pay a single person to collect signatures. It was all done by volunteers who have known Kate since she was union bus driver and were happy to help her get on the ballot to beat Lee Zeldin.”

Zeldin, meanwhile, filed his petitions on the Republican and Reform parties’ ballot lines.

The Conservative and Independence parties, which also back Zeldin, have yet to file petitions.

In an earlier version of this story, the names of David Pechefsky and Brendon Henry were misspelled.

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