Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming announced she is running for Congress, becoming the third Democratic candidate to seek office against Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin, a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump.
Fleming, of Noyac, announced her candidacy for the First District seat in an email Tuesday, calling herself the best candidate to defeat Zeldin, of Shirley, in November.
Fleming, 59, said the race was "too important" to pass up. She said the needs of the district have “been ignored for too long while our current congressman is focused on protecting and defending our president.”
Fleming’s entry “will just shake up the race” because she is a “tremendous candidate” who has already established herself, said Suffolk County Democratic Richard Schaffer, who hasn't yet endorsed a candidate.
Fleming became a county legislator in 2015, after serving for five years on the Southampton Town Board. She previously spent nearly a decade as an assistant district attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, where she prosecuted sex crime cases and rose to chief of a unit fighting fraud in public programs.
Fleming said, if elected, she would seek to protect the environment, invest in infrastructure and fight to remove the federal limit on state and local tax deductions.
Two other Democratic candidates — businessman Perry Gershon, who ran unsuccessfully against Zeldin last year, and Nancy Goroff, a Stony Brook University scientist — are seeking their party's nomination.
Gershon has respectively raised $607,033 for the campaign and Goroff has raised $534,393, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
Zeldin has raised $1.7 million, according to his filings.
Schaffer said the party hopes to avoid a primary, which would take away resources from a campaign to unseat Zeldin, Schaffer said.
“All three [Democratic candidates] agree Zeldin has to go,” Schaffer said Wednesday. “Now we need to have them figure out who’s the strongest and we need to get behind that person.”
Katie Vincentz, a spokeswoman for Zeldin (R-Shirley) said his “focus far and away is on his job representing his constituents of NY-1,” said Zeldin spokeswoman Katie Vincentz, who called Zeldin's effectiveness "indisputable.”
Goroff’s campaign “has shown incredible strength over the past few months” and will continue “making the case to voters that she is the strongest candidate to take on Lee Zeldin,” campaign manager Jacob Sarkozi said Tuesday.
Gershon said, “I welcome anyone to the race who wants to have that conversation” about fighting for affordable health care, eliminating the state and local tax cap and tackling climate change.
For Republicans, “the more the merrier on the Democratic side,” Suffolk GOP Chair Jesse Garcia said
“I am sitting back with popcorn to watch how the Democrats are going to out-left each other,” Garcia said.
The FEC also shows Luca Nascimbene has filed to run to challenge Zeldin as an independent candidate, although voting records show no one with that name is registered to vote in New York State. Nascimbene has not filed a campaign finance disclosure with the FEC.