Nancy Goroff of Stony Brook, chaired the university's chemistry department until...

Nancy Goroff of Stony Brook, chaired the university's chemistry department until taking a leave of absence to campaign last year. Credit: James Escher

Stony Brook University scientist Nancy Goroff won the 1st Congressional District Democratic primary Thursday, defeating former party nominee Perry Gershon and setting up a contest against Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin, a strong ally of President Donald Trump, officials said Thursday.

Goroff, 52, of Stony Brook, chaired the university’s chemistry department until taking a leave of absence to campaign last year. The first-time candidate seeks to be Congress’ first female scientist with a PhD. 

"Now more than ever, as we work to address the unique health and environmental issues of our time, we need leaders who will study the data and make decisions by putting people over politics," Goroff said in a statement. "It is past time that scientists have a seat at the table." 

Goroff won by about 600 votes, according to the county Board of Elections. On primary night, Goroff trailed Gershon, who ran against Zeldin (R-Shirley) in a highly watched contest in 2018, by 164 votes.

After a tally of absentee ballots completed Thursday morning, Goroff had 17,905 total votes to Gershon’s 17,275, according to elections results that have yet to be certified, Democratic elections commissioner Anita Katz said. Suffolk County Legis. Bridget Fleming had 13,696 votes and business consultant Gregory John Fischer had 773, Katz said. 

Turnout exceeded 49,600, more than double that of the 2018 primary, elections results show.

Gershon and Fleming expressed their support for Goroff Thursday and criticized Zeldin for his allegiance to Trump. Gershon said he believed such large turnout is a sign that "Democrats have laid down the gauntlet that they are ready to take [Zeldin] on."

"We deserve a representative who will fight for Long Islanders, instead of fighting for a corrupt president who he is beholden to," Gershon said. 

Zeldin, who is running for a fourth two-year term, said he is "willing to work with anyone" and touted his accomplishments in office, including helping to procure personal protective equipment for Suffolk's health care workers and first responders during the coronavirus pandemic and supporting small businesses.

"These are just some of the many important ways I’ve been fighting hard every day for the greatest Congressional District in America, which is why I’m especially excited and looking forward to delivering countless more victories as we move forward together," Zeldin said in a statement.

Goroff spent $1.6 million on her campaign, outspending her Democratic opponents, records show. She raised $1.35 million in contributions and lent the campaign $1 million from personal funds, according to federal financial disclosure forms as of June 3. Gershon, who raised $1.1 million, spent $979,000, records show.

But Zeldin’s war chest is more than double Goroff’s after he raised $3.6 million, records show. He has more than $2 million in cash on hand while Goroff has $758,162,  less than what she owes to repay her loan, records show.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

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