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Suffolk Democrats, GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin hold dueling campaign rallies in Smithtown

Democratic primary winners Liuba Grechen Shirley, left, and

Democratic primary winners Liuba Grechen Shirley, left, and Perry Gershon, right, raise their hands in unity while surrounded by supporters on the steps of Smithtown Town Hall Thursday, June 28, 2018. Credit: Danielle Silverman

By Scott Eidler     

Suffolk County Democrats rallied behind the winners of two congressional primaries Thursday night in Smithtown — a few blocks from where former Trump administration officials gathered at a fundraiser for Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley).

At the Democratic rally outside Smithtown Town Hall, the party’s Suffolk chairman, Richard Schaffer, backed Liuba Grechen Shirley, winner of the Democratic primary in the 2nd Congressional District, and Perry Gershon, who won in the 1st District.

Schaffer had backed DuWayne Gregory, presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature, against Grechen Shirley and stayed neutral in the 1st District primary.

He made his comments as Republicans held their fundraiser at the Smithtown Elks Lodge for Zeldin, who is seeking a third term in Congress in the 1st District.

Sean Spicer, the former press secretary for President Donald Trump, joined Sebastian Gorka, a former deputy assistant to Trump, at the fundraiser.

Schaffer told those at the Democratic rally that Grechen Shirley will win in November when she takes on Republican incumbent Peter King in the 2nd District.

“I know that Liuba Grechen Shirley is going to make that run and be successful to finally defeat Peter King,” Schaffer said. “She ran a very impressive campaign … I have never seen a campaign that energized people as much” as Grechen Shirley’s did.

Later in the evening, Spicer spoke in support of Zeldin at the Elks Lodge rally.

“One of Donald Trump’s strongest supporters, allies out there, is Lee Zeldin,” Spicer said. “Donald Trump needs more partners like Lee Zeldin in Congress.”

Zeldin will face Gershon, an East Hampton businessman, in the November election.

Outside both events, supporters of both parties held protest signs.

Republicans, including Zeldin, have nicknamed Gershon “Park Avenue Perry” because he moved his registration to his family’s East Hampton home from Manhattan last year in order to run for Congress.

King said in an interview earlier that he expected Democrats to be “at least on the surface united, but I know I’ll get a lot of support from rank-and-file Democrats.”

He noted that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent who has announced plans to spend more than $80 million to largely support Democratic House candidates this year, was holding a fundraiser for him Thursday night in Manhattan.

King said Bloomberg’s support “demonstrates the fact that I reach across party lines — that while I’m obviously very Republican … [on] specific issues, I work with Democrats, work with independents, I’m not bound, I’m not locked into any set ideology.”

Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser said Bloomberg and King “have a long-standing friendship that started when they worked closely together to win more Homeland Security funding for New York during the Bush administration, and Mike doesn’t walk away from his friends.”

Grechen Shirley said, “Peter King has been in office since I was 12 years old and he does not represent the values of our district, and it is time for us to flip this seat blue in November.”

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