Nancy Goroff, a Stony Brook resident with two daughters, is...

Nancy Goroff, a Stony Brook resident with two daughters, is taking an 18-month leave of absence to campaign full time. Credit: Handout

Nancy Goroff, looking to be Congress' first female scientist with a Ph.D. , has become the second Democrat to launch a 2020 challenge against Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin, a strong ally of President Donald Trump.

Goroff, 51, Stony Brook University’s chemistry department chair until last month, formally announced her candidacy in an email released Tuesday morning.

“As a scientist, I believe in facts. And the fact is Washington is hurting Suffolk families,” she said in her three-paragraph statement. “I’m running for Congress to use my experience as a scientist to combat global warming, make health care affordable, protect a woman’s right to choose and end the gun violence epidemic.”

Goroff, a Stony Brook resident with two daughters, is taking an 18-month leave of absence to campaign full time. But she faces a likely primary from Perry Gershon, 57, of East Hampton, who has already announced plans to seek a rematch against Zeldin, of Shirley, who will be seeking his fourth two-year term next year. Gershon declined to comment on Goroff’s announcement.

Also in the wings is a third potential Democratic candidate, Jack Harrington, a Yale-educated lawyer, who just returned from a year of military service in Afghanistan. Two years ago, he ran a losing race for Brookhaven Town supervisor against popular GOP incumbent Ed Romaine and has spoken to party officials about the race but made no decision.

Joshua Morrow, executive director of 314 Action, a group that aids those with a science background who seek public office, praised Goroff’s entry into the contest.

“Nancy has spent her career using science to seek out truths about our world, and she will bring a desperately needed fact-based approach to gridlock in Washington,” he said, though the group has made no formal endorsement. She has also had discussions with Emily’s List, a group that promotes Democratic women candidates.

Goroff, who has taught at the university for 22 years, said she has worked to create new organic semiconductors to make solar energy more affordable. She also helped develop an entrepreneurship program called iCreate , which gives students tools to build, innovate and redefine technological boundaries.

“We have innovated and inspired the next generation,” she said.

Rich Schaffer, Suffolk Democratic chairman, has not endorsed a candidate to challenge the Republican incumbent.

“The key is going to figure out who has the best chance to beat Lee Zeldin,” he said. “And I suspect that will have to be determined by the fall of this year. The key is to get everyone behind one candidate.”

But Jesse Garcia, Suffolk GOP chairman, said he expects Democrats to become mired in a lengthy intramural battle.

“Democrats will fight among themselves to be the next in line to be defeated,” he said. “While they embrace the liberal values of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Lee Zeldin is fighting every day for hardworking Long Islanders.”

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