Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin and Democratic challenger Nancy Goroff squared off in an online debate Monday night, attacking each other on their records and campaign ads.
The two 1st District candidates politely exchanged views on topics, including the coronavirus pandemic and immigration, through most of the live 90-minute debate, which was conducted via Zoom sponsored by chapters of the League of Women Voters.
The debate, the first between the candidates, is available for viewing on YouTube.
But the discussion became heated as they called on each other to remove "dishonest" attack ads.
Zeldin, an incumbent from Shirley seeking a fourth term, said Goroff, a Stony Brook University scientist, should request that a super PAC that backs her remove an ad that Zeldin said misrepresents his record on birth control and abortion.
"It's unfortunate that someone who says that the campaign that she's looking to run will be based on facts has just been so dishonest throughout this entire debate and during her campaign," Zeldin said.
Goroff said Zeldin should remove his own campaigns ads claiming she supports defunding of the police, which she said she does not.
"If you want to talk about dishonesty in ads, take down your own ads now instead of pretending that I have a position that I do not have," Goroff said.
Zeldin, 40, and Goroff, 52, previously had faced off only in prerecorded interviews, because the pandemic has limited in-person campaign events.
The 1st District stretches from Brookhaven to the East End.
Goroff criticized Zeldin for voting against a bipartisan bill that would have removed a cap on federal deductibility of state and local taxes and for voting to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
"The people of this district deserve so much better," Goroff said, adding she supports expanding access to Medicare.
Zeldin said he voted against the 2017 tax bill that created the cap and would have supported the bill to remove the cap if it had tied deductions to individual tax rates.
Zeldin also said he supported a bill with language to protect people with preexisting health conditions.
Zeldin highlighted his support for law enforcement and directed viewers to a campaign website called "Radical Nancy," which asserts Goroff has an "extreme" anti-police agenda.
Goroff said she supports law enforcement. But she said "that doesn’t mean we can’t do better." She said officials need to address racial disparities in policing, citing the killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky.
Goroff said she ran a research lab that developed solar energy materials and a chemistry department with 300 people and a multimillion-dollar budget.
But Zeldin said he had helped steer a $2 billion electron collider to Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton.
"I’ve actually done more to advance science this year than she has in her lifetime," Zeldin said of Goroff.
Zeldin touted that he helped secure hundreds of thousands of pieces of personal protective equipment for Suffolk County during the height of the coronavirus through his connections to the White House.
Goroff said the Trump administration should have had a national strategy so that every place had PPE access without needing a congress member to intervene.
The candidates will face off again on Monday at 7 p.m. in a virtual debate hosted by the Express News Group, a newspaper group on the East End. A recording of the debate will be available the next day on 27east.com.