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Suffolk lawmaker faces off with legislative colleague for First District  Congressional seat

Suffolk Legislator Kara Hahn speaks at a news

Suffolk Legislator Kara Hahn speaks at a news conference on the steps of the Nassau Supreme Court in Mineola Oct. 15, 2019. Credit: Jeff Bachner

Suffolk County Legis. Kara Hahn announced Wednesday she is running for Congress, launching a bid for the 1st District's Democratic nomination against legislative colleague Bridget Fleming.

Hahn, the legislature’s deputy presiding officer and former majority leader, announced her candidacy at The Three Village Inn in Stony Brook Wednesday evening, surrounded by dozens of supporters, as well as elected officials and former party nominees Nancy Goroff and Perry Gershon.

Hahn, 50, of Setauket, is seeking the congressional seat after incumbent Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin, the four-term congressman from Shirley, announced in April he will run for governor in 2022. The district comprises eastern Long Island, from parts of Smithtown and Islip to the East End.

Hahn said she entered the race to focus on constituent needs over partisan politics. She said she wants to protect the environment, remove the federal cap on state and local tax deductions, known as SALT, increase affordable child care access, invest in infrastructure and reduce the cost of living on Long Island.

"It's my belief that now, more than ever, we need bold vision and a commitment to action," Hahn said. "Knowing this has given me the courage to step up and make sure we have a leader in Congress who actually wants solutions for our problems."

Hahn, who represents the legislature’s Fifth District, encompassing northwest Brookhaven Town, became a county legislator in 2012 after working for five years as the legislature’s director of communications.

Hahn, who has a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania in social work policy, also previously served as a chief of staff and legislative aide to other elected officials and worked for a child advocacy organization.

Hahn’s announcement set off a unique race between two legislative colleagues, who will battle in a June 2022 primary.

Presiding Officer Robert Calarco (D-Patchogue) said he does not expect the race to interfere with the legislature’s work.

"They’re both professionals and they both are terrific (as) candidates," said Calarco, who has endorsed Fleming.

Alexandra VanDerlofske, executive director of the Suffolk County Democratic Committee, said Hahn has been "a dynamic legislator and has a proven record of getting things done for Suffolk."

"Voters are going to have a tough choice to make, but either choice will be a good one as Kara or Bridget will both be strong advocates for Suffolk in Congress," VanDerlofske said.

Wellesley Daniels, a spokeswoman for Fleming, said, "Bridget is confident that her record, her experience, and her message will win over voters across the district and carry her through to the nomination next June."

County Republican Party chairman Jesse Garcia said Republicans will screen candidates for the seat in July.

"The more the merrier when it comes to a Democratic primary," Garcia said.

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