With New York’s June congressional primary fast approaching, a few GOP contenders are making moves to follow in Lee Zeldin’s footsteps in CD1.
They include Brookhaven Town Councilman Neil Foley, who told The Point Thursday that he is "absolutely ready to run," along with Robert Cornicelli, Anthony Figliola, and Edward Moore, who have filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to launch their campaigns.
Figliola, a former Brookhaven deputy supervisor who works at Empire Government Strategies, calls himself a "conservative Republican" and "strict constitutionalist" focused on Long Island’s high cost of living and issues like vaccine mandates.
He was once a Democrat and worked under a Democratic administration in Brookhaven, but says he left the party in his late 20s: "I grew up, I had a family, I got married, I found the Lord," he says, explaining the shift.
Cornicelli, a military veteran and St. James resident who has already posted fundraising numbers, is a Town of Oyster Bay sanitation inspector supervisor and veterans advocate. He is a regular presence on 103.9 LI News Radio and his campaign says he’ll be stumping on "helping people who have been forgotten, namely veterans and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities."
His social media presence often wades into culture war issues, with mentions of "Fraud Fauci" and criticisms of immigrants here illegally and immigration more generally: "I am a vote for no climate refugees at all."
Moore, of Smithtown, identifies himself as an entrepreneur who is running as a novice but hopes to show other people they can "do it themselves."
Of course, he notes, "I may win."
Other names floated for the sure-to-be-expensive, nationally watched race include John Thaler, a prominent Lee Zeldin donor who runs a hedge fund, but Thaler has declined.
The next move appears to be with the county party apparatus — Foley, for one, said he didn’t want to hop fully into the race ahead of the county GOP and Conservative Party officially picking someone.
Asked about the timeline for screening candidates or coming behind a nominee, Suffolk GOP chairman Jesse Garcia said in a text that the lack of district lines "has caused delays. February."
— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano
New race, old pals
How long after communications executive Robert Zimmerman announced his candidacy for Congress this week would it take for an endorsement to come from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli?
Not too long. The two have known each other for almost 50 years, and have been battling side-by-side in electoral politics since day one.
"We met working on a campaign, the reelection campaign of Rep. Lester Wolff," Zimmerman told The Point Thursday, guessing it was in 1971. Wolff, who lived in Syosset, served 13 terms in the House from 1965 through 1981.
Both Zimmerman and DiNapoli are 67, though DiNapoli is a few months older, and both have been involved in politics for five decades.
But in political history, the two are most closely linked by DiNapoli’s brutal 2001 Democratic primary against another Long Islander whose political ambition is a headline this year: Tom Suozzi.
That 2001 race has colored politics on Long Island ever since, with the alliances and enmity it created often persisting. Zimmerman has been a persistent and outspoken critic of Suozzi’s service in the House, and had floated the idea of challenging him before.
"Robert is someone who has had a passion for government and politics, and has been a great spokesperson nationally for the Democratic Party and its positions," DiNapoli told The Point Thursday. "He’s in it to serve the people and I think he’d be a great advocate for the district."
The seat Zimmerman seeks is opening up because Suozzi is seeking the governorship. And it surprised no one when, in October, DiNapoli endorsed Gov. Kathy Hochul for that job.
— Lane Filler @lanefiller
For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/nationalcartoons
GOP election strategy
For a glimpse of where the New York GOP thinks the pulse of this year’s state elections will be, look no further than Lee Zeldin’s Facebook ads.
A missive launched last week focuses on criminal justice issues and denigrates Democratic efforts to modify the state’s law enforcement, bail and parole systems.
The ad’s rhetorical strategies include disdainful wordplay — critiquing the parole changes of the Less Is More Act by dubbing it the "Less is Moronic Act." There is an embedded video that highlights recent anecdotes of eye-catching crime — such as the man who set fire to what the ad calls a "public Christmas tree": the one outside the New York City headquarters of Fox News. And in general, the Zeldin campaign argues that the overhaul of bail is putting more people on the streets to commit crime — a subject that was widely embraced by victorious GOP campaigns for district attorney in Nassau and Suffolk counties last fall.
The anecdotes and the general aura of cashless bail have for months now spread more rapidly than clear evidence about what the overhaul has or hasn’t done. State data meant to measure the outcomes of people released from custody has been muddled and revised, as the Albany Times Union has reported, but in broad strokes, a single-digit percentage of recent cases related to the new state bail laws led to a violent felony rearrest while the previous case was pending.
The raw rearrest number is not zero, however, providing the grist for anecdotal cases. And swaths of New York have seen increases in some crime categories, as has been the case nationally during the pandemic.
Asked about the ad’s focus, Zeldin campaign spokeswoman Katie Vincentz pointed to a December Siena poll finding crime and economic opportunity as voters’ top two Albany priorities for 2022.
Hence the GOP’s adoption of the tried and true law and order playbook so far: "We can simply surrender," the Zeldin ad says, "or we can save our state."
— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano