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Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley).

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley). Credit: James Carbone

Daily Point

Zeldin gets the spotlight

Grilling Rep. Lee Zeldin about the details of the speech he’ll give Wednesday night during the third evening of the Republican National Convention didn’t unearth any state secrets for The Point, with Zeldin having been told by the party and President Donald Trump’s campaign that mum’s the word on most of the arrangements. Here’s what he could tell us:

  • He will be giving the speech from the district.
  • No one else will be in the shot, speaking or used as an illustration of his presentation during his time.
  • The speech will last 3-4 minutes.
  • The subject matter will fit neatly into tonight’s theme, “Land of Heroes,” and will focus specifically on the issue of service.
  • He’s not allowed to say what time he’ll speak.

Zeldin, among Trump’s most reliable supporters and proxies, said the offer came a few weeks ago when the campaign reached out to see whether he would be interested in the slot. He was glad to accept, and throughout the process stayed in close touch with a friend who works with the campaign, brainstorming topics and going over language and tone. He also said he’s not nervous.

“I’m very happy with the content of the speech, and I’m excited about the opportunity to share a Long Island perspective for a national audience of people tuning in, and to contribute to the conversation as people start to make up their minds about this election,” Zeldin said.

But Zeldin speaking isn’t the only new news in Zeldin’s race. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee put Zeldin’s Democratic opponent, Nancy Goroff, on its “Red to Blue” list Wednesday, meaning there will be resources coming from the national apparatus for her run. That comes on the heels of a recent DCCC poll that showed Goroff, a Stony Brook University chemistry professor and chairwoman of the chemistry department for the past 2 ½ years, in a near-tie with Zeldin, leading 48% to 46%, and Trump trailing former Vice President Joe Biden by six points in the district.

Zeldin, though, minimized both pieces of news, saying his own polling showed very different numbers and pointing out that his race always makes this list, regardless of who he is seeking reelection against and how the battle is going.

In this he is correct: In 2018, Perry Gershon was added to the “Red to Blue” list before losing to Zeldin by four points. In 2016, Anna Throne-Holst was added to that list before losing to Zeldin by 16 points.

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

MTA predicts dire financial future

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority ratcheted up the rhetoric Wednesday, painting a picture of a public transit system that faces huge decreases in service, thousands of job cuts, and the possibility that even full branches of the Long Island Rail Road would be eliminated.

The desperate pleas at the MTA's special board meeting came one after the other from agency officials, board members and advocates, as everyone begged federal officials to save the day by providing the MTA with $12 billion – money that would carry the authority through next year.

The need, and the desperation, didn’t come as news to the New York congressional delegation, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“Senator Schumer moved mountains to overcome Mitch McConnell’s and President Trump’s opposition and anti-New York bias during the last stimulus – bringing more than $100 million to New York, from the MTA, to state and local aid, to schools – and he’s fighting to do it again this round,” Schumer spokesman Angelo Roefaro told The Point Wednesday.

The MTA didn’t specify which LIRR branches were on the chopping block, but said service could be reduced by up to 50% and could particularly impact the branches and lines with lower ridership. Trains could run hourly for the lines with heavier ridership, and every two hours for those with lower ridership. The railroad’s branches with the least ridership include Greenport, Oyster Bay and West Hempstead.

And there’s not much time before action will be needed. MTA chief executive Pat Foye said a financial plan for 2021 would be adopted at the MTA’s November board meeting, and some of these cuts could be decided then.

Advocates are focusing their attention on the New York delegation to push for the funding.

While a spokeswoman for Rep. Lee Zeldin didn’t respond to inquiries from The Point about the MTA’s dire forecast, Zeldin in June had joined other Republicans in a letter supporting the MTA. And others, including Rep. Tom Suozzi, said they’re trying in their own ways to push for the funding.

“I don’t need to be persuaded,” Suozzi told The Point. “I’ve known this has been a dire circumstance since Day 1.”

Suozzi said he is working with the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group he vice-chairs, to try to find common ground.

“There are reasonable Republicans who recognize that we have to include state and local aid and things like the MTA in any package we do,” Suozzi said.

The question, federal lawmakers agreed, is whether McConnell, the Senate majority leader, will come to the same conclusion. Suozzi said that rather than appealing to McConnell and others on the need, or how people are suffering, attention had to be on why New York matters economically - and politically. 

“He’s effectively killing the goose that laid the golden egg,” Suozzi said. “He should realize that politically he better not ever come to New York for a contribution for his Senate campaign committee because he’s killing our state.”

Added Suozzi: “They’ve got to know there’s a political price to pay.”

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Pencil Point

Trump's goal?

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Final Point

Wanted: Poll workers

Even back in June, many boards of elections across the state were running troublingly low on a particularly important ingredient: poll workers. 

It’s a job often filled by older residents – approximately 55% of all poll workers in New York are over 60, according to state Board of Elections spokesman John Conklin – and fear of the coronavirus led many (reasonably) to opt to stay home for the primaries. 

Now with the pandemic still a top concern, especially among older residents, election officials have been working to beef up the supply of poll workers for the fall vote which starts with early voting on Oct. 24. The U.S. Elections Assistance Commission is celebrating Sept. 1 as National Poll Worker Recruitment Day, and the state BOE is taking the opportunity to encourage more poll workers to sign up at this link

One tactic the state board is taking is poll worker ads on Facebook, which Conklin says is “bearing fruit.” Conklin also points out that “17-year-olds can be poll workers if their school district is participating in a program under Section 3207-a of the Education Law.”

Solid numbers aren’t available on poll worker shortages, but certainly many workers are going to be needed. 

For a major general election like president or governor, the counties use about 70,000 poll workers statewide, Conklin said, with 85,000 appointed to have sufficient alternates.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano