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Lee Zeldin sounds off on Syria

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) on Oct. 3.

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) on Oct. 3. Credit: EPA / Erik Lesser

Daily Point

Can Zeldin go against the grain?

Throughout his political career, Rep. Lee Zeldin, who serves in the Army Reserves and did a tour in Iraq, has supported a muscular U.S. military presence in that region. He’s also been a reliable supporter of President Donald Trump.

Now those two allegiances are colliding, as Trump pulled troops from Syria, where they were fighting the Islamic State alongside Kurdish forces. It’s a move Zeldin disagrees with, and while he has not been silent on it, his response has been muted.

Zeldin’s Twitter feeds are loaded with attacks on the impeachment process unfolding against Trump: This month, Zeldin has tweeted from his @repleezeldin handle  to attack House Democrats’ impeachment proceedings dozens of times, but his only tweet on Trump’s Syria withdrawal was this Oct. 7 comment:

“The Kurds have fought, bled & died fighting alongside the US. They have been warriors & brothers in battle along the way. POTUS is right to want to end endless wars, but the Turks wiping out the Kurds will ABSOLUTELY NOT be an acceptable outcome after all of that.”

Asked why he’s been relatively quiet on his disagreements with Trump on Syria and so vocal in his support of Trump on impeachment, Zeldin wrote in an email:

“Because of my position as Ranking Member on the House Foreign Affairs Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee, I’ve been in all of the ‘impeachment inquiry’ depositions all day every day, which has thrust me into that issue. Regarding Syria, I’ve weighed in with my colleagues, with the President directly, on national TV, and on social media. The Kurds have fought, bled and died fighting alongside the US. They have been warriors and brothers in battle along the way. The President is right to want to end endless war, but the Turks wiping out the Kurds will absolutely not be an acceptable outcome after all of that. I actually just got off the House floor for votes, during which I voted in favor of a resolution opposing the decision.”

So Zeldin has made his disagreement with Trump on the Kurds clear. He just hasn’t made it clear very often, on the Twitter platform where the president is quick to promote positive feedback and pounce on criticisms.

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

Money to burn

What do the political action committees for Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, General Motors, and Deloitte have in common? 

They’re among the gaggle of groups giving to Long Island’s representatives in Congress, who have raked in more than $1.8 million this cycle from PACs and other political committees (such as those of other elected officials). That period covers the beginning of the year to the end of September, with October quarterly filings now in. 

The filings show that so far in this cycle both Pete King and Gregory Meeks have raised more money from committees than individuals (we’re not counting political party donations in this analysis for simplicity’s sake). King took in $170,975.25 from committees, a few thousand more than he got from individuals. Meeks’ $447,600 from committees, however, blew out of the water his $208,389 from individuals. 

Tom Suozzi and Kathleen Rice raised $469,976 and $134,000, respectively, from committees so far in this cycle. Both took in more from individuals, but had at least one quarter in which the committee intake was larger (and not just at the beginning of the cycle, when you might expect real people donors to tune out).

Some members suggested that they wanted to give individuals a break from solicitations at this stage, though the money kept flowing from groups.

Lee Zeldin was the only member not to have a quarter with more committee money than individual. But he’s the biggest fundraiser overall given his competitive races, and he’s also the biggest winner in terms of PAC and committee largesse: $641,845 so far this cycle. 

Spend, baby, spend.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Rest in peace

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Final Point

No endorsements here

One of the toughest endorsements to get in any local election cycle is that of the Long Island Environmental Voters Forum. This year is no exception.

The group endorsed candidates in only five of the 18 seats in the Suffolk County Legislature — including some incumbents for the first time in three election cycles. More prominently, the forum did not make an endorsement in the Suffolk County executive contest between Democratic incumbent Steve Bellone and Republican challenger John Kennedy.

The forum, chaired by Pine Barrens Society executive director Dick Amper, dinged Bellone for what it called his support for raiding the county’s Drinking Water Protection Program, and said in a statement he “has done little to provide a dedicated fund for clean water.” It faulted Kennedy for criticizing that clean water proposal and for sending 1099 tax forms to both homeowners and installers of new septic systems, creating unnecessary confusion about who should pay taxes on the county grants for those systems.

“Neither candidate is an environmentalist,” Amper said provocatively in the release.

The forum endorsed incumbent Democratic lawmakers Al Krupski, Sarah Anker, Robert Calarco and Susan Berland as well as environmental engineer David Bligh, a Democrat challenging Republican incumbent Tom Muratore. It also singled out four town supervisors — Brookhaven Republican Ed Romaine, East Hampton Democrat Peter Van Scoyoc, Southold Republican Scott Russell, and Riverhead Democrat Laura Jens-Smith — and town board candidates in five Suffolk towns.

The forum makes its decisions based on candidate answers to a detailed questionnaire, and additionally for incumbents, on whether they have followed through on commitments made in previous questionnaires. No questionnaire filled out, no endorsement.

The forum did not send any questionnaires to Nassau candidates. Executive director David Reisfield told The Point Tuesday that the forum has become too “Suffolk-centric” and will be seeking more board members from Nassau after this cycle to evaluate candidates from that county as well.

The only Nassau race in which the forum considered making an endorsement was the Oyster Bay Town supervisor’s contest between Republican incumbent Joseph Saladino and challenger James Altadonna, a Republican running on the Democratic line. But as Reisfield slyly noted, “Our outlook is that that race will be judged on things considerably more pressing to voters than the environment.”

—Michael Dobie @mwdobie

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