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Perry Gershon, who lost his congressional challenge to Rep. Lee Zeldin in November, is taking December mostly off and doing some vacationing and scuba diving. But in a conversation with The Point at his East Hampton home, Gershon said he is “fully committed to staying involved in New York 1,” which he thinks is “a winnable district for Democrats.”
Definitively, he said he’s not interested in county, state or local races here. That would indicate Gershon is thinking about a rematch.
Sitting in a red turtleneck and slacks after a quick tour of his well-manicured yard, including bubbling waterworks, Gershon on Thursday revisited some decisions from the campaign. He said he should have pursued the Independence Party ballot line, which Zeldin used to claim a little more than 1 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results. (The county is still counting absentee ballots by hand.)
The Independence line alone wouldn’t have been enough to float Gershon, who lost by around 6 percent, as per the unofficial results. But Gershon said it would have helped when Zeldin described him as far left, and he regrets not trying to find ways to keep the Independence Party’s decision-making option open until the Democratic primary winner was determined.
The East Hampton Democrat said he had a good conversation with Frank MacKay, Independence Party chair, in conjunction with a radio interview just before the election, and that he now has a better understanding of what it takes to get the party’s consideration.
He also thinks that to win in the district, a Democrat would likely need to reach out beyond the base with nonpartisan issues — opioids, veterans affairs. His strategy was focused on energizing the Democratic base and turning out 115,000 voters. He ended up getting a bit more, but turnout for Zeldin was even stronger. Internal polls suggested that things changed after the hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Gershon said. Republicans in the district became more energized to vote.
He also wishes he’d focused more on the potent state and local tax issue — it polled well for him, but was difficult to condense into a sound bite, and he didn’t focus on it. Meanwhile, successful Democratic challengers in California and Virginia hammered away at it.
Well, there’s always next cycle.
Tweetstorm over Suffolk race
Suffolk County Legis. Robert Trotta and Suffolk County spokesman Jason Elan popped up in two Newsday stories Monday, one focused on Long Island’s traffic-ticket money machines and the other focused on Suffolk’s looming county executive race. The question for the often-confrontational Trotta, a Republican, is whether he can use his highly publicized stance on high-dollar tickets and unpopular red-light cameras to vault himself into contention.
Trotta is exploring a run in 2019, but his name never really came up as a contender until he announced his intentions. Then, this past weekend, he got into a Twitter war with Elan about a “Trotta for Suffolk” website. Newsday reported the existence of the mostly empty domain, which included altered photos affixing Trotta’s head to “younger, fitter bodies.”
Elan, who is employed in governing and often rages about politics online, jumped on Trotta for the site, on Newsday for not publishing the actual doctored photos, and on former County Executive Steve Levy for never explaining why he refrained from seeking a third term and turned over $4 million in campaign funds to the district attorney’s office.
Trotta, who has consulted Levy about his run for county executive, responded by tweeting that incumbent Democrat Steve “Bellone should be more concern with his 5 bond downgrades, his jailed police chief and his ballooning debt then a 5 year old template website that was never used. Instead he’s again wasting taxpayers money having his staff campaigning on county time.”
Given the temperament and tone of Trotta and Elan, this is likely just the beginning of the fireworks. This raises the question of where is Republican County Comptroller John Kennedy? He’s expected to be a major factor in the county executive race. And he would have been forecast, with his barking-bulldog persona, to be the most belligerent voice in it.
Thus far, he is neither. Asked on Monday about his own potential run, Kennedy said he’s recovering from a hard-fought race last month, clearing his head and “weighing his options.” Asked about Trotta’s run, Kennedy said, “I encourage a robust field.”
It’s shaping up to be that.
Just say no (to lulus)
Despite repeated blistering criticism from editorial boards across the state — including from the Daily News and The New York Times on Monday — demanding no pay raise for state lawmakers unless there are clear commitments about which ethics reforms legislators would enact, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and incoming-Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins remain silent.
Their intransigence is leading most editorial boards and civic reform groups to call on the four-member commission that will determine whether there is a raise to simply say no.
Heastie, who sources say is negotiating with the commission behind the scenes, is demanding the moon, sun and the stars — which translates into at least $130,000 a year. That would be a raise of about $50,000 raise on Jan. 1, and lawmakers retain stipends, known as “lulus,” which range from $9,000 to $41,500. The sources said Heastie also wants the commission to recommend the fewest restrictions on outside income, much like the federal model that allows members of Congress to earn up to 15 percent of their salary from other sources. And the speaker wants members to have until 2021 to comply. So members who can earn unlimited amounts now could continue to do so for two more years while pocketing a raise upfront.
Stewart-Cousins is being criticized for ducking the issues because she refuses to make a public statement other than a generic one in which she says she has supported limits on outside income. Sources say she hopes the incoming Democratic Senate majority will emerge from its retreat on Dec. 11 with an agreement on what reforms it will offer taxpayers in return for the pay raise. But there is no consensus on specific items, the sources added. And there is no understanding that the Assembly would agree to the same changes.
The lawmakers are rolling the dice that Republicans won’t make a fuss and that voters won’t remember by the next election in 2020. For the record, the state’s median income is $62,909, according to census data.