Democrats are working to avoid a primary in CD4 so...

Democrats are working to avoid a primary in CD4 so that Laura Gillen can take on incumbent Anthony D’Esposito in a rematch of their 2022 race. Credit: James Escher

Daily Point

Clearing the Democratic field

As Albany Democrats agonize over how to redraw state congressional maps with some tweaks expected to Long Island’s four seats, the party’s focus locally has turned to avoiding primaries. Those intraparty fights for nominations suck up money and cut into the time the eventual winner has to make their case for November’s general election.

The current political handicapping is that Democrats will avoid a primary in the Fourth Congressional District, the seat LI Dems think they have the best chance to flip from red to blue as they just did in CD3.

In CD1, however, a Democratic primary appears inevitable for the opportunity to challenge freshman Republican Nick LaLota.

Getting on a primary ballot can cost as much as $75,000 if the candidate doesn’t have their own grassroots organization to gather signatures. It also postpones nailing down support from labor and other interest groups, dissuades national donors, and delays support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

The primary is June 25 and petitioning starts this week.

“We are working hard to see that there are no primaries in the 4th and would like to see the same in the 1st,” said Jay Jacobs, state and Nassau County Democratic chair. “Primaries hurt our chances of winning the election. Every candidate or potential candidate needs to think about whether they are putting their personal ambitions over the party,” he said. Jacobs told The Point he was in the process of speaking to all candidates.

No Democrat has come forward in CD3 to challenge Tom Suozzi, who is scheduled to be sworn into Congress Wednesday after winning the recent special election to fill out the term of expelled Republican George Santos. In CD2, a GOP stronghold, incumbent Republican Andrew Garbarino is considered quite formidable and a Democratic primary is considered unlikely.

As of Monday, Laura Gillen, the former Hempstead Town supervisor, State Sen. Kevin Thomas and former Nassau County Legis. Dave Denenberg are all declared challengers to freshman Republican Anthony D’Esposito in CD4. With the petitioning process for primaries starting on Wednesday, there is increasing pressure on Thomas and Denenberg to drop out this week. After harsh Republican attacks on Democrats over bail reform and crime in the last few election cycles, Thomas, who voted in Albany for those changes to criminal justice laws, would be at a severe disadvantage, say Gillen supporters.

Farther east, Nancy Goroff of Stony Brook, who lost the 2020 race to Lee Zeldin, is running again and, as of last week, so is political newcomer John Avlon, a former CNN political analyst and journalist from Sag Harbor. Former State Sen. Jim Gaughran of Huntington is a serious contender as well, but whether he remains in the race depends on the configuration of the district.

Gaughran, whom The Point caught up with as he left a “prescreening” for the endorsement of the New York State teachers union, said he is confident about his chances in a large field. “Huntington is 30% of the primary vote and the people know me and my record,” he said of his time in the State Senate.

But Gaughran’s fate depends on whether Albany legislators move Huntington, which was put into CD1 as a result of the 2022 redistricting, back to CD3. “If it’s back in CD3, then I will be happy to be represented by Tom Suozzi and I will work for him,” said Gaughran. “If not, then I am ready to start knocking on doors.”

Goroff not only can self-fund but can also draw on other wealthy donors making irrelevant the financial obstacles of a primary. Avalon, who only announced his candidacy last week, said he is ready for a primary fight. Also running are Kyle Hill of Port Jefferson and Craig Herskowitz of Northport.

— Rita Ciolli

Pencil Point


Credit: Markstein

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Quick Points

A teachable moment

  • The number of cyberattacks on Long Island schools increased more than 50% from 2022 to 2023. One hopes these places of learning learn from these attacks.
  • After winning the South Carolina Republican Party primary with 60% of the vote, former President Donald Trump said, “I have never seen the Republican Party so unified as it is right now.” Then again, he hasn’t been a Republican for all that long.
  • Former Rep. Pete King said both sides in the Tom Suozzi-Mazi Melesa Pilip special election race in CD3 engaged in “tough rhetoric.” That’s a good euphemism.
  • The Koch family-affiliated Americans for Prosperity Action has decided to no longer fund the campaign of Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley. That’s probably a bigger loss for Haley than her defeat in the South Carolina primary.
  • He escaped from his Central Park enclosure and survived for a year in the wild, an avian avatar for legions of admirers who yearn to break free from their metaphorical restraints. RIP, Flaco.

— Michael Dobie

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