Democrat John Avlon and GOP Rep. Nick LaLota.

Democrat John Avlon and GOP Rep. Nick LaLota. Credit: Getty Images for The Bob Woodruf/Slaven Vlasic / Thomas A. Ferrara

Daily Point

Will ex-CNN analyst be hurt in primary against Goroff by not always being registered as a Democrat?

On his campaign website, John Avlon, the former CNN senior political analyst-turned-congressional candidate in Long Island’s 1st District, urges voters to support his fight against Donald Trump and “his MAGA minions.”

“This election is not a drill,” says Avlon, 51, of Sag Harbor, who’s running in the June 25 Democratic primary against retired Stony Brook University chemistry professor Nancy Goroff. “Now’s the time for us all to stand up and get off the sidelines.”

When it comes to standing up to be counted, all of the candidates in the 1st District primary — including the two Republicans vying for their party’s nomination, incumbent Rep. Nicholas LaLota and his challenger who was recently expelled from the House, George Santos — have a consistent record of voting on Election Day.

But unlike the others, only Avlon has recently designated a party affiliation.

Election records show that Avlon listed himself as a Democrat when he registered to vote in Sag Harbor in September 2020, right before the presidential election. Avlon and his wife Margaret Hoover — a well-known journalist who is the great-granddaughter of the 31st president, Herbert Hoover, a Republican — bought their East End home in 2018.

Before 2020, Avlon was registered to vote in Manhattan where he was listed for about a dozen years as a nonaffiliated voter not enrolled in any party. (Before that he was a Democrat, he said.) He says he registered as nonaffiliated in Manhattan, mainly to avoid the appearance of a conflict with his job as an independent journalist. He served as writer and editor, working for The Daily Beast, as well as his long-running stint as a CNN commentator and anchor.

Though turning out Democratic voters will be key to his primary race against Goroff, Avlon says his previous history as a “blank”— the common term for independent nonaffiliated voters — will hold him in good stead if he wins the nomination going into November’s general election. He says there are about 180,000 nonaffiliated voters in the 1st District up for grabs — about a third of the electorate — and that his moderate, consensus-seeking approach would be appealing to them.

“Most people would say they are ‘blanks’,” Avlon told The Point in a telephone interview about this group of voters. But he prefers to call them “independents” looking for middle-of-the-road solutions — a message he said was used successfully by another Democrat, Tom Suozzi, in his recent February special election in CD3 against GOP Trump supporter Mazi Melesa Pilip.

Avlon, a persistent critic of Trump during his CNN days, says the threat of the former president — now the presumptive 2024 GOP presidential nominee — returning to power is largely what motivated him to jump into politics as a candidate himself. “I didn’t want to just talk; I wanted to do,” he said. However, one person who won’t be changing her registration is his wife, he said, adding that he respects her family’s heritage with the GOP and her own beliefs.

In terms of showing up on Election Day, Avlon’s voting record is similar to his Democratic opponent Goroff, who voted in a general election every year since 2006, according to available records reviewed by The Point. Goroff voted 17 times in a row from 2006-2022, and also voted seven times in primary elections over this two-decade period, records show.

The two Republicans vying for their own party’s nomination also have a good voting record. Incumbent LaLota voted consistently in every general election, 14 years in a row, from 2009 through 2022, records say, as well as eight different primary elections.

Even the disgraced Santos — expelled in December from his 3rd District seat, facing federal corruption charges, and now running in the GOP primary against LaLota — has a consistent record of showing up on Election Day. From 2017 to 2022, Santos voted four times in the general election and twice in primaries, records show.

Though he was never a Republican, Avlon began his political career as a speechwriter for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Republican. He said the changes in Giuliani since he left as mayor are regrettable. He said Giuliani, who became an ardent Trump supporter, got “locked in partisan politics” rather than seeking cooperation favored by most voters. In his final CNN opinion piece in February, Avlon cited Long Island’s only U.S. president, Theodore Roosevelt, in urging Americans to become active in the political arena. “The great challenge of being a citizen of a democratic republic is that we the people are responsible,” Avlon wrote in his opinion piece.

— Thomas Maier

Pencil Point


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Final Point

Democratic hopeful in CD2 aims to hit the road on affordability

Rob Lubin, who is seeking the Democratic nomination in CD2, announced Wednesday his opposition to the MTA’s plan to toll vehicles coming into Manhattan’s central business district $15 during peak times. Lubin doesn’t commute but it’s a popular affordability message to suburban residents and a way to get attention in his likely uphill fight against GOP incumbent Andrew Garbarino.

“It’s extremely expensive to commute into the city and this plan doesn’t take affordability into account,” Lubin told The Point.

Lubin, who moved to Lindenhurst about a year ago and runs an online fashion business to market clothing lines for celebrities and athletes, says he has raised about $800,000 so far. His goal is to get the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to designate CD2 as a “red to blue” seat, which will bring in national contributions.

But getting LI’s reddest district designated as a possible flip will be tough. Most Democratic Party strategists see CD2 as even a harder play for Democrats than Suffolk’s other House seat, held by Nick LaLota in CD1.

Garbarino, who has strong family roots — his father is the Islip GOP town chair — won the open seat in 2020 after longtime House member Peter King retired. In each of his first two contests, he defeated Democrat Jackie Gordon. Garbarino handily beat Michael LiPetri in a 2020 primary but that is not stopping LiPetri, a former member of the state Assembly, who now is trying to win the GOP nomination in CD3.

Garbarino faced no primary in 2022 but Shannon Stephens, an anti-vaxxer, has announced a challenge from the right. Whether she gets into the primary is another story with Suffolk GOP chairman Jesse Garcia’s army of election lawyers waiting to challenge any petitions filed against the party’s designated favorites. Stephens is running on a platform of “deporting illegals” and “restoring and defending” the Second Amendment, despite it seeming to be hanging in pretty well on its own these days.

Garbarino won in 2022 with 69% of the vote, 22 percentage points better than Gordon, and two points better than Donald Trump's margin over Joe Biden in the district in the presidential race two years earlier. And the district only got redder in the latest congressional redistricting tweak.

But Lubin is upbeat and optimistic about flipping the seat, noting that the addition of the Massapequa area isn’t a negative for him because it has a large ethnic Italian component, that his mother immigrated from Italy, and that he is “fluent” in the native tongue. Tom Suozzi was able to “limit the bleeding there,” he said about a suppressed GOP turnout in February's special election.

Lubin’s campaign is hoping to file more than three times the needed signatures to get on the June primary ballot, and whether he has a challenge is uncertain. Lisa Di Santo, a former four-term South Country school district board member who has made several unsuccessful runs for local office, the last being for Brookhaven Town clerk in a 2023 special election, told The Point Wednesday that she will have a grassroots effort to get on the primary ballot. Di Santo said she is disappointed the party is “not allowing a loyal member an easier opportunity to be on the ballot,” adding that the Suffolk organization is helping Lubin.

“It’s a little frustrating. I have always been a loyal Democrat and I have run races that others have dared to run,” she said, speaking about the 2023 race against the GOP’s Kevin LaValle. What will happen if she fails to gather enough signatures? “There are many people frustrated with the current candidates,” she said. “It may be time for a true third party in Suffolk County, especially to represent the South Shore.”

— Rita Ciolli

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