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Trashing the competition

Rep. Lee Zeldin in Brentwood on Friday.

Rep. Lee Zeldin in Brentwood on Friday.   Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

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Daily Point

Zeldin, Gershon go to war

With just under 40 days to go until Election Day, the rhetoric is getting quite inflammatory in New York’s 1st Congressional District.

Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Shirley Republican, and Democratic challenger Perry Gershon, of East Hampton, have been quibbling for weeks about setting debate dates. They haven’t had a joint appearance yet. The tension cranked up this week after Gershon spoke at the Mastic Park Civic Association’s meet-the-candidates night and then sent a fundraising email about how Zeldin “didn’t show up to debate” even though Gershon was “all set to debate Lee Zeldin.”

Zeldin came out swinging with a news release Friday morning titled “Congressman Lee Zeldin Slams Disgustingly Dishonest Fundraising Email From His Opponent.”

“This Gershon guy has absolutely zero integrity,” Zeldin’s statement said. “Not an ounce. I was in DC with every other Member of Congress for a session day of votes that had been scheduled since the end of 2017.”

The statement also said that Gershon “just won’t stop lying” and that he has “Zero character, zero integrity, and zero ability to shoot straight.”

The controversy seems a little blown out of proportion on both sides. Civic association president John Sicignano tells The Point that Zeldin never said he would come after being invited, so there doesn’t appear to be a big broken promise. The congressman was indeed in Washington speaking on the House floor Wednesday, which meant that he did miss the event.

Perhaps the pumped-up rhetoric indicates a tighter race than first expected, when Zeldin was dismissing newcomer Gershon as “Park Avenue Perry” and mostly leaving it at that.

Plenty to talk about when Zeldin and Gershon finally do come face to face.

Mark Chiusano

Talking Point

Vote of confidence

It’s not easy to get an endorsement from the Long Island Environmental Voters Forum, and that remains true this cycle. In more than 40 state and federal races that Long Islanders will weigh in on in November, the group has endorsed 11 candidates.

The criteria, forum president Dick Amper said, is simple.

“If you’re an incumbent, you have to have done something good for the environment. If you’re a challenger, it has to be a priority,” Amper told The Point. “In this cycle, it would be hard to get an endorsement if you weren’t doing something about water quality.”

The forum supported Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in his re-election bid. In congressional races, it picked Democratic challenger Perry Gershon over incumbent Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin, and endorsed first-term Democratic Rep. Thomas Suozzi, but made no choices in the races between GOP Rep. Peter King and Democratic challenger Liuba Grechen Shirley and between Rep. Kathleen Rice, a Democrat, and GOP challenger Ameer Benno.

In state legislative races, the forum endorsed only three incumbent state senators — Republican Ken LaValle and Democrats Todd Kaminsky and John Brooks. And one challenger — James Gaughran, a Democrat running against GOP incumbent Carl Marcellino, who touts his environmental record and chaired the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee from 1995 to 2008. Amper called the race “one of our highest-priority endorsements.”

In the Assembly, the forum went with Independence Party member Fred Thiele and Democrats Steve Englebright, Christine Pellegrino and Charles Lavine.

One of its most interesting picks was in the race for Suffolk County comptroller — Republican incumbent John Kennedy over challenger Jay Schneiderman, the Southampton Town supervisor who touts his environmental credentials.

“He does present himself that way but he doesn’t act that way,” Amper said of Schneiderman, noting in particular his support last year for a controversial luxury housing-seasonal golf community proposed for East Quogue. “He’s not pro-active about the environment, and if there’s some political reason to do otherwise, he does it.”

Kennedy, said Amper, objects to the county borrowing money from its drinking-water protection program, which results in Suffolk not preserving as much land as it could.

Michael Dobie

Pencil Point

Laughter on the world stage

Reference Point

Out on a wire

On Sept. 15, 1944, a storm called the Great Atlantic hurricane hit Long Island. Twelve days later, Newsday’s editorial board lamented a fate all too familiar to Long Islanders — no power.

“It has taken less than a hurricane in the past for certain sections of Long Island to go without power; but it took the 85-mile an hour gale to demonstrate just how powerless the utility company can become,” the board wrote.

Back then, the utility was LILCO, the Long Island Lighting Co., and the board noted that eight days after the storm an estimated 10,000 families were still without power.

The board embraced as a solution an idea still being bandied about — burying power lines underground. It noted that areas served by one such cable running from East Garden City to Mitchel Field did not lose power from the storm.

And it finished with a comprehensive summary that is no less true or relevant today, 74 years later.

“We don’t presume to be engineers nor do we know how much expense would be involved in such a move. (Nor, incidentally, will the company tell us.),” the board wrote.

“But we do know that Long Island pays a higher residential rate for its power than most, and as demonstrated in the post-hurricane days, suffers more inconvenience than most. If it’s underground wires we need to forestall a repetition of the hurricane business, we say let’s have ’em.”

In 1944, Long Island still had fewer than 700,000 people. If the utility had started to bury its lines back then as the region’s population exploded, our post-storm power picture would look a lot different.

Michael Dobie

Columns