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Monday, April 15, 2024

Is the Opposition Really the Best We Have for NY-01?


Let’s address the elephant in the room – or former elephant: in a desperate plea to remain relevant, ex-Congressman George Santos (R-Queens) has decided to abandon his primary challenge to Congressman Nick LaLota (R-Amityville) in favor of a long-shot Independent bid for NY-01.

As if a chance of him returning to Congress wasn’t a long shot as it was. And we’d assume he’s got a better chance of seeing Elvis than he would have at garnering just 100 petition signatures for a chance to run in the Republican primary.

Now he needs 3,500 signatures by the end of May to qualify for an Independent bid.

We’re not ones to assume a safe bet ironclad. There are always outside chances of upsets; that’s politics. But what we can be fairly certain about is that Santos lacks any significant appeal, and certainly candidate quality, to even pose a remote threat to LaLota or even the Democrats vying for the right to challenge the freshman Congressman in a district that contains most of the nation’s largest suburban county.

Santos was rather short with us over the phone in our attempt to get a comment from him on his campaign going forward into a relatively uncommon political feat: running a third-party campaign for a House seat. They say that no press is bad press, but since Santos insists on being a walking, talking liability, we’re inclined to disagree with that platitude, at least just this once.

We’re also intrigued as to why Santos thinks he has a better shot at returning to Capitol Hill via NY-01 rather than attempting a rematch with Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) in his home turf in NY-03 or primarying a vulnerable incumbent in Anthony D’Esposito (R-Island Park) in NY-04. We’re assuming it’s because he’s burnt his bridges to a crisp in Nassau County that he figured what’s a few more next door in Suffolk.
But since we’re looking at analyzing the realities of this race, we don’t intend to give Santos any more attention that he already clearly craves. It’s amazing how someone can suck all the oxygen out of the room by saying hardly anything of substance.

But is the Democratic bench really that much better?

Thankfully, a frustratingly out-of-touch character already suspended once he realized that he had no realistic shot of winning nomination against two other characters. Former State Senator Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) announced his run for Congress in August and recently suspended his campaign and endorsed John Avlon (D-Sag Harbor). Gaughran said he was motivated to re-enter politics after the overturning of Roe V. Wade, citing that his daughter now has fewer rights than her grandmother did.

Does anyone know what year it was when women gained the right to obtain credit cards in their own names for the first time?


Gaughran is sixty-seven years old, yet he thinks his own mother apparently had more rights than his daughter does now.

It’s just one example, but it’s one too many of the straw-grasping attempts Gaughran had made to carve a niche for himself in a state where abortion rights are codified and there’s no indication of a federal law codifying abortion rights to the benefit of any ideology.

Thankfully, Gaughran realized the task is simply too tall for him and we’re glad we don’t have to hear such hot-air arguments from him on the campaign trail.

But the fun doesn’t stop there. Democrats are rallying behind a familiar face: Nancy Goroff (D-Setauket), the Chair of the Chemistry Department at Stony Brook University. Goroff ran against then-Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) in 2020 and lost by just under ten points as Donald Trump carried the district by just four points.

Furthermore, Trump only carried Suffolk County in 2020 by a couple hundred votes out of more than 750,000 cast.

The current configuration of NY-01, had it been in effect for the 2020 election, would have seen Biden narrowly win it, making LaLota one of over a dozen Republicans nationally who represent Biden-won seats.

By these metrics, Goroff is a weak candidate. She’s not the weakest underperformer, but Democrats might have a better shot by consulting a wins-above-replacement model in seeking a fresh face. To Goroff’s credit, the district is more competitive than the one for which she campaigned in 2020 and LaLota only has one term under his belt. It’s not the worst idea to run her again, but it’s also not the best.

We also don’t think that a doctorate degree makes someone intrinsically qualified to hold public office. It’s not a demerit, but talking about it constantly is.

Good for Nancy that she is well-versed enough in a certain topic to make scientific advances and work with our great students at Stony Brook. That we will not deny. But such experience attached to such a degree does not automatically make one qualified to represent almost 800,000 residents of Suffolk County.

Then from left field (pun intended) enters John Avlon, a former CNN anchor and former editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast. If anyone should have run a third-party bid for NY-01, it should have been him, as he was a notable cofounder of the No Labels movement. But instead, he’d rather abandon the calls for centrism and bipartisanship and run as a Democrat.

We can’t fault him for understanding just what an uphill climb a third-party bid for a House seat is, but we can fault him for effectively selling out his beliefs and work for just a chance he could take on LaLota in November.

Avlon makes his home out in Sag Harbor, not a bad thing on its own but it certainly doesn’t beat the ritzy East End Democrat stereotype, especially with his background in mainstream media.

Avlon told The Hollywood Reporter that his impetus for running was that there is a “real chance to flip a seat from a first term Republican, sort of Trump hugger/Trump flunkey, who is far too right for the district.”

The funny thing is: LaLota is in a classic “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation.

Santos is attacking him from the right, calling him a RINO and a sellout. Goroff and Avlon attack him for being a Trump sycophant and yes-man to hyper-conservative politics.

Which is it, guys?

The fact of the matter is: LaLota has represented his district accurately and has certainly brought home the bacon. LaLota endorsed Trump for president, but most of his social media posts, initiatives, and results are purely Suffolk-centric. LaLota has been an immense advocate for preserving Plum Island, ensuring that Stony Brook University receives much-needed grant money, securing wastewater management funds for Towns that desperately need it – such as Riverhead – and has brought in funding for Westhampton’s Gabreski Airport, home to the 106th Rescue Wing, and even Fisher’s Island Airport.

We see him as effective and in line with his campaign promises.

For the sake of centrism and the voters, we’d hope that the Democrats – and whoever claims George Santos – could do better. But for the sake of NY-01, we’re okay with the bench this year, as any nominee seems like they’ll have a tough time knocking off a freshman like LaLota, while Trump is almost certain to win Suffolk handily and make inroads in New York overall.

The Editorial Board
The Editorial Boardhttps://www.messengerpapers.com
The Messenger Papers Editorial Board aspires to represent a fair cross section of our Suffolk County readers. We work to present a moderate view on issues facing Long Island families and businesses.