Democratic Primary Choice

A cold calculus has dominated the unusual multi-candidate Democratic primary in New York’s First Congressional District this year. Of seemingly more concern to many active party members is who stands the best chance of defeating the incumbent, Representative Lee Zeldin, rather than determining who may be the most qualified. At the same time, some Democratic strategists are likely to prefer a middle-of-the-road person who might draw some moderate Republicans to their column. Such realpolitik might feel appropriate in the age of Trump, but to have effective government voters should always hold their candidates to high idealistic standards.

For a variety of reasons, Mr. Zeldin is an unacceptable voice for the First District. From a once-promising start as a state legislator, he has withered under hot Fox News studio lights into a hissing, sycophantic Gollum that might make J.R.R. Tolkien proud. As one of the first members of Congress to embrace Donald Trump, Mr. Zeldin broke with his traditionally moderate district. Since the 2017 election, he has shied away from open public appearances, giving rise to the cynically named group Let’s Visit Lee Zeldin, and being driven further underground and away from his constituents.

As the June 26 primary approaches, Democratic voters must sift through the remaining hopefuls: Kate Browning, Perry Gershon, Vivian Viloria-Fisher, Elaine DiMasi, and David Pechefsky. Of these, Ms. DiMasi and Mr. Pechefsky are the standouts, if not in name recognition at least in background and worldview. Filtering further, in the #MeToo era, it seems important that a woman be selected to represent this region in Congress, where women make up less than 20 percent of elected representatives. This puts the focus on Ms. DiMasi — and there is much more to this former Brookhaven National Laboratory physicist and project manager than her gender.

Throughout her long-shot campaign, Ms. DiMasi has spoken about a facts and evidence-based approach to policy. She is running largely on a pitch for clean energy and clean-energy jobs, which are seen as boosts to the First District’s tech and construction sectors. As a scientist, she has grave concerns about the economic impact of Washington’s gutting of research funding, a dollar drain that could leave the United States behind competitors overseas, where money for research and development is more free-flowing.

At a time when truth itself is under assault from the White House, candidates with a strong grasp of the facts, like Ms. DiMasi, are all the more important. In our eastern Long Island district, where climate change, economic growth, and reality-based immigration policy should be at the top of the agenda, Ms. DiMasi is the best equipped among the remaining Democratic candidates. With less than two weeks until the primary, she deserves a close look by those voters who would like to put brainpower back in the equation.