Zeldin Soars, Even as Trump Camp Withers

Poll shows Throne-Holst still largely unknown in district
Lee Zeldin and Anna Throne-Holst Morgan McGivern and Durell Godfrey

Representative Lee Zeldin, a first-term Republican seeking re-election in New York’s First Congressional District, holds a wide lead over his opponent, former Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, according to a Newsday/Siena College poll of likely voters. But the race is likely to tighten in the final weeks before the Nov. 8 election, one elected official predicted yesterday, and a politically damaging 2005 recording of Donald Trump, the Republican candidate for president, released after the poll was conducted could affect turnout in the district. 

Mr. Zeldin leads Ms. Throne-Holst 53 to 38 percent, according to the poll conducted between Sept. 28 and 29 and Oct. 2 and 4. Nine percent of the 661 likely voters were undecided or had no opinion, and Ms. Throne-Holst was unknown to 40 percent of voters, according to the poll. 

Mr. Zeldin has the backing of 84 percent of Republicans and leads among independents by 17 percent, poll results say. He leads Ms. Throne-Holst among men by 27 points, while women favor his re-election by 5 percent. 

“With one month to go until Election Day, there is very good reason why Congressman Zeldin’s campaign has all of the momentum,” Erin McTiernan, Mr. Zeldin’s campaign manager, said in a statement issued on Saturday. “Throughout his first term in Congress, Lee Zeldin has stood out as a leader on so many of our district’s highest priorities, getting several victories across the finish line in only 20 months in office.” 

“With more than four weeks to go, Throne-Holst’s campaign has its work cut out,” Steven Greenberg, a Siena College pollster, said in a press release announcing the results. “She needs to become more known to voters and she has to convince enough voters to support her over an incumbent who is well liked.” The First District comprises East Hampton, Southampton, Shelter Island, Riverhead, Southold, Brookhaven, and most of Smithtown.

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who has endorsed Ms. Throne-Holst, said yesterday that she has time to close the gap, but “a lot of things have to break her way” in the campaign’s final weeks. “In the public’s mind, the race hasn’t really been joined yet,” Mr. Thiele said, citing voters’ low recognition of Ms. Throne-Holst. “Clearly, the race will narrow as more people focus and get to know the challenger.” 

Nonetheless, Mr. Thiele pointed to a worrisome statistic in the poll, Mr. Zeldin’s 53-percent support. “Anytime the incumbent is above 50 percent, it’s very hard for the challenger, because not only are you trying to get undecided votes, you have to take votes away from the incumbent,” he said. 

The poll results also indicated a 3-percentage-point lead for Mr. Trump over Hillary Clinton in the First Congressional District. In the Newsday/Sienna College poll, Mr. Trump, whom Mr. Zeldin has endorsed, led by 21 points among men and 23 points among voters without a college degree, while Mrs. Clinton led by 13 points among women and 14 points among college graduates. 

The poll, however, was conducted before revelation of the 2005 recording, in which Mr. Trump boasted about kissing and grabbing women. Since the recording’s release, dozens of Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, have either withdrawn their support for the Republican nominee or said they will no longer campaign for him. 

Ms. Throne-Holst’s campaign moved quickly to tie Mr. Zeldin to his party’s presidential candidate. “While Republicans across the country are abandoning Donald Trump after seeing a video of Trump bragging about committing sexual assault, Lee Zeldin continues to be one of Donald Trump’s biggest supporters,” Andrew Grunwald, Ms. Throne-Holst’s campaign manager, wrote in an email yesterday. “First District voters know bragging about sexual violence is disgusting and disqualifying, and Lee Zeldin should, too. Voters will hold Lee Zeldin accountable for his unwavering support for Trump.” 

Jennifer DiSiena, Mr. Zeldin’s communications director, wrote in an email yesterday that Mr. Zeldin has said that Mr. Trump’s comments on the recording were “indefensible, lewd, and wrong,” but Mr. Zeldin continues to endorse Mr. Trump, she said.

Mr. Thiele, who is chairman of the Southampton Town Independence Party, said that the effect of Mr. Trump’s candidacy on down-ballot races is difficult to predict, and pointed out that the poll showing a slim lead over Mrs. Clinton in the district came before release of the recording and the second presidential debate, on Sunday, which may have further damaged Mr. Trump’s standing among voters. “Listen, this is a year like no other,” he said. “A big factor in a presidential election year is the level of turnout. If you look at the First District in previous years, Tim Bishop” — the six-term Democrat whom Mr. Zeldin defeated in 2014 — “always did much better in presidential election years. Obama generated a high turnout.” 

  “Will Hillary generate the same kind of turnout?” Mr. Thiele asked. “If Trump continues to crater, will that depress the Republican turnout? There’s a month to go, but the current state of the Trump campaign, I think, should give hope to Anna’s campaign that there’s a possibility that Republican turnout may not be that great if Trump continues to slide in the polls.” 

The poll indicated that Senator Charles Schumer, an incumbent Democrat, held a 20-point lead over his opponent, Wendy Long, in the district.

Voters were also polled on issues including climate change and gun policy. Seventy-two percent of those polled said that climate change is a real and significant threat; 22 percent disagreed. Sixty-one percent said that undocumented immigrants should be offered a pathway to citizenship; 32 percent did not agree. 

Fifty-five percent of responders support a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, 43 percent do not, with 82 percent of Republicans siding with a repeal and the same percentage of Democrats favoring its continuation.

Respondents were evenly split as to their support of measures to control access to guns or a broad interpretation of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, and were split as to whether the federal government should increase or decrease its role in stimulating the economy.