Race Echoes Trump Versus Clinton

Zeldin speaks of national security, Throne-Holst of the environment
Lee Zeldin and Anna Throne-Holst Morgan McGivern and Taylor K. Vecsey

With the Nov. 8 election three months away and the major parties’ candidates for president looming over national debate, the fight to represent New York’s First Congressional District in the House of Representatives has been low key since Anna Throne-Holst defeated Dave Calone in a tight Democratic primary on June 28.

In interviews this week, Lee Zeldin, the Republican incumbent, emphasized national security, while Ms. Throne-Holst, a former Southampton Town Supervisor, said district residents were concerned about the environment and climate change. They agreed that the economy was a primary concern, however.

  Mr. Zeldin is mounting his first defense, having defeated Tim Bishop, a six-term Democrat, in 2014. Ms. Throne-Holst will attempt to unseat him in a race that is expected to be close and highly expensive. The Rothenberg-Gonzalez Political Report lists the race in its Toss-Up/Tilt Republican column.

Donald J. Trump, the Republican nominee for president, has galvanized both solid support and intense opposition in the district, which includes the Towns of East Hampton, Southampton, Shelter Island, Riverhead, Southold, and Brookhaven, and most of Smithtown. Mr. Zeldin endorsed Mr. Trump early in the game, while Ms. Throne-Holst hopes to use that endorsement against him.

“I certainly don’t agree with him on everything,” Mr. Zeldin said of Mr. Trump. “I believe we can be entering into better trade deals for the American economy and worker. I believe we need to do a better job strengthening the relationships with our allies, and identifying and eliminating the threat of terrorism coming from, primarily, the Middle East.”

However, while Mr. Zeldin said he doesn’t  “believe that religion should be used as the sole basis of denying someone entry into our country,” he went on to say, “I do believe it would be foolish to ignore religion in trying to assess a particular person and what their beliefs and motives are in applying for entry, especially where they may be coming from a country that we face more of a threat from, and also from a country where there’s less documentation because of instability.”

 Mr. Zeldin, like Mr. Trump, is critical of the Common Core educational standards, and an amendment to a federal education bill that allows states to opt out without penalty, which Mr. Zeldin sponsored, was signed into law in December.

Ms. Throne-Holst was outspoken about her view of Mr. Trump, saying she watched last week’s Republican National Convention “in horror.” Not only did the convention “take on this really horrifying message and approach,” based on appeals to fear and exclusion, she said, but “Lee Zeldin, unlike every other moderate Republican that has run in the other direction, was proud to be there with him.” Mr. Zeldin “makes no secret that he is proud to be aligned with Donald Trump as a friend and speak about his brand of political incorrectness being what America needs today,” she said.

Mr. Trump won nearly 73 percent of the vote in the Republican primary in the First District, but both candidates downplayed the significance of the primary.

“He clearly has a lot of support, throughout the First District and around the country, of Republicans as well as others who couldn’t vote in the primary on the Democratic side,” Mr. Zeldin said. “I would imagine that Mrs. Clinton is going to do better against Trump in East Hampton than, say, Smithtown. But there’s still a lot of time and some debates for people to make up their minds.”

For Ms. Throne-Holst the First Congressional District Republican primary showed that “Donald Trump is a New Yorker, after all.” Nor was Ms. Throne-Holst intensely interested in this week’s Democratic National Convention. Hillary Clinton “is the one that has the experience, and I think that will come across,” Ms. Throne-Holst said, “but I am focused first and foremost on my own race.”

 “As far as Mr. Trump versus Secretary Clinton,” Mr. Zeldin said, “it’s not close for me between the two of them. I don’t believe the country is looking for this opportunity to put the Clintons back into the White House. The American public doesn’t trust her, doesn’t believe that she is eager at all to challenge the status quo, to improve our country, and, in many respects, her campaign is about her wanting to be president rather than a dedicated commitment and inspiration to improving our country above all else.”

Asked about the Long Island Power Authority’s proposal for a wind farm in the ocean 30 miles east of Montauk, Ms. Throne-Holst said, “Alternative energy is the future of the country, and certainly of this district.” In Southampton, “We set in motion . . . a very successful, robust solarizing incentive program,” she said of an initiative that allows a pre-negotiated discounted rate for installation of solar systems.

The First District is “extremely well placed to be leaders” in renewable energy, she said. “We have abundant sunshine and wind. We’re surrounded by water. We can and should be leading the way on renewable energy. I think all of those alternatives should be both explored and put into good use.” She added, however, that fishing interests in offshore waters must be protected.

Offshore wind, Mr. Zeldin said, “is a potential to provide a positive benefit to our region, both economically and environmentally. There are people who strongly agree and others who strongly disagree, but I would never discount the potential for any type of a creative solution to be debated and considered to possibly improve our delivery of energy needs on Long Island.”

Although Ms. Throne-Holst argued that her opponent was a climate-change denier, Mr. Zeldin acknowledged that “the climate has been changing” but was noncommittal with respect to American efforts to combat it.

“We see evidence of it here around Long Island and particularly of the reality that it’s going to take more than an act of a County Legislature, State Legislature, or Congress. We really need more around the globe to pursue policies that are more environmentally friendly to protect not just their own countries but for countries to be able to protect each other.”