Nancy Goroff should be the East End of Long Island’s next representative in Congress. Even for First District voters not politically aligned with her, having a member of the majority party in the House of Representatives simply makes practical sense. Our region is facing unprecedented challenges from growth, economic disparity, and the effects of a changing climate, specifically sea level rise — all of which require an active partnership with the federal government of the sort only a member of the House can assure. Any specific ideological differences have to be put aside to help this region gain back the full resources of Washington.
It is perhaps a flaw in the way the United States’ system of governing has evolved since the Constitution was ratified that members of the political minority in the House or Senate are little more than placeholders. As such, they may be able to make noise, but when it comes to actually providing a true conduit to services and funding can do little.
Ms. Goroff, should she win, would be a member of the House majority, but also in all probability the party in control of the executive branch, the expertise and services of which are sorely needed on the East End and have been missing since Lee Zeldin was first elected in 2014. And now that it appears that the Democrats might take the Senate, a Zeldin win would leave the First District even further out in the wilderness.
By past example, Ms. Goroff, a first-time Democratic candidate facing an incumbent Republican, Mr. Zeldin, appears to have a slight advantage. Voters have over the years made the district a true “swing district.” Mr. Zeldin was preceded by Tim Bishop, a Democrat, who defeated Felix Grucci, a Republican. In fact, the parties have bounced the seat back and forth between them since the 1870s. In presidential contests, it has been a bellwether, voting for the winner six of the last seven times, and the one time it did not was in the disputed 2000 election, in which George W. Bush had the help of the Supreme Court in getting re-elected.
New York’s First District broke for Donald Trump and Mike Pence in 2016 by a huge margin of 8 points. This year looks like it could be the reverse. In recent independent polls, the president trails Joe Biden and Kamala Harris by more than 30 percentage points. How this will translate for Mr. Zeldin, who is among the president’s earliest and most outspoken supporters, is difficult to gauge. Long waits by early voters in the district in Republican and Democratic areas give no obvious clue. But Mr. Trump’s sagging popularity almost certainly is bringing Mr. Zeldin down. So too should concerns about the coronavirus.
Suffolk was among the hardest-hit counties as Covid-19 hit its first peak back in April — with very uneven effects. Lower-income areas of the county and in the First District suffered a disproportionate share of infections, as did areas with large Black or Latino populations — groups more likely to vote Democratic. Mr. Zeldin may have sealed his fate during the Republican National Convention when he claimed the administration’s response to the virus had been “phenomenal” when it was anything but.
It is easy to decry Mr. Zeldin as a Trump acolyte, but his record in Washington on behalf of the district that he is supposed to represent is weak. Even while Republicans held control of the chamber through the 2018 midterm elections, he was mostly missing in action. He has all along shown a preference for appearing on right-wing television over showing up in public, almost never holding town hall-type open gatherings and announcing his local events in advance only to a handful of supporters. For an elected official whose campaign materials make much of his military service, Mr. Zeldin seems awfully timid. Given his scanty record of accomplishments in six years in Congress, he has good reason to be scared.
It has been said that not saying no is being complicit. But Mr. Zeldin has done far more than not say no to Donald Trump, he has staked his entire political career on the madman in the White House.