For the first time in ages, the race to be the East End’s member of the House of Representatives feels like it is about something big — freedom. Democrats want to ensure women’s freedom to determine what happens with their own bodies; Republicans want to take that freedom away. Democrats insist that everyone who is eligible to vote can do so; Republicans are actively pushing hundreds of measures designed to keep people of color, urban residents, and the poor from casting their ballots.
Here on the East End, Suffolk Legislator Bridget Fleming or Nick LaLota, a former Republican board of elections commissioner, are in a close contest that will help determine which party controls the House. But more than that, democracy in the United States itself is on the ballot in the First Congressional District. In that Ms. Fleming’s campaign should see two key advantages.
Ever since Donald Trump descended his escalator and ascended to become the leader of the Republican movement, Americans have had a choice between basic human decency and what President Biden accurately called semi-fascism. Sadly, the Republicans have become a party that denies election results that do not favor its members, rejecting the cornerstone of our system of representative government also known as democracy. In the 2020 election, the party did not even bother with a platform, instead saying, in effect, Trumpism was the platform, which looked a lot like authoritarianism. It is impossible to pin down exactly what being a Republican means anymore other than billionaire donors fanning white grievance politics to serve their own interests. Things like foreign policy, the environment, standard of living, and education are an afterthought to them, if they think about them at all.
Mr. LaLota’s opponents note that he was responsible for eliminating Shelter Island’s only early voting location in 2020, making it the only town in Suffolk without one. Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris clobbered Mr. Trump on Shelter Island that year anyway, and Nancy Goroff, the Democratic candidate facing Representative Lee Zeldin, won handily as well on the island, with more than 65 percent of the vote but lost in the district as a whole. Mr. LaLota said at the time that the decision to drop the poll site was bipartisan, but he was at a minimum, its loudest advocate. Early voting did return, however, in time for the Republican primary in August, which Mr. LaLota won.
Potentially aiding Ms. Fleming in this off-year election are national and local hot-button issues. These importantly include the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade and a half-percent real estate sales tax that would fund affordable housing. In a recent appearance, Ms. Fleming spoke of meeting “Republican grandfathers” while campaigning in the western end of the sprawling district who understood the necessity of protecting reproductive rights. Whether or not these elders vote for her, outrage over the court’s decision — and fear of what right could fall next — will motivate strong turnout for Democrats even in this off-year election. Strong support for the housing fund may also propel Fleming voters to the polls on the East End, where she would need landslide-level results to counter the more populated Republican-leaning parts of the district.
The 2022 election is nothing less than a choice between repression and liberty. Your vote matters.