The East Hampton Town Democratic Committee will host a forum for candidates vying for their party’s nomination to challenge Representative Lee Zeldin in New York’s First Congressional District on Monday at 7 p.m. at LTV Studios in Wainscott.
Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming, Perry Gershon, and Nancy Goroff will discuss and present their positions on issues affecting the district and the country in the 90-minute forum.
The event will follow the format of the 2018 forums the committee hosted, Cate Rogers, chairwoman of the committee, said last Thursday, in which a moderator asked questions of the candidates that included questions from the audience.
The theme in 2020 is “Don’t sit this one out,” Ms. Rogers said, the message being that if Democrats want to defeat President Trump, Democratic turnout must be high. Democrats galvanized by the 2016 election results are hoping to maintain the same energy that resulted in the party’s gaining 40 seats and retaking a majority in the House of Representatives in 2018.
In the 2018 midterm campaign, Mr. Gershon, who lives in East Hampton, emerged from a crowded field of candidates to win the party’s nomination before falling four percentage points shy of unseating Mr. Zeldin in the election. Mr. Zeldin, a Republican who has emerged as one of Mr. Trump’s most ardent supporters, has successfully defended the seat twice since his 2014 election.
"We want to get out in front and do what every Democratic committee should be doing: getting information to voters for the entire year,” Ms. Rogers said. “We’re going to do a yearlong get-out-the-vote outreach.”
Though the general election is nearly nine months away, it is not too soon to focus voters on the candidates and issues, she said, citing statewide election reform enacted last year. “Congressional candidates have to start carrying petitions by the end of February. This will not only give voters an opportunity to meet candidates, but any petition carriers as well.”
It is an off-year in local government, with no elections for townwide office, “but people will see a lot of the East Hampton Town Democratic Committee this year,” Ms. Rogers said, “both with outreach and candidates forums.” She said that the committee hopes to host another forum in the spring, this one for candidates seeking the party’s nomination to run for the seat being vacated by State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, who is retiring.
The committee is forming several outreach teams aimed at various demographic groups, Ms. Rogers said. “We’re not taking the year off. It’s too important. We want to keep people — to keep voters — engaged.”
The committtee will not endorse a candidate for Congress in the June 23 primary, Ms. Rogers said. “Whoever the voters choose, we will support 100 percent.” Committee members have been encouraged to work for a candidate of their choosing, she said, “but after the primary, it’s unity. We must defeat Lee Zeldin. He is not representing CD-1,” she charged, referring to Mr. Zeldin’s congressional district. “He is only representing Donald Trump.”