Long Island voters will hit the polls Tuesday to cast their ballots to choose Republican and Democratic candidates in the primaries that will decide who will run for Congress on Election Day.
Ten candidates from both parties will face off this year in four of the five districts that represent parts of LI in the U.S. House of Representatives. They include primaries in the 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th districts—with races on both sides of the aisle in the 4th district, where there is no incumbent.
Congressional primaries in New York were moved to June from September two years ago following a federal court ruling.
Here is a voter’s guide to the candidates running.
District 1 Republican Primary, eastern Long Island
New York State Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), the Republican and Conservative nominee, is making his second run at challenging U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) in the general election this fall since his failed attempt to unseat the incumbent in 2008. It’s the Iraq War veteran’s first reach for higher office since the two-term senator won his seat in Albany. Like every other GOP candidate running in LI’s congressional primaries, he supports repealing the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. Both he and his Republican opponent said during their lone debate that they support the controversial Keystone oil pipeline from Canada and opening upstate New York to the natural gas drilling practice of hydraulic fracturing. Both also oppose amnesty for undocumented immigrants. But, Zeldin maintains that he is the only true Long Islander of the two in this primary and questions where his opponent lives fulltime.
This former U.S. Security and Exchange Commission attorney, who rents a house in Stony Brook, hopes the third time will be the charm in winning the Republican Party line to challenge Bishop. He touts the fact that he doesn’t have the party nod as proof of his independence. His campaign promises to propose an alternative to Obamacare through tax incentives, promoting competition among insurers and ending frivolous lawsuits that increase health-care costs. During his debate with Zeldin, Demos said that he would vote against extending federal unemployment insurance, while Zeldin would not say how he would vote. When he finds a house he’ll buy it, Demos said during the debate in response to Zeldin’s criticism that he spends more time at his Manhattan home than on LI. Demos’ ads have accused Zeldin of voting for state legislation that enacted health care exchanges under Obamacare—a charge that Zeldin disputes.
District 3 Republican Primary, north shore Nassau, Suffolk Queens
The Republican and Conservative nominee in the race to unseat U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) is a Lloyd Harbor resident, managing partner of Mineola-based Lally & Misir, LLP and was part of the legal team that represented President George W. Bush in Florida’s 2000 presidential election recount. He went on to advise the 43rd president on Irish-American relations. Lally lost two attempts to unseat former U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) in the 1990s. Like his Republican primary opponent and fellow GOP candidates, he favors stricter border security and tax cuts aimed at job creation. He touts his diplomatic credentials and business acumen as publisher of a chain of online newspapers. The campaign between him and his opponent has grown heated, with Lally filing a lawsuit challenging the validity of campaign petition signatures gathered by Labate’s volunteers—a suit Lally later withdrew.
An Iraq War veteran and financial advisor from Deer Park, Labate is vying for a rematch against Israel, who beat him when Labate had the GOP nod two years ago. He touts his military service and financial services industry experience as preparing him for Congress. To that end, he will—if elected—sponsor the proposed One Percent Spending Reduction Act, which takes away one penny from every dollar that the federal government spends in an attempt to reduce the size of the government and cut the national debt, he said. Labate responded to Lally’s allegations that Labate is an ex-Israel “staffer” by saying he doesn’t regret volunteering on a military advisory committee that interviewed high school students seeking Congressional Appointments to the U.S. Military Academies. Labate also accused Lally of harassing his campaigners and filed a Federal Elections Commission complaint against him for alleged fake endorsements.
District 4 Democratic Primary, south/central Nassau
As the Nassau County district attorney for the past nine years, this Garden City resident easily won the Democratic nomination. She has made headlines prioritizing prosecution of driving while intoxicated—including the first DWI murder conviction in New York State—heroin and sex trafficking cases. This is her first run for higher office in four years after losing the Democratic primary for state attorney general. In the race to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola), a gun-control advocate, Rice similarly supports banning assault weapons and universal background checks for gun buyers. She also supports raising the minimum wage, equal pay for women and making college more affordable. Rice had also co-chaired Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Moreland Commission on public corruption, which she resigned from when she announced her candidacy in January—three months before the governor scrapped the commission, a move that is now the subject of a federal investigation.
As the minority leader of the Democrats in the Republican-controlled Nassau County legislature, where the Freeport resident has represented the 1st district for more than a decade, Abrahams is often the underdog. One of his latest proposals was to start using dashboard cameras on county police vehicles—an idea police said that they were already planning, which they announced shortly after Abrahams proposed it. He also recently made headlines for barring fellow Legis. Ellen Birnbaum (D-Great Nek) last month from her committees and caucuses after Birnbaum allegedly made racially insensitive remarks. Like Rice, Abrahams supports gun control, women’s rights and Israel. Abrahams has criticized his Democratic primary opponent for the failures of the Moreland Commission as well as a controversial sting operation dubbed “Flush the Johns,” which recently resulted in plea deals for the men rounded up on charges of soliciting a prostitute.
District 4 Republican Primary, south/central Nassau
His resume includes stints on the Hempstead town board, as presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature and as a Port Authority of New York and New Jersey commissioner. The attorney from Long Beach has the Republican and Conservative nominations in the race to fill McCarthy’s soon-to-be vacated seat. He previously lost his bid for New York State comptroller in 1998 and for U.S. Senate four years ago. Like his Democratic opponents, he supports strengthening ties with Israel. Like his fellow Republican candidates, he favors repealing Obamacare, cutting taxes and is critical of expanding social welfare programs. If elected, he would push for increasing domestic energy production, restoring cuts to military spending and increasing military presence in Asia. He recently traded barbs with a writer for the National Review who criticized Blakeman for claiming that his Republican primary opponent is not a real conservative.
Like Demos, Scaturro is hoping the third time is the charm to win the Republican Party line in this race. Although the New Hyde Park resident and partner at Manhattan-based Fisher Broyles LLP lost two prior bids for the GOP line, he won and ran on the Conservative Party line in this district two years ago. He has not held elected office but he has previously served as counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, and as a college student, pushed for restoration of Grant’s Tomb. He touts his independence from Republican Party leaders, who he said barred him from their meetings, as proof that his vote can’t be bought. While many of his positions overlap with Blakeman’s, he also said he favors drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and disapproves of the use of “cap-and-trade” laws to reduce air pollution.
District 5 Democratic Primary, parts of southwestern Nassau and Queens
The incumbent from St. Albans has represented the recently redrawn 5th District since last year and had previously been the representative of the 6th District since 1998. He sits on the Committee on Financial Services and the Committee on Foreign Affairs. Meeks is a supporter of Social Security, Medicare and other welfare programs, as well as the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. Meeks is pro-choice, having voted against the prohibition of late-term abortions in 2003. Meeks’ 16-year congressional career has not been without controversy. In late 2009, and ongoing through 2010, House ethics committee on loans investigated Meeks. He has also been known to use the option for House members to lease a car with tax dollars.
This accountant from Cambria Heights is looking for a rematch against Meeks, who beat him two years ago. Marthone is the chairman of the Lady Mitz Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports HIV/AIDS education and prevention in the United States and Nigeria. In his 2012 campaign, Marthone spoke out against hydrofracking and airplane noise near JFK. This time around, his plan to bring businesses into the district includes offering tax breaks and other incentives to incoming business owners and providing analysis and stress tests to businesses. Marthone favors gun control legislation and increased construction of affordable housing.