By Leo Capobianco, Michael Harris and Luis Centeno
New York voters who are registered Democrats will cast their ballots to decide who wins their party line in three Long Island Congressional primary elections on Tuesday, June 28.
In the New York’s First Congressional District on the East End, voters will choose between two candidates—former Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and David Calone, a venture capitalist and former Suffolk County Planning Commission chair. The winner of that bitterly contested race will run against freshman U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) in the November elections.
The most crowded field is in the Third Congressional District, where there are five candidates, including Suffolk County Legis. Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills), former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, former Nassau Interim Finance Authority Chairman Jon Kaiman, North Hempstead Town Councilwoman Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck) and Jonathan Clarke, an attorney from Jericho. That seat is vacant since U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) announced he won’t run for re-election. The winner of the primary will face New York State Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) on Election Day, although Republican challenger Flip Pidot said this week he plans to sue to have a GOP primary scheduled at a later day in that race.
In the Fifth Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens) was challenged by Ali Mirza. The winner of that primary will face Republican Michael O’Reilly and Green Party candidate Frank Francois in the general election.
What follows is a voters’ guide profiling each of LI’s nine Democratic Congressional primary candidates:
A married father of three from Setauket, this is David Calone’s first time running for elected office. He previously worked as a federal prosecutor working on anti-terrorism cases and later became a New York State Assistant Attorney General who investigated health care fraud before he launched Jove Equity Partners, a venture capital firm that co-founded the Long Island Emerging Technologies Fund that invests in up-and-coming local technology companies. He previously chaired the Suffolk County Planning Commission, served on the United Way of Long Island board and founded a nonprofit that helps veterans start businesses. He also served on the board of the Long Island Power Authority. He has a degree in economics from Princeton University and also graduated from Harvard Law School. He touts his business ties as giving him the experience needed to create jobs, although he also lists campaign finance reform and retirement security among his top issues.
This mother of four from Sag Harbor was first elected to the Southampton Town Council in 2007 on the Independence Party line, and two years later, she unseated Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot. When she took over, Throne-Holst cut the town’s debt, uncovered mismanagement of town funds and restored the town’s credit rating to AAA, the highest status possible, by the time she left office last year to focus on campaigning for Congress full-time when she switched her registration to the Democratic Party. Recently, she helped establish Stony Brook University’s New York State Clean Water and Technology Center, where researchers study nitrogen in Long Island waterways and groundwater. Before she took office, she co-founded the Hayground School in Bridgehampton, which provides early education to students in need. Throne-Holst got her degree in business management and international affairs from American University and a master’s degree in public administration and international affairs from Columbia University. Among the issues she would focus on, if elected, include defending a woman’s right to choose, reducing gun violence and increasing the accessibility of childhood education.
An attorney from Jericho, Jonathan Clarke is making his run for Congress after an unsuccessful bid to unseat 11-term Nassau County Legis. Dennis Dunne (R-Seaford) three years ago. Clarke believes his outsider status gives him an advantage in a primary race against four other candidates who all are either current or former elected officials. Married once and now divorced without children but with a dog, he is the managing partner at a small Farmingdale-based law firm of Clarke and Fellows, where he handles personal injury and criminal defense cases in addition to providing pro bono legal services to animal rights organizations. He was an early and vocal supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential primary contest. Clarke got his degree in philosophy from CUNY Hunter College and later graduated from Touro Law School. His top issue is campaign finance reform, but he is also focused on animal rights and LGBT rights.
This married father of three from Great Neck stepped down from his role as chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the state-appointed board that oversees the county’s finances, in February so he can focus on running for Congress. He also previously served as Long Island’s Storm Recovery Czar, a role in which he oversaw the allocation of Superstorm Sandy aid. And before that he was North Hempstead Town Supervisor from 2004-2013. During his tenure as town supervisor, he established the 311 hotline, created services that helped seniors and implemented school recycling programs. He graduated from Hofstra University and Hofstra Law School. If elected, his top priorities would include resisting attempts to privatize Social Security, supporting renewable energy to reverse global warming and gun control.
North Hempstead Town Councilwoman Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck), a married mother of two, was elected as a Great Neck Library District trustee in 2007, was later appointed to the Town of North Hempstead Board of Zoning Appeals, and was elected to the town council in 2011. Born in Iran, she was a Jewish child refugee who fled the Islamic Revolution in 1979 before settling on Long Island. If elected, she would become the first Iranian-American to serve in Congress. As councilwoman, Kaplan has secured increased state funding for Manhasset Valley Park and sponsored legislation to ban electronic cigarettes from parks and playgrounds, among other initiatives she spearheaded. She graduated from Stern College for Women at Yeshiva University and Benjamin Cardozo School of Law. Among the issues she lists as her priorities are protecting seniors, making college more affordable and helping grow the renewable energy industry.
Suffolk County Legis. Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills), a married father of two, is term-limited from running again. The six-term legislator, who’s also an elder law attorney in his private practice, chairs the powerful ways and means committee as well as the veterans committee and vice-chairs both the consumer protection and the economic development committees. In his 11 years in office, his Toxin-Free Toddlers and Babies Act, which protects children from the hazardous chemical BPA, was the first of its kind in the nation. His bill creating the Silver Alert, which helps families and authorities find elders with Alzheimer’s or other disorders who are reported missing, was the first of its kind in New York State. Those laws are in addition to many other bills he’s gotten passed. Stern is a graduate of Tulane University School of Arts and Sciences and Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School. If elected, he says his top issues would continue to be seniors and veterans as well as fiscal responsibility.
Former Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi, was previously a gubernatorial candidate and the mayor of the City of Glen Cove, where he lives with his wife and three children. In 2002, he became the first Democrat in decades to be elected Nassau County Executive, where he restored financial stability after his Republican predecessor left the county nearly bankrupt. During his tenure, Suozzi renovated the county’s capitol building, successfully lobbied for a New York State property tax cap, and got a cap on local Medicaid expenses before he was unseated in ’09 and lost a rematch against his successor in ’13. He is currently of counsel at the law firm of Harris Beach PLLC. He earned his degree in accounting from Boston College and later graduated from Fordham University School of Law. If elected, he says his priorities include reinvesting in the nation’s infrastructure, improving Obamacare and fighting climate change.
U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens), a married father of three from St. Albans, has represented the recently redrawn 5th District since 2013 and had previously been the representative of the 6th District since 1998. He sits on the financial services and foreign affairs committees. Meeks is a supporter of protecting 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 ‘03. Meeks’ 17-year congressional career has not been without controversy. The House ethics committee on loans investigated Meeks, and he has been known to use the option for House members to lease a car with tax dollars. He’s a former New York City prosecutor who graduated from Adelphi University and got his law degree from Howard University.
A married father of two from Elmont, Ali Mirza is the owner of Mirza Strategies and Public Relations. After immigrating to America from Pakistan in 1984, he got a degree in International Relations from the University of Bridgeport and founded the Pakistani-American Heritage Club of New York and Americans of Pakistani Heritage. He twice unsuccessfully tried to unseat former Nassau County Legis. John Ciotti (R-North Valley Stream). He previously served as Nassau County director of minorities and women business enterprises, and was special assistant for communications and community affairs for the Nassau County Executive. If elected, his top priorities include addressing public corruption, fixing income inequality and addressing racial injustices