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Democratic primaries Tuesday in 3 LI House districts

By: 
Paul LaRocco
Publication: 
Newsday
Jun
27
2016

Voters go to the polls Tuesday to choose Democrats who will vie this fall for three congressional seats representing Long Island — including in two of the most competitive districts in the region.

Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the 1st District, 3rd District and 5th District Democratic primaries.

The 3rd District primary — prompted by the surprise retirement of Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) — includes five candidates. Stretching along the North Shore from Eastern Queens through Nassau County and into western Suffolk County, the district has 194,508 registered Democrats.

Four of the candidates are based in Nassau, which has the largest share of registered voters, with 50 percent: Former Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi, 53, of Glen Cove; North Hempstead Councilwoman Anna Kaplan, 49, of Great Neck; former North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman, 53, of Great Neck; and attorney Jonathan Clarke, 39, of Jericho.

Suffolk County Legis. Steve Stern, 47, of Dix Hills, is the only candidate based in Suffolk, which makes up 30 percent of the district.

The winner will face State Sen. Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury) in the general election to succeed Israel.

In the 1st District primary, venture capitalist David Calone and former Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst are battling for the right to face freshman Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley). The district, which national political observers consider a perennial tossup, covers all of Eastern Long Island, from Montauk west to Smithtown.

There are 145,983 registered Democrats.

Calone, 42, of Setauket and Throne-Holst, 56, of Sag Harbor each has spent more than $1 million. Including independent expenditures by outside groups for or against the candidates, the race is by far the most expensive primary on Long Island.

No candidate in the 3rd District race had spent more than $580,000 as of the second week of June, records show.

The 5th District, which is largely based in Queens but contains a slice of western Nassau, also has a Democratic primary. Nine-term Rep. Gregory Meeks, 63, of St. Albans, Queens, will face Ali Mirza, 58, an Elmont businessman.

The sheer number of candidates in the 3rd District primary makes it one of the hardest to predict, political analysts say. The candidates largely agree on major issues: All back stronger gun control laws and maintaining funding for Planned Parenthood, and they strongly support the state of Israel.

Suozzi has perhaps the best name recognition of the field, after two terms as county executive, from 2002 to 2009, a run for governor in 2006 and a failed bid to win back his executive post in 2013. He cites past government reform proposals including an early version of the property tax cap.

Stern, who is endorsed by Rep. Israel, has served 11 years in the Suffolk Legislature and will have to leave next year due to term limits. The elder law attorney cites county legislation he sponsored including a ban of protests at military funerals.

Kaplan, who hopes to become the first Iranian-American in Congress, is serving her second term as a North Hempstead councilwoman. She highlights college affordability as a main issue, noting her support for expanding the federal Pell Grant program.

Kaiman most recently served as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s superstorm Sandy recovery czar and chaired the state board that controls Nassau County’s finances. He served 10 years as North Hempstead supervisor, and pledged to turn a town program to help seniors remain in their homes into a national effort.

Clarke, a strong backer of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, has made income disparity his key campaign issue, saying he supports raising taxes on the wealthiest residents to help narrow the gap.

While the 3rd District candidates have largely stayed away from attacking each other in television ads or mailers, the same can’t be said of 1st District Democrats.

Calone ran an ad that tried to tie Throne-Holst to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump through small donations Throne-Holst gave to a local Conservative Party.

Throne-Holst has assailed Calone’s tenure on the Long Island Power Authority Board from 2009 to 2012 for rate hikes that occurred during the period.

Calone, a past chairman of the Suffolk County Planning Commission, points to his work on environmental issues while on the planning board, such as streamlining the permitting process for rooftop solar projects.

Throne-Holst, who served for six years as Southampton supervisor, touts increases in the town’s credit rating during her tenure and its adoption of open-space policies.

In the 5th District, Meeks, a ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia, said his priorities include working with the Port Authority to ensure that flights from Kennedy Airport are spread more evenly to reduce noise burdens on particular neighborhoods.

Mirza, who owns a local public relations and consulting firm, supports redevelopment of state-run Belmont Park in Elmont and wants to prohibit companies that move jobs overseas from receiving federal contracts. He has served as an aide to both Suozzi while he was Nassau County executive and his successor, Republican Edward Mangano.

Of the 295,129 registered Democrats in the district, 32,559 live in Nassau.