Perry Gershon, an East Hampton businessman and entrepreneur, has won the right to challenge incumbent Republican U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin in November’s general election.
Gershon bested a field of four other hopefuls in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, June 26, winning 35.5 percent of the vote to hold off Kate M. Browning, a former Suffolk County legislator, who had been endorsed by many in the Democratic establishment, and received just over 30 percent of the vote.
“Tonight’s victory shows Suffolk County is energized and ready for change,” Gershon said in a release. “A year ago, I decided to run for Congress because I was fed up with career politicians, like our own congressman, Lee Zeldin, who put special interests and partisan politics ahead of people.”
Gershon received 7226 votes, while Browning received 6159 votes. Vivian M. Viloria-Fisher, herself a former Suffolk County legislator, came in third place with 3314 votes, or 16.3 percent. David Pechefsky received 2425 votes, or 11.9 percent, and Elaine Di Masi received 1207 votes, or nearly 6 percent of the total to round out the field.
Results were obtained from the Suffolk County Board of Elections website and are not official.
With the primary behind him, Gershon said he would focus in the general election on a number of issues from health care to the economy that are important to Long Islanders.
“Americans want better health care,” he said. “They have a need and a desire for universal health care coverage.”
He acknowledged that with President Donald Trump in office for two more years, passage of universal health care will not be possible, but he insisted that Democrats have to “play both long ball and short ball” by protecting the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, from being gutted by Republicans for the time being until they can win back a majority.
The candidate said he would also campaign on the environment. “Climate change is real and it is affecting us here on Long Island,” he said, adding that Long Islanders are also worried about the quality of their drinking water.
Gershon said he would also work to provide more good jobs for people in the 1st Congressional District, saying that one area that he agrees with President Trump is on the need to rebuild American infrastructure.
But he said the Republican tax cuts will likely lead to rising deficits, which will make it difficult to find the funding for infrastructure projects. While he said it is unlikely the tax legislation will be reduced any time soon, he stressed that it is imperative that the caps on state and real estate taxes adopted with the tax overhaul need to be eliminated because they are having a negative impact on Long Island residents.
Zeldin, who has been waiting in the wings for the Democrats to nominate a candidate, wasted little time in firing off a broadside.
“Congrats to Park Avenue Perry on buying his way into a general election. It’s amazing that the Democratic Party was so desperate that they nominated a liberal Manhattan Democrat who has never even voted here in a November election for Congress,” said a release issued by his campaign. “After a primary where he continuously preached about his desire to make Nancy Pelosi the next Speaker of the House, made the disgusting comparison of President Trump’s rallies to Hitler rallies, pathologically lied about Congressman Zeldin’s policy positions, defended high taxes, and took many other out of touch, far left positions, Park Avenue Perry proved how unrepresentative to us he would be as a representative.”
“I find it interesting that the first thing Zeldin did was an all-out attack on me,” Gershon said of the Zeldin campaign’s press release. “That’s is not the type of behavior that is typical of a confident incumbent.”
Gershon said Democratic turnout in the primary was 75 percent higher than it was two years ago when Anna Throne-Holst squeaked by Dave Calone to win the Democratic nomination, only to be trounced by Zeldin in the general election. This year, Gershon said he expected a close race. “Democratic turnout in the general election is going to be very strong,” he said.