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Perry Gershon prevails in Democratic primary; will challenge Lee Zeldin

KELLY ZEGERS PHOTO Perry Gershon celebrates his primary win Tuesday night.
KELLY ZEGERS PHOTO Perry Gershon celebrates his primary win Tuesday night.

Voters in the 1st Congressional District chose Perry Gershon to be the Democratic candidate to face two-term incumbent Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) at the polls in the midterm elections this November.

An East Hampton businessman who has worked in commercial real estate, Mr. Gershon, 56, won 35.5 percent of the vote in the five-person primary. He finished ahead of former Suffolk County Legislator Kate Browning, 58, of Shirley, who finished second with 30.26 percent of the votes.

Unofficial results from the Board of Elections (BOE) showed Mr. Gershon with 7,226 votes and Ms. Browning with 6,159.

Shelter Island Democrats picked Mr. Gershon to be their candidate in the fall — according to unofficial results from the BOE that don’t include absentee or affidavit ballots — with 83 votes to Ms. Browning’s 70. Suffolk County Legislator Vivian Viloria-Fisher came in third with Island Democrats, picking up 38 votes.

Mr. Gershon thanked the voters, the Democratic party and his opponents in a speech to his supporters gathered at campaign headquarters in Setauket.

“You fought a great race,” he said.

He said voters showed that they’re tired of what’s happening in Washington. More than 20,000 voters turned out, nearly double the total from the 2016 primary that pitted Anna Throne-Holst against Dave Calone.

“The voters want a change,” he said. “Our elected leaders are not responsive to what people are looking for. People want a new breed. And that’s what I stand for. That’s why I decided to run.”

He said the upcoming midterm election will be focused on the issues.

“We’re going to fight it about healthcare,” he said. “We’re going to fight it about protecting the environment and we’re going to fight it about bringing good-paying manufacturing jobs to Suffolk County.”

The other candidates were former Brookhaven National Lab physicist Elaine DiMasi, 49, of Ronkonkoma; former New York City Council staffer David Pechefsky, 50, of Port Jefferson; and former Suffolk County legislator Vivian Viloria-Fisher, 70, of Setauket.

Ms. Viloria-Fisher received 16.28 percent of the votes, followed by Mr. Pechefsky with 11.91 percent and Ms. DiMasi was last with 5.93 percent.

Ms. Browning gathered with dozens of supporters at Painters in Brookhaven to watch the results. Shortly before 10 p.m., she stood on a chair to address those in attendance and thank everyone who contributed to her campaign.

Kate Browning checks her phone at Painters in Brookhaven Tuesday night as the results came in showing Mr. Gershon would win.
JOE WERKMEISTER PHOTO Kate Browning checks her phone at Painters in Brookhaven Tuesday night as the results came in showing Mr. Gershon would win.

“At the end of the day, we have one goal and that’s take out Lee Zeldin,” Mr. Browning said to a round of applause.

Ms. Browning expressed optimism over the large voter turnout.

“Democrats are energized to succeed in November,” she told reporters.

Ms. Browning was a Suffolk County legislator representing the 3rd district for 12 years until she termed out in 2017. She was born and raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland and moved to the United States in the 1980s with her husband, who served in the U.S. military. She went for an appeal to blue-collar voters, highlighting issues for working families along with her time as a bus driver for 18 years while her three children were in school.

Mr. Gershon, a married father of two, ran a private equity firm and was a commercial real estate lender until he decided to run for Congress. The Yale and UC Berkeley graduate is the son of two doctors.

Mr. Gershon was the top fundraiser among the Democrats in his first run for office. As of June 6, the Federal Election Commission reported that he’d raised $2,110,371 and spent $1,660,210, ending with $450,161 cash on hand.

Ms. Browning raised the second-highest amount with $493,850, according to the FEC. She has $112,486 on hand.