County Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac), who represents Shelter Island, announced she will run for Congress, formally kicking off a campaign Monday to win the Democratic nod for the 1st Congressional District after falling short in the 2020 primary.
Ms. Fleming becomes the first candidate for either party here to announce a run for Congress in the 2022 election. The announcement comes just six months after the last election, which saw Republican Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) win a fourth term by defeating Democrat Nancy Goroff.
Backed by supporters holding campaign signs in Patchogue, Ms. Fleming said she decided to run again on the evening of Jan. 6 after the insurrection in Washington, D.C.
“We watched in horror as Lee Zeldin solidified his membership in the sedition caucus, voting to challenge the results of a presidential election even after the Capitol was overtaken by rioters in what can only be described as an act of domestic terrorism,” Ms. Fleming said.
While Mr. Zeldin has since announced a run for governor, most likely taking himself out of the Congressional race, Ms. Fleming said the basis of her candidacy has not changed.
“We need to say once and for all that we as a district deserve better,” she said.
Rich Schaffer, chair of the Suffolk County Democratic Committee, said Ms. Fleming is a well-rounded candidate who won’t be running on a single issue. “Bridget’s about bringing people together, figuring out how to take our differences and make them a strength, and that’s somebody who we need at this time in our nation’s history,” he said.
Ms. Fleming said it’s a “formidable challenge” ahead, but she believes that the 1st Congressional District can be flipped back to Democrats. She said that challenge is why she announced her candidacy this early to get a jumpstart on fundraising. “This is going to be an expensive race,” she said. “We need to spend the time raising the millions to beat the others.”
Ms. Fleming had announced her first run for Congress in November 2019, after three other candidates had begun their campaigns, including Ms. Goroff and Mr. Gershon, who began campaigning not long after losing the 2018 election against Mr. Zeldin.
Now she’s the first to formally commit. “More than being first, what was very important to me and what’s got to be important to the Democratic party is that we get out early,” she said.
She confirmed she will still run in the upcoming election to retain her seat in the County Legislature. She was elected in 2019 to the two-year term.
Ms. Fleming said if elected to Congress she would fight against the “disastrous” repeal of the SALT (State and Local Tax) deduction.
“I will fight to lift that cap with everything I have every day in Congress until we get it done,” she said. “That’s priority No. 1.”
She said the campaign cannot be about party ideology. Issues facing Long Island are not about political parties, Ms. Fleming added, whether it’s septic systems or fixing roads and bridges or securing the coastline in the face of climate change.
“Let’s be clear on this one point, we cannot win this election here in Suffolk County without the support of my friends on the other side of the aisle,” she said. “This is a campaign about Long Island’s future. This is a campaign about how we want to move forward together.”
Ms. Fleming finished third in the June 2020 primary behind Ms. Goroff and the 2018 Democratic candidate, Perry Gershon. She received 27.57% of the vote share in what became largely a three-way race. A fourth candidate garnered just over 1.5% of the votes.
Mr. Zeldin ultimately defeated Ms. Goroff in November with about 55% of the vote.
In the County Legislature, Ms. Fleming represents the 2nd District, which includes Shelter Island and the South Fork. Her district extends into a small portion of Brookhaven Town in the East Moriches and Eastport area.
Ms. Fleming was first elected to the Southampton Town Board in a special election in March 2010 and won reelection in 2011 before joining the County Legislature.
In early April, Mr. Zeldin formally announced he would be running for governor to challenge incumbent Democrat Andrew Cuomo, assuming he seeks another term. The congressman first expressed interest in running in early March, citing Mr. Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes during COVID-19 and saying it’s “the last great opportunity to save New York.”
Mr. Zeldin has the backing of the Suffolk and Nassau county Republican chairs and on April 30 he announced that the Erie and Niagara County Republican parties endorsed his campaign, getting him over 50% of state committee support to gain the nomination. Mr. Zeldin may still face a primary, as several other candidates have expressed interest in running on the GOP line.
Mr. Zeldin is currently one of eight New York Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Ms. Fleming said she did not want to speculate Monday on who may be the Republican candidate for Congress.