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Zeldin, Throne-Holst Battle For L.I.'s 1st Congressional District

Courtesy of Anna Throne-Holst and League of Women Voters
Anna Throne-Holst, Southampton town supervisor, speaking at a League of Women Voters debate, next to her opponent, incumbent Congressman Lee Zeldin. The two are running to represent Long Island's 1st Congressional District.

The race in New York’s 1st Congressional District has turned into a heated battle as Democratic challenger Anna Throne-Holst tries to close the gap between her and Republican incumbent Lee Zeldin. The candidates have clashed on almost every issue from gun control to climate change.

New York’s 1st Congressional District is one of the few districts in the country where voters have a true choice between candidates, says Mike Dawidziak, a conservative-leaning political strategist.

“Of the 435 districts in the country, most have been gerrymandered to the point where it’s either a red district or a blue district. The 1st Congressional District is neither one. Not only that, but issues do matter, and have historically.”

Dawidziak points to the environment as an issue voters do care about. This issue has come up repeatedly in debates between Zeldin and his opponent Throne-Holst, including one in Patchogue at the end of October.

“Senator Zeldin voted to allow fracking in New York State. He voted twice to defund – cut funding for the EPA,” said Throne-Holst.

Actually, Throne-Holst is technically incorrect. Zeldin only voted once to cut EPA funding, while also blocking the EPA’s attempt to reduce pollutants emitted from power plants.

He also supported the Keystone Pipeline, an oil infrastructure project that has became a symbol of climate change.

“Keystone is a project that has for another part of this country a very positive economic impact and the local areas were asking for it. And we also need to reduce our reliance on foreign oil and energy sources as well to become more energy independent here at home,” Zeldin said.

While immigration has been a divisive issue on the national stage, voters on Long Island are mostly in favor of a pathway to citizenship for immigrants without legal status.

Both candidates have called for bipartisan solutions.

“I do not believe that it’s feasible or human to round up 10 or 15 million people and send them across the borders, tear their families apart, break down our economy and make that work,” said Throne-Holst.

Zeldin has voted for the “Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act.” It passed in the House and is stalled in the Senate. It would withhold funding to state and local governments that restrict law enforcement from asking about citizenship or immigration status.

“What we haven’t been able to do is get one bill passed that solves all of our challenges related to immigration. But there is a whole lot of bipartisan compromise as it relates to our border security and our interior enforcement as it relates to flaws in our visa system,” Zeldin said.

But gun control has the district evenly divided. Throne-Holst wants to close the gun show loophole, which lets private sellers skirt background check requirements for buyers. Zeldin sponsored a bill, which would give law enforcement a 72-hour window to deny firearms to a known or suspected terrorist. The Throne-Holst campaign says the bill doesn’t go far enough, while Zeldin's campaign argues it protects the rights of law abiding citizens.

The candidates have also sparred over the Affordable Care Act, which Zeldin refers to as Obamacare. Last year thousands of New Yorkers lost their coverage after the closure of the state’s lone co-op, Health Republic of New York.

“Obamacare is going to collapse on its own in 2017 regardless of whether you are its staunchest supporter or its biggest opponent. So in 2017 we have to do something with regards to healthcare in this country,” Zeldin said.

Although Zeldin has supported legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, he supports continuing certain aspects like coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and allowing children to stay on their parents’ policy longer. Throne-Holst says the solution is not repealing but improving the Affordable Care Act and supporting health care exchanges.

“‘Cause if we don’t fix this, 22 million people who are currently insured are going to go through what a couple thousand did in New York State. 22 million people will go through that and our hospitals our healthcare providers will suddenly have no reimbursement for the medical care that they are obligated to perform,” said Throne-Holst.

Long Island 1st Congressional District has flipped back and forth between Republicans and Democrats ever since the 1950s.

The Siena/Newsday poll out a week before the election shows Zeldin with a 21-point lead.

Throne-Holst has tried linking Zeldin to Donald Trump. It remains to be seen whether that will hurt or help.

Charles is senior reporter focusing on special projects. He has won numerous awards including an IRE award, three SPJ Public Service Awards, and a National Murrow. He was also a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists and Third Coast Director’s Choice Award.
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