By Dan Stark
Westhampton Beach High School
The 2022 midterm elections are still over a year away, but many candidates have already started their campaigns. Bridget Fleming and Kara Hahn, two Suffolk County Legislators, have announced competing plans to seek the Democratic nomination in New York’s First Congressional District.
The seat is now held by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley). The district has supported both Democrats and Republicans for Congress and in presidential elections since the 1990s, but has swung rightward over the past decade. In 2020, incumbent President Donald Trump carried the district 51 percent to 47 percent over Joe Biden, while Zeldin won reelection with 55 percent of the vote. But with Zeldin leaving his seat to challenge Andrew M. Cuomo for governor of New York in 2022, Fleming and Hahn say they view his absence as an opportunity to flip the district despite its recent Republican lean.
Fleming, 61, announced her campaign on May 3. She ran for the same seat in the 2020 primary, but finished in third place behind Nancy Goroff and Perry Gershon with 27.5 percent of the vote. She said she was motivated to run by her dissatisfaction with Zeldin, claiming that “his positions don’t accurately reflect our communities.”
Fleming said she has designed her campaign to cover issues that are important to both Democratic voters and swing voters, including infrastructure reform, reducing gun violence, and expanding renewable energy usage on Long Island. In an interview this week, she referred to these as “critically important issues to our community” and said they would be her top priorities if elected to Congress.
Fleming has served as Suffolk County’s 2nd District legislator since 2016. Her district is based on the East End and stretches from Montauk to East Moriches. Previously, she worked as an attorney in Manhattan and served on the Southampton Town Board from 2010 to 2015.
“I’m fortunate in that I’ve had such success with my team in local offices, both with the town board and county legislature,” Fleming said.
Hahn’s campaign launched on June 2. A former social worker, she said her desire to help ease the problems of Long Island residents is her main reason for running.
If elected, healthcare would be one of her top priorities. “It’s so important that we don’t separate healthcare and mental healthcare,” she said during a press conference this week. “It’s all part of healthcare together.”
She also expressed support for fighting climate change, calling it “incredibly important, especially living here on Long Island.”
Another top priority for Hahn is voting rights. She said she is particularly dissatisfied with new, restrictive voting laws passed by states like Georgia, saying, “It’s very frustrating as an American who believes every American has the right to vote.”
Hahn, 50, represents the 5th Legislative District, which includes Port Jefferson, Stony Brook, and Setauket. She has been serving the district since 2011. She currently serves as deputy presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature and served as majority leader from 2016 to 2019.
The date of the primary has not yet been announced by the New York State Board of Elections. The general election will be held on November 8, 2022.
The Suffolk County Democratic Party has yet to endorse a candidate, but Fleming was endorsed by Suffolk County Democratic Committee chairman Rich Schaffer at her campaign launch. She has also been endorsed by Robert Calarco, the presiding officer of the Legislature. Meanwhile, Hahn has been endorsed by Goroff and by New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket).
Both legislators have acknowledged that it’s hard running against each other, but they are staying positive about it.
“This is a democratic process,” Fleming said. “Anyone who feels they want to challenge anyone in the primary is welcome to do that.”
Hahn expressed confidence in the Democrats’ chances in the 2022 general election, saying, “I believe one of us will be the next Congressperson.”