Pictured Above: Nancy Goroff on the Aug. 18 Zoom call with PEER.
Nancy Goroff, the former Stony Brook chemistry department chair who is running to unseat Congressman Lee Zeldin in the First Congressional District, is urging voters to not give in to fears that “we can’t trust the mail” when casting their ballots this fall.
“If we say you “can’t trust the mail,” we are getting their message out, and we cannot echo their talking points,” Ms. Goroff told attendees at the Aug. 18 Zoom meeting of Progressive East End Reformers (PEER), an active progressive political group formed by supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders after the 2016 elections.
“Get your application in as soon as possible…. Ballots will go out earlier than in the past and people will have plenty of time to return them,” she said. “You can also call the Board of Elections afterward to make sure they’ve received it. The risks are low compared to not voting.”
Ms. Goroff said this June’s Democratic Congressional Primary, which she won, saw double the 2018 turnout, in part because New York State sent out absentee ballot applications to every voter who could participate in the primary.
“It was so much easier than in 2018,” she said.
Ms. Goroff, a measured, analytical candidate from East Setauket who, if elected, would be the first female scientist with a Ph.D. in Congress, shared her thoughts on her opponent, issues facing the First Congressional District and her plan to win the race in the hour-and-a-half long meeting with a group that attempted to push her leftward on some of her more centrist stances.
The forum was moderated by Amy Turner, founder of a group called Zeldin Watch and a vocal critic of the current congressman.
While PEER members encouraged each other to take advantage of early voting this fall, Ms. Goroff reminded them that, with just 10 early voting sites across the district, early voting on the East End could be a far more hassle free decision than on the western side of the district, where the few early voting sites are expected to be quite busy.
Ms. Goroff said Mr. Zeldin’s “biggest vulnerability is how tightly he’s tied himself to a corrupt and ineffective president.”
“Both have hawked unproven medications for Covid-19. Both are talking about peaceful protesters as rioters and looters. Every time Zeldin talks about how great Trump is, he makes himself more vulnerable,” she said.
Ms. Goroff said Mr. Zeldin’s biggest strength is his war chest.
“He has raised $5 million and has $2.5 million on hand,” she said. “We need to be able to raise funds to compete with him. I’ve raised over $900,000 since I became the nominee, and raised $1.2 million total for the general election. We need to make sure we have the funds to launch a vigorous campaign.”
She estimated her campaign will need to raise about $4 million in total to be competitive. She added that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has funded three of her field team members and two organizers, and has helped her campaign pay for polling and television advertising.
“We’re hopeful they will do more than that, but we don’t know yet,” she said.
On the issues, Ms. Goroff said her biggest health care priority is to shore up the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and provide a public option for people who chose to buy into the Medicare system.
She said she doesn’t see a single-payer medical insurance system, like the proposed Medicare for All, as feasible in the near term.
“As a scientist, I’m always cognizant of what we can do in reality,” she says. “I would love a path that moves us toward a single-payer system…. Over time, we have gotten better and better coverage for people and improved the programs available. We need to continue to do that.”
Ms. Goroff added that, when former President Barack Obama said in 2013 that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it” under the ACA, he soured about three million small business owners on the ACA nationwide when the plans they had for their employees didn’t meet the new standards.
“It was a largely affluent, very loud group that made their point very clear,” said Ms. Goroff of the backlash to Obama’s comment.
Ms. Goroff said she believes the federal government must go all-out to solve the health crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, and she would like to see federal stimulus spending to end the Covid economic meltdown go toward clean energy infrastructure.
“It would bring high quality jobs here and move forward on preparing us for the fight against climate change,” she said. “It’s not just clean energy, but renovating buildings like schools so they have a lower carbon footprint.”
“If we’re going to be spending a lot of money to get the economy moving, I would like to see a stimulus bill focusing on helping the environment,” she said.
She added that she would like to see eviction protections extended, and Congress should extend enhanced unemployment payments, and send additional payments directly to Americans “regardless of whether they are employed. The needs are huge.”
“Suffolk County has lost more jobs than any county in New York,” she added.
Ms. Turner asked Ms. Goroff how she would help the many undocumented workers in the district who have been out of work for months and are ineligible for government assistance.
“We need a pathway to citizenship. We have to solve the larger problem,” said Ms. Goroff. “In the short term, there is not an easy answer. Sending people to food banks is not a real solution. I don’t know what the answer is in the short term. In the long term we need immigration reform.”
“It’s critically important we’re standing up for the most vulnerable in our communities,” she added when pushed. “We need to make sure we’re not exposing them to further danger and not jeopardizing relief for Americans. Politically, it’s a very challenging thing to accomplish. We need to make sure we’re getting relief to as many people as possible as quickly as possible. If we start focusing on undocumented workers, that could derail things.”
She added that she believes the United States should be sending more aid to Latin America, so that countries there are stable enough that their residents don’t want to leave, and to help curb the effects of droughts which are causing many Latin Americans to become so-called ‘climate migrants.’
Ms. Goroff did not mince words on her views about climate change.
“It’s the most important environmental issue,” she said. “Climate change is the existential threat. People in my field call climate change a pandemic in slow motion. It has the ability to be a much greater change to the way we live our lives. We all feel pretty comfortable that in three years time, we will not be worried about Covid-19 but we will be worried about climate change.”
Ms. Goroff’s lab has worked to create new organic semiconductors and studied how to use them to make solar energy more affordable and accessible.
Ms. Goroff said that, while there are many versions of the “Green New Deal,” she is in favor of such measures as setting deadlines for transitioning the economy away from fossil fuels.
“We need to actively deploy existing technology to reduce our carbon footprint,” she said. “The global carbon budget is important. We need to develop new, scaleable technology, and get moving as quickly as possible.”
When asked what money now spent on the military budget and to militarize the police should be spent on instead, Ms. Goroff said she would frame such questions differently.
“Money is fungible. Taking money from some place and putting it someplace else is not the framework I would use,” she said.
Ms. Goroff said she is in favor of banning police chokeholds and ending qualified immunity, but added that funding for social services should be increased.
“We need to be making sure problems like homelessness and drug addiction are handled at their roots, not when they get to being violent issues,” she said.
She added that she would like to see diplomacy take a center role in American foreign policy.
“Under Trump, the diplomatic corps has been gutted,” she said. “I don’t think it’s helpful to say ‘we shouldn’t fund the military. There are many other parts to the budget, including the GOP tax cut, which was a disaster that gave tax cuts to wealthy people and corporations with no benefit to the economy.”
On helping the Shinnecock Nation get protections for burial grounds, Ms. Goroff said that is a state issue.
“I think the Shinnecocks are well aware of who they need to talk to in the state, but having advocates including their representative is an important responsibility,” she said, adding that she would be happy to help.
Ms. Goroff said her campaign strategy will focus both on increasing turnout among Democrats and encouraging people who voted for Donald Trump in 2016, who have since lost faith in the President, to consider crossing the aisle.
“They understand how much he has failed in dealing with this pandemic,” she said. “They know it is real. They have loved ones who have been hurt by it.”
Ms. Goroff added that she is committed to diversity, is a member of the NAACP and has worked on promoting diversity at Stony Brook University.
“We all make better decisions when we have people from many different backgrounds, as diverse as possible, at the table for decision-making,” she said.
“Our representative is denigrating peaceful protest, and refuses to meet with anybody from the Black Lives Matter movement or even discuss the issues we’re talking about, while we have been very active and visible at protests in the district,” she added. —BY