South Fork Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming announced Monday evening that she will be running next year for the First Congressional District seat currently held by Lee Zeldin, who is running for governor of New York.
Ms. Fleming, the first Democratic candidate to throw her hat in the ring, made the announcement from under a pop-up tent on the shores of Patchogue Lake, surrounded by Suffolk County Democratic Party and organized labor leaders.
“I started seriously considering this run on the evening of January 6, when I sat in my district office with my legislative team and 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… For me that was the last straw,” said Ms. Fleming.
“Lee Zeldin’s participation in the violent insurrection of Jan. 6 is just the latest example in a long chain in which Lee Zeldin puts party ahead of people and blind loyalty ahead of building Long Island communities,” she added. “We need to say once and for all that we, as a district, deserve better.”
Ms. Fleming came in third in a three-way primary to run against Mr. Zeldin in 2020. The front-runner, Nancy Goroff, who would go on to be easily defeated by Mr. Zeldin, won 17,905 votes in that race, followed by two-time candidate and real estate financier Perry Gershon with 17,275 votes.
Ms. Fleming, the only one of those three candidates with government experience, took home 13,696 votes in that primary.
Before becoming a Suffolk County Legislator, Ms. Fleming, an attorney who lives in Noyac, had been a member of the Southampton Town Board, and had served as an Assistant District Attorney prosecuting violent crimes in Manhattan. She is well known on the East End for championing environmental projects, clean water, and the replacement of aging septic systems. She is on this year’s ballot for another two-year term in the Suffolk County Legislature.
Suffolk County Democratic Committee Chairman Richard Schaffer said Ms. Fleming has his support, though the committee has not yet endorsed a candidate, because the Democratic candidate should be “somebody who can bridge the gap between the progressive wing of the party and someone who can sit down with the veterans at the Selden VFW. It’s really a microcosm of what the First Congressional District is about.”
“I welcome a competitive race,” said Ms. Fleming, adding that she made her announcement so early because she believes it will be a hard-fought and expensive campaign.
“It’s a formidable challenge, and we have to take it seriously,” she said.
Ms. Fleming highlighted her willingness to work on “smart and innovative environmental projects.”
“Send me to Congress and I will work with all who are willing to protect our environment with big bold infrastructure projects that will save us and will save all who come after us,” she said.
She also promised to protect women’s right to make decisions about their own bodies and to protect Social Security and Medicare.
“This campaign cannot be about party ideology,” she added. “There’s no Republican or Democratic way to fix our septic systems or secure our coastline against climate change.”
Ms. Fleming was introduced by Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer Robert Calarco.
“It is time that we had people in our federal government who know how to get the job done and deliver for what the local economy and local environment need,” he said, adding that Ms. Fleming “knows how to focus on local issues but also on global effects.”
He pointed out that the county park on the shores of Patchogue Lake, where the press conference was held, “happened because of cooperation, because people knew how to get the job done.”
“We’re here because we need a change in representation in Congress. We need leadership. We need someone who knows how to work with people, who knows what the truth is and speaks the truth,” said John Durso, president of the Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Union’s Local 338. “We are enthusiastically here to support her. Her career has been nothing short of brilliant. It has outlined what it takes in leadership.”
“The roundedness of a candidate like Bridget Fleming is what we need, not a single issue candidate who wants to preach to us about what’s right and what’s wrong, which is what we have in the current congressmen in Lee Zeldin,” added Mr. Schaffer. “All you have to do is go back to Jan. 6 to see what Lee Zeldin represents and what he is all about, and that’s the exact opposite of what Bridget Fleming is all about. Bridget’s about bringing people together, how to take our differences and make them a strength. I’m proud to call her my friend.”