While Dave Calone and Anna Throne-Holst agree on a broad range of national issues, the devil’s in the details for the two candidates for the Democratic nomination for the East End’s First Congressional District.
The two met in a debate Tuesday night at Southold High School sponsored by the Southold Democratic Club.
Mr. Calone, a venture capitalist who had formerly worked as a federal prosecutor, lives in Setauket and served as the chairman of the Suffolk County Planning Commission. He has yet to hold elected office, though he has been heavily involved in regional Democratic politics.
Ms. Throne-Holst, a long-time member of the Independence Party, ran on the Democratic ticket and served as Southampton Town Supervisor for eight years before stepping down at the end of 2015 to seek the seat in Congress.
Ms. Throne-Holst recently registered to vote as a Democrat, and Mr. Calone has touted his party bona fides throughout the campaign while pointing to Ms. Throne-Holst’s recent party switch.
The winner of the June 28 Democratic primary will face off against Republican incumbent Lee Zeldin in November.
Both candidates shared the belief that climate change is real and is spurred on by human activity, both said they support a higher federal minimum wage and funding for agriculture-related jobs on the East End, funding for Planned Parenthood and a path to legal citizenship for undocumented immigrants and both pledged to fight to preserve Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Ms. Throne-Holst said she believes it’s very important to “understand what the economy in this district is built on,” not to focus on high tech jobs, as Mr. Calone has done in some of his work.
She said the district relies heavily on workers in agriculture, the service industry, health care, tourism and environmental businesses, and said she hopes to work to bring a nursing program to the Stony Brook Southampton campus, where Southampton Hospital is planning to move as part of its merger with Stony Brook University Hospital.
She also touted the town’s work on a Clean Water Technology Center, in conjunction with Stony Brook Southampton, where advanced septic treatment systems are being engineered.
“If we don’t support and build this job base, we’re letting down the basis of our economy here,” she said. “My opponent talks about high-tech jobs. Let’s talk about what our economy is.”
Mr. Calone touted his work on the “Farmers for the Future” initiative, in conjunction with the Peconic Land Trust, which provides new farmers with access to capital to buy tractors and farm equipment.
He added that scientists at Stony Brook University have been coming up with very good ideas, but he would like to see those ideas translated into tech companies based on Long Island.
New York State has just approved a phased-in minimum wage increase to $15 per hour, and both candidates said they’d like to see the federal government follow that lead.
Mr. Calone said that he would want the federal wage increase to be “predictable so that businesses can adjust.”
Ms. Throne-Holst said she would like to see the federal government play a role in increased wages for workers who rely on tips. She said that, in states where tipped workers are paid a higher base salaries, chain businesses find that their profits are also higher.
Both candidates took a strong stance on climate change.
“Lee Zeldin is on the record as a climate change denier,” said Ms. Throne Holst. “How do you live on Eastern Long Island and not think climate change is real?… There isn’t a business on Eastern Long Island that is not affected by climate change.”
Ms. Throne-Holst said she supports last year’s Paris climate change accord, and she helped to put together a climate change action plan while serving as Southampton Town supervisor.
Mr. Calone agreed, pointing out that Mr. Zeldin had voted for a Republican-backed bill last December weakening the EPA’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired plants.
Mr. Calone said his own efforts have included drafting a county-wide solar code, adopted by local municipalities, that was recognized by the National Association of Counties, and a master plan focusing on resiliency and renewable energy.
Ms. Throne-Holst said Southampton Town did not adopt the county code, but Mr. Calone said he checked that morning and found his code on Southampton Town’s website. Ms. Throne-Holst said Southampton has, instead of restricting solar power, allowed residents to install solar panels with proof that they had used a knowledgable licensed electrician.
Ms. Throne-Holst added that the town had piloted a purchasing program that allows neighbors to buy solar panels at the same time at a bulk rate.
“We have a record number of businesses and residential homes today that are dependent on alternative energy,” she said. “Those kinds of programs are what we need all over the county.”
Ms. Throne-Holst added that Mr. Calone had served on the board of LIPA when the LIPA board decided to sign on to receive power from the Caithness II energy plant.
Mr. Calone said that he joined the LIPA board because he was concerned that LIPA wasn’t a leader in renewable energy, and he helped spearhead LIPA’s largest renewable energy request for proposals.
On funding for Planned Parenthood, Ms. Throne-Holst said that “why the federal government thinks it has anything to say around women’s reproductive rights is just unconscionable.”
She added that Planned Parenthood provides vital health care services for women who can’t afford to see a doctor.
“Lee Zeldin voted time and again to defund Planned Parenthood,” said Mr. Calone. “He’s wrong.”
Mr. Calone added that he takes that issue personally — Planned Parenthood also provides breast cancer screening, the kind of screening that has twice saved his mother’s life.