Lee Zeldin (left) and George Demos are facing off in a Republican primary for the First Congressional District on June 24.
Lee Zeldin (left) and George Demos are facing off in a Republican primary for the First Congressional District on June 24.

Two familiar Republican congressional hopefuls hope to grab the attention of the East End over the next few weeks, as they duke it out in a primary race for the Republican nomination to run against incumbent Congressman Tim Bishop this November.

Third District State Senator Lee Zeldin, who ran against Mr. Bishop in 2008, has the backing of establishment Republicans, while George Demos, a former prosecutor at the Securities and Exchange Commission, is making his third attempt at an upset in a Republican primary for the seat.

The primary will be held June 24.

The two squared off in their first debate on Friday at Long Island News Radio headquarters at L.I. MacArthur Airport moderated by commentator Jay Oliver, who focused on issues ranging from health care reform to education to gun control and foreign policy.

The two candidates were on the attack throughout the debate, with Mr. Demos making use of many questions to hammer Mr. Zeldin for voting for the state budget, which included funding for the Obamacare-mandated health care exchanges, while Mr. Zeldin countered that Mr. Demos’s campaign was financed by California liberals with ties to Nancy Pelosi (who also happen to be relatives of Mr. Demos).

Both talking points have become hallmarks of both men’s campaigns.

Mr. Demos, a Holbrook resident and the grandson of Greek immigrants whose first child was born last year, said he believes the country is headed into a “European model of socialism” under President Barack Obama.

“When you hold your baby son, you realize you’re holding the future of America,” he said. “We must have a congressman who will go to Washington and fight for freedom and opportunities for all.”

Mr. Zeldin, a Shirley resident and attorney who served as a paratrooper in the Iraq war and is now a major in the Army Reserves, cast himself as a man of the people, whose twin daughters who both attend the William Floyd public school district.

“My opponent doesn’t own a home here and he hasn’t earned a dollar in four years,” he said. “He’s lying about my record on Obamacare and taxes.”

“He is desperate,” he said.

Both candidates said they were opposed to both a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and to raising the federal minimum wage.

Both said they didn’t support New York State’s SAFE gun control act or the Common Core education standards, but while Mr. Zeldin said he opposed both programs in Albany, Mr. Demos frequently pointed out that Mr. Zeldin’s votes in favor of state budgets that funded reforms he didn’t necessarily endorse.

Mr. Demos said he would support a state law that didn’t let teachers go on strike, but Mr. Zeldin said he couldn’t support such a law.

“Public workers who strike should be held accountable,” said Mr. Demos, who added that his mother was a public school teacher. “We can’t have a few bad apples hold the rest of us hostage.”

Mr. Zeldin frequently wondered aloud if Mr. Demos was running for his State Senate seat instead of for Congress.

“It sounds like he’s running for the state assembly or something,” he said. “I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Albany.”

When asked who should be held accountable for substandard Veterans Administration care, Mr. Zeldin pledged to support better care for veterans when they return from combat, and said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki should resign.

“People are giving him bad advice. They need to leave as well,” he adde.

He added that he’d worked in Albany to help veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury.

Mr. Demos said he though not only Gen. Shinseki should have been fired, but Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should have been fired as well.

“Theres a vacuum of leadership in Washington. It starts at the top,” he said. “If you want to hold people accountable, you have to replace a whole lot of people at top of the VA.”

Mr. Demos added that he believes once Obamacare becomes established, the quality of health care across the country would be as bad as it is at the Veterans Administration.

“He finished talking about our veterans in four and a half seconds,” said Mr. Zeldin. “That really speaks volumes.”

The two were also split over whether to extend emergency unemployment benefits.

Mr. Demos said the answer to unemployment is to create jobs, and added that he thought the Obama administration had done a terrible job of helping the country recover from the 2008 economic meltdown.

“I thought the question was about unemployment insurance,” said Mr. Zeldin. “People need to pay their bills so they don’t foreclose on their loans. Some people need a helping hand and unemployment is one way we can give them a start.”

On what to do about Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr. Demos blamed the Russian leader’s goal of  annexing his neighbors on “this president’s horrific foreign policy,” while Mr. Zeldin suggested an expansion of energy production in the United States through hydraulic fracturing in New York and cutting the red tape on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to help reduce the country’s reliance on foreign resources.

Russia is not a one of the most crucial suppliers of oil or gas to the United States.

Mr. Demos has made his opposition to Obamacare a central tenet of his campaign, prompting Mr. Zeldin to ask his opponent what he would say to the 16 million Americans who now have health coverage if he attempts to take their coverage away when elected to Congress.

Mr. Demos said President Obama “cooked the books” on the number of people enrolled in the health care exchanges.

“Millions and millions of Americans lost their insurance and were forced into plans,” he said, adding that Stony Brook University Medical Center recently announced they were not taking Obamacare plans.

Stony Brook has in fact been attempting to work with many of the new plans on the health care exchange.

Mr. Zeldin reminded his opponent that Governor Andrew Cuomo created New York’s health exchange through an executive order without asking permission from the state legislature.

“But you didn’t have to fund it,” said Mr. Demos.

Both candidates said they believed Mr. Bishop had done a terrible job bringing Superstorm Sandy beach nourishment dollars to the First Congressional District, though federal projects in Fire Island and Montauk have been faced with many setbacks that have as much to do with local infighting over the best way to protect the shoreline as they do with acts of Congress.

“This congressman has produced nothing,” said Mr. Zeldin “I think we have bureaucrats down in Washington who care more about piping plover than the people of the South Fork of Long Island. The Montauk Point project is smaller and smaller and all we get are excuses.”

Mr. Zeldin added that he wasn’t sure if Mr. Demos had even heard of the Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation Study before the debate.

“Tim Bishop has got to go,” said Mr. Demos. “I absolutely believe we have to protect the shoreline. We have waste, fraud, abuse and funding that doesn’t get where it needs go go.”

Mr. Demos, who claimed he won the debate and later refused to attend another debate scheduled for Tuesday night in Southampton, posted a full video of Friday’s debate on YouTube here.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

6 thoughts on “Zeldin and Demos Pummel Each Other

  1. Beth, there was never a second debate scheduled. That was a sad trick by Zeldin, who himself never mentioned the event until a few hours before, in an apparent attempt to get his opponent to look bad. Zeldin didn’t tweet or post on Facebook about the debate, and neither did the other guy. Neither mentioned a debate coming up at the end of the first, real debate, either. There was no promotion of it in any of the press, either. It appears nowhere, except in a story the day of — that was suspiciously backdated to the 20th, but shows up nowhere on Google News for that day.

    1. The prior comment is a fraudulent use of my name by Demos or his supporters, which includes Congressman Tim Bishop. Demos knows this is going on and has done nothing to stop it.

      I am the real Maureen Dowling and I run the Independent Sentinel. The fake Maureen Dowling runs the independentSentinal – a typo squatting website – which is illegal by the way. It’s used to write nasty articles about Lee Zeldin. That’s illegal also.

      I am not affiliated with the Zeldin campaign and was a Demos supporter, but I started writing about Demos – pre-Zeldin – when I discovered the investigation about the whistleblower Demos ratted on. Listen to that here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TpztCtamV14

      I discovered along the way that Lee Zeldin is a great candidate. Demos is trying to ruin the Republicans on Long Island for some reason. He comes into the race every two years – for five elections now – and all he does is act as a spoiler.

      Demos has managed to make himself more problematic than the Obamacare-committed Tim Bishop.

      Demos agreed to the debate he is referring to and behaved in a very strange manner over it. It was supposed to take place in The Southampton Full Gospel Church. Listen to what the Pastor said about Demos being a no-show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaD9igGAKj0

      That’s from a Reverend. I find that powerful.

      Demos canceled at the last minute and sent out a most peculiar email on the issue that very day.

      I’m a conservative but would never vote for him after what he did to the whistleblower alone. Who does things like that? After I found out all the details of the whistleblower incident, I heard Demos lie about Zeldin voting for Obamacare and the SAFE Act and taxes. Even before that, he lied about Altschuler and attacked him. He also attacked Chris Cox.

      Here is a summary of what has been going on with him: http://www.independentsentinel.com/amazing-political-story-deceitful-life-of-george-demos/

  2. Mr. Demos,

    You publicly disclose at starting point 38.25 the following:

    “I have been endorsed by the former Attorney General of the United States, Michael Mukasey, himself, the nations highest law enforcement officer.”

    Mr. Muksaey and his law firm Debevoise & Plimpton have not confirmed this endorsement. In an effort to be clear and transparent, would it be possible for you and your campaign to set the record straight as to the validity of this very important and prominent endorsement somewhere on your campaign web page? I clearly see the endorsements from Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Pataki but no endorsement whatsoever from Mr. Mukasey or his law firm, Debevoise & Plimpton? Thank you in advance for your clarity and transparency in regard to this very important and prominent endorsement.



    Thank You,
    Peter Sivere

  3. The Independent Sentinal is just that: Independent. The Sentinel is run by someone called “Sarah Nobel.” Why this woman decided to claim my name as her own, I have NO idea. We’re not tied to any campaign, but the lady — who’s not even a Republican — seems on a crazy witch hunt.

    In any case, please do look into it. All the facts I stated are correct, and I just would like to see the piece accurately reported. There are no names or documentation, and even Zeldin only mentions the debate a few HOURS before. It’s absurd.

    As for why Ms. Nobel decided to suddenly start calling herself by my name, and making crazy claims that I’m funded by Mr. Bishop, I have no idea. For years she was Sarah Nobel, but then I came around and suddenly she starts fraudulently using my name. (And by the way, there are about 60 people in the US at least with the same name. It’s a delusion of grandeur to think you own it or matter.)

    And by the way, I own my own domain name. If it was really your name, wouldn’t you own it? So sad you have no greater ambition in life than to be me. I guess it’s flattering.

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