Former CNN Anchor and Retired Professor Vie for Democratic Nomination in Crucial NY District

Former CNN Anchor and Retired Professor Vie for Democratic Nomination in Crucial Ny District

A former CNN anchor and a retired chemistry professor are competing in a Democratic primary to oppose U.S. Rep. Nick LaLota in an eastern Long Island congressional district that has been held by Republicans for the past decade.

John Avlon, a veteran political analyst at CNN, is running against Nancy Goroff, a Stony Brook University professor emeritus who was the Democratic candidate for the district in 2020 but lost by nearly 10 points.

This year, Democrats have prioritized the suburban New York City seat in their attempt to recapture the House majority. It is one of several districts in the solidly Democratic states of New York and California that are viewed as critical to their prospects.

The contest could turn on personality and voters’ perceptions of which candidate gives Democrats the best chance of winning. Their ideological perspectives are so similar that a local newspaper, The East Hampton Star, headlined their story about a recent debate between them as “Avlon and Goroff Debate, Largely Agree.” Many Democrats, including local authorities and existing members of Congress, have thrown their support behind Avlon as a fresh face with a higher chance of unseating Republican incumbent LaLota.

“Republicans didn’t think they’d have to fight in this district,” Avlon explained in an interview. “They didn’t think they’d have a real fight on their hands and now they do.”

However, Goroff refuses to give up. According to federal records, she lent $1.2 million to her own campaign. Her allies have also attempted to target Avlon for his early professional employment as a speechwriter in Rudy Giuliani’s office while he was mayor of New York City.

She believes a Democrat can win the district, which extends from the sandy Hamptons on the eastern tip of Long Island more than 80 miles west to the outer ring of commuter suburbs east of New York City.

“I think it’s very much purple and we are working to make sure that in this district, we activate people who want to see someone who’s working hard,” Goroff said during a recent interview. “Whether they’re Democrats or Republicans, they’re looking for someone willing to do the work.”

The question that remains after the June 25 primary is whether a Democrat can regain the seat from a Republican.

President Joe Biden narrowly won the seat in 2020, but Democratic state lawmakers altered its borders earlier this year to make it somewhat more Republican, potentially giving other Democrats on the island a greater chance of winning their contests.

Goroff, who lost her 2020 election campaign to then-U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, helped form an advocacy group that organizes around politically charged school board contests. Her campaign claims she helped defeat 20 right-wing candidates.

Avalon is best recognized for his work as a CNN commentator, although he also served as an editor for The Daily Beast, an online news site. He also founded the moderate political group No Labels and wrote books about political polarization.

Both Democrats support abortion rights and warn against what a Republican-controlled federal government could do to restrict women’s reproductive rights more widely. Their accusations of LaLota are similar, with the freshman congressman portrayed as excessively submissive to Donald Trump and more concerned with political stardom than getting legislation passed.

Both candidates cite a variety of reasons for Republicans’ success in recent elections on Long Island, which has been open to conservative candidates. Their arguments include low Democratic turnout, the strength of specific candidates, and voter concerns about crime in New York City spreading to the suburbs.

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LaLota made the following statement: “While they fight to see who can appease the far left the most, I’m focused on putting results over rhetoric and fighting for the community I grew up in.”

The recent special election in a congressional district previously represented by George Santos, which encompasses parts of the New York City borough of Queens and northern Long Island, was an exception to the Republicans’ success. In that campaign, Democrat Tom Suozzi, a well-known political personality in the area, defeated a lesser-known Republican named Mazi Philip. He did so in part by conducting a centrist campaign, something Democrats aim to emulate in other suburban elections this year.

Avlon seeks to replicate the winning formula. He frequently discusses how Democrats must attract moderates and independent votes, as well as some Republicans who have become dissatisfied with the GOP under Trump.

“There’s a reason I’m running as a common sense Democrat,” remarked the senator. “In any swing district, the candidate and the party who seizes the center will win.”

Ed Cox, chairman of the New York Republican Party, said it will be difficult for a Democrat to win on the island this year, particularly in this district, which has shifted to the GOP over the last decade and has a more Republican-friendly configuration following redistricting.

“Long Island is once again a Republican bastion,” he told me.


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