Representative Lee Zeldin won a third term in Congress Tuesday, defeating challenger Perry Gershon 52 percent to 46 percent.
A Republican running with Conservative and Independence Party endorsements, Zeldin, 38, beat back a challenge by political newcomer and East Hampton businessman Gershon, winning 130,919 votes to his opponent’s 115,795, according to unofficial results from the Suffolk County Board of Elections.
“This race offered a clear contrast of results or resistance,” Zeldin told the packed house at Stereo Garden in Patchogue late Tuesday night. “We were campaigning on results and that is what won at the end of the day,” the congressman said.
“We chose results over resistance.”
Zeldin, a lifelong Suffolk County resident who grew up in Shirley and resides there with his wife and twin daughters, characterized his opponent as a carpetbagger from New York City whose views did not line up with constituents in the eastern Suffolk district. Zeldin tagged Gershon as “Park Avenue Perry” as soon as Gershon emerged the winner of a five-way Democratic primary in June.
Democrat Gershon, 56, hammered the Republican incumbent for his allegiance to President Trump and his agenda.
Trump won NY-01 by 12 points in 2016, 54.5 percent to Hillary Clinton’s 42.2 percent. The district was projected to be a likely Republican win this year.
Suffolk Republican Party Chairman John Jay LaValle, reminding the party faithful that then-candidate Trump “stood on this very stage in 2016,” last night doubled down on his party’s support for Trump.
“I stand with our president every day of the week because he stands with you,” LaValle told the cheering crowd. “I don’t care how he says it, I care what he does. I don’t care what he says. I care what he does. He’s getting the job done and that’s what counts for America,” the chairman said.
Zeldin, a state senator who rose to federal office in the previous midterm election, last night pointed to “an economy that’s surging, national security that’s strengthening… MS-13 being defeated, our borders being made more secure, ISIS being defeated and moving the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem” as accomplishments of the Trump administration.
“But our country needs to do a much better job uniting,” Zeldin said. “In our country, we encourage disagreement. We encourage debate. That’s the American way. But we also need to ensure that our scores are being settled at the ballot box,” he said.
“I can’t be all things to all people, but our county needs to do a better job coming together — for the sake of our community, our state and our country,” Zeldin said.
“Now we have some important work ahead,” Zeldin said. “Let’s get it done.”
When he returns to Washington to be seated in the 116th Congress in January, Zeldin will be working as a minority member of the House for the first time since taking office in 2015. Democrats picked up enough seats to win control of the House of Representatives in Tuesday’s voting. Congress itself is now divided, with the Senate remaining in Republican control.
Zeldin’s Democratic challenger told his supporters late Tuesday night that control of the House “means we are going to put a check on this president.”
Speaking at a union hall in Hauppauge where Suffolk Democrats set up their election night headquarters, Gershon emphasized the importance of moving forward and unifying the party.
“It’s not the outcome we wanted,” Gershon said in his concession speech, “but we all fought hard together.”
He challenged the victorious Zeldin to “fight to protect all of us to get the SALT cap repealed,” referring to the limit imposed on property tax deductions allowed under the 2017 tax reform act.
“Let’s see if he votes the right way with the Democrats,” Gershon said. “We’re going to put a bill on the floor to repeal the SALT cap and let’s see Lee Zeldin stand up for all of us.”
Zeldin voted against the tax reform act last year, breaking with his party because of the SALT deduction limit.
‘No blue wave in Suffolk County’
“There was no blue wave in Suffolk County tonight,” Republican leader LaValle said of the election results last night.
Suffolk Republicans re-elected county clerk Judith Pascale, county comptroller John Kennedy, State Senator Ken LaValle, and Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo. They also elected two new assembly members, Michael LiPetri, who defeated incumbent Democrat Christine Pellegrino in the ninth assembly district and Joseph De Stefano, who won an open seat in the third assembly district.
But Democrats re-elected all but one of their incumbent assembly members, including South Fork Assemblyman Fred Thiele, who won his district with 60 percent of the vote.
Statewide, Democrats prevailed with the re-election of U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and the election of State Attorney General Letitia James.
Yesterday’s election put control of the State Senate firmly in the hands of Democrats, who wrested power from Senate Republicans for the first time in a decade. Democrats have only controlled the senate chamber for two years in the last half-century, in 2009 and 2010. After yesterday’s election, Senate Democrats appear to have won 39 seats in the 63-member body.