U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Andrew Bossi

Suffolk County Republican Party leadership has thrown its support behind Nick LaLota of Amityville, Presiding Officer Kevin McCaffrey’s chief of staff, for the First Congressional District seat being vacated by incumbent Rep. Lee Zeldin, who is running for governor.

According to an email sent Monday evening by Suffolk County Republican Committee Chairperson to Republican committee members, the Republican Party executive committee unanimously selected LaLota as the GOP candidate for the seat.

In the email, a copy of which was obtained by RiverheadLOCAL, Garcia said the Suffolk Conservative Party committee has also unanimously selected LaLota as its nominee in NY-1. Garcia asked committee members to unite behind LaLota.

The Suffolk County Republican Committee is holding its convention Friday.

LaLota lives outside the First Congressional District, despite its new westward reach into the Town of Babylon following the state’s redistricting process. The law does not require a representative to live within the district. However, LaLota said in an interview today, if elected, he and his family will move into the district.

LaLota is a former Village of Amityville trustee and former Suffolk County Commissioner of Elections. He was the Republican Party candidate for the New York’s 8th State Senate District in 2020, but his candidacy was derailed by a legal challenge and court decision ruling him ineligible to seek office as a sitting elections commissioner, notwithstanding a leave of absence from that post.

LaLota said in an interview today he is confident that he can represent the far-flung First Congressional District, which, as redrawn, now includes parts of all 10 Suffolk towns — plus a portion of the Town of Oyster Bay in Nassau County. His experience as a county election commissioner familiarized him with East End issues as well as issues affecting mid-Suffolk, he said.

Neither the Suffolk County Republican Committee Chairperson Jesse Garcia nor the Suffolk County Conservative Committee Chairperson Michael Torres could be reached for comment before publication of this article.

There are three other declared Republican candidates in the congressional race, Robert Cornicelli of St. James, Anthony Figliola of East Setauket and Edward Moore Jr. Of the three, only Cornicelli has done any significant fundraising, according to the Federal Elections Commission website. As of Dec. 31, his campaign committee had just over $79,000 cash on hand. Figliola had $7,800 in his campaign account and Moore had not filed any campaign finance reports with the FEC.

County Democratic Committee will not pick a candidate

The Democratic nominee will be determined by voters in the June 28 party primary, according to Suffolk County Democratic Committee Chairperson Rich Schaffer.

There are currently three active Democratic candidates in the running: Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming of Noyack, Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn of Setauket and former Babylon Town Council Member Jackie Gordon of Copiague. Two other Democratic candidates, John Atkinson and Nicholas Antonucci have withdrawn from the race, and another, Austin Smith, does not appear to have an active campaign.

Schaffer said in an interview this morning the county Democratic committee will not endorse any of the candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in the NY-01 race.

“We want to have an open and fair process,” Schaffer said in an interview today. “We’re printing the petitions. It’s up to the committee people to decide whose petitions to carry,” Schaffer said. “I’ve encouraged the town leaders to let their committee people choose on their own,” he said.

Schaffer has personally endorsed Fleming, who he came out in support of on the day she announced.

Schaffer, who is Babylon town supervisor, served on the town board with Gordon. She was running for the Second Congressional District seat until redistricting put her Copiague home in the First Congressional District. She announced earlier this month she would seek the Democratic nomination in NY-01 instead.

As of Dec. 31, Fleming was leading the Democratic field both in total receipts and in cash on hand, with $50,000 more than Hahn in her campaign war chest, according to the Federal Elections Commission website. Fleming had $386,911 cash on hand, and Hahn had $333,751 in the bank. Gordon had $97,385 cash on hand as of that date.

Correction: This story originally misidentified Anthony Figliola’s hamlet of residence. He lives in East Setauket, not St. James.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.