NY-01 candidates Bridget Flaming, left, Michelle Bond and Nick LaLota

Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming, the Democratic nominee for New York’s First Congressional District, is leading Republican congressional candidates in fundraising, as the Republicans wage a primary election battle for their party’s nod to run for the seat being vacated by four-term Republican incumbent Rep. Lee Zeldin. Zeldin is the nominee of the Republican and Conservative parties New York governor, seeking to unseat Democratic incumbent Kathy Hochul.

Fleming, a former prosecutor and Southampton Town Councilwoman, has raised a total of about $1.17 million so far and has $516,432 cash on hand, according to financial statements filed for her campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission on July 15. Fleming does not face a primary challenger, after fellow County Legislator Kara Hahn dropped out of the race in May and endorsed Fleming.

On the Republican side, county committee-endorsed Nick LaLota of Amityville, a Navy veteran and the chief of staff to the Suffolk County Legislature, has raised $404,249 and has $326,047 on hand, according to campaign committee filings. He has received donations from the campaign committees of elected officials across Long Island, as well as from the state and Suffolk County Republican committees.

But LaLota faces multiple primary challengers, including one with a bigger campaign war chest: Michelle Bond, a financial advisor and attorney who joined the race last month.

Bond is the CEO of a cryptocurrency trade organization named the Association for Digital Asset Markets, former counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, and former senior counsel to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, according to her Linked-In page.

Bond has received a total of $389,154 in contributions thus far and has a total of $814,096 on hand — including a $600,000 loan Bond made to her campaign committee.

A few other Republicans are still in the race and look to challenge the two fundraising goliaths: Anthony Figliola of East Setauket, a lobbyist and former deputy supervisor of Brookhaven Town, and Cait Corrigan, an anti-vaccine mandate activist. Both currently have less than $10,000 each on hand, according to FEC filings. 

Primary elections for Congress and State Senate are scheduled for Aug. 23.

Both LaLota and Bond present themselves as “America First” candidates, echoing the slogan used by former President Donald Trump. Both candidates push the bread-and-butter issues of the Republican party and have similar views on the economy, inflation, taxes, law enforcement and election integrity.

And both candidates have been at each other’s throats with attack mailings accusing the other of being a fake Republican, with LaLota pointing at Bond’s work as an attorney during the Obama administration and Bond pointing at LaLota’s work as an aide to Democratic Rep. Steve Israel. They also criticize each other for not living in the district, with LaLota pointing at Bond’s Maryland mansion and Bond pointing out that LaLota can’t vote for himself come Election Day because he’s a resident of the Second Congressional District. (LaLota said he will move into the First Congressional District if elected.) 

Suffolk County Republican Committee Chairman Jesse Garcia, who endorsed LaLota, criticized Bond for accepting 83% of her itemized contributions from donors outside of New York State and from registered Democrats. 

“With each day that passes, we’re finding out how deep D.C. lobbyist Michelle Bond’s roots are with the Democrat party,” Garcia said. “We already knew that Bond was a registered Democrat who worked for Obama and donated thousands to anti-Second Amendment, pro-abortion national Democrats,” he said in a July 18 statement. “But today’s FEC report reveals that Bond accepted $61,000 worth of campaign contributions from far-left mega-donors who have helped put radical socialists like Bernie Sanders, Jamaal Bowman, and Ro Khanna in office,” Garcia said.

“Today, I’m calling on all Suffolk Republicans to reject these calculated attempts by Democrats to infiltrate our Republican primaries,” Garcia said. “We Republicans deserve a nominee who is conservative, honest and patriotic. That is why 45 Suffolk County Republican Party and elected officials have endorsed Navy veteran Nick LaLota for Congress. Suffolk voters can trust the Army-Navy team— with Zeldin as Governor and LaLota in Congress,” Garcia said.

LaLota has received endorsements from many local and state Republican elected officials, including State Senator Anthony Palumbo, Assembly Member Jodi Giglio and Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar.

Bond currently has no major elected official endorsement. She did, however, receive the endorsement of the co-founders of the Long Island Loud Majority, the conservative activist group, and appeared on the organization’s podcast on July 18. During the interview she pitched herself as a businesswoman informed about the economy and criticized LaLota for being a career government official.

November’s election will decide control of a U.S. Congress narrowly held by Democrats in both the House of Representatives and Senate. New York lost one congressional seat due to reapportionment this year. The final redistricting map for the First Congressional District, drawn by a court-appointed special master after a lawsuit successfully challenged Democrat-drawn maps, is a swing district split 50-50 between voters for Biden and Trump in the 2020 election, according to the website redistrictingandyou.org, developed by the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: alek@riverheadlocal.com