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OpinionColumnistsMark Chiusano

For NY congressional races, 2020 already

Buckle up. Congressional candidates are already fundraising and campaigning in our backyard. 

Buckle up. Congressional candidates are already fundraising and

Buckle up. Congressional candidates are already fundraising and campaigning in our backyard.  Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

Voting citizens of the New York area are a little more than 12 months from making their way to polling places for the next congressional primaries. That hasn’t stopped some campaigns in competitive districts from getting started. 2020: here already.

Take New York’s 1st Congressional District in Suffolk County, where Republican Lee Zeldin withstood a 2018 blue wave challenge from Democratic businessman Perry Gershon, who lost by around 4 percentage points.

Zeldin, one of two Jewish Republicans in the House, has been a vocal ally of President Donald Trump and a commonly viral tweeter -- like this week when he led the charge defending Trump’s hard-line immigration adviser Stephen Miller. (Miller has been quoted as saying “I would be happy if not a single refugee foot ever again touched America’s soil” in the White House tell-all “Team of Vipers.”)

Positions like that have Democrats eyeing another chance at Zeldin in what has historically been a swing, if conservative-leaning, district.

Gershon, a newcomer to Long Island who was criticized during the 2018 race for having homes in both East Hampton and Manhattan, announced over the weekend that he’ll give it another shot in 2020.

Emily’s List and 314 Action, political groups that support women and scientist candidates (respectively) are also looking at Stony Brook chemistry professor Nancy Goroff, who is considering a run and plans to announce her decision by July.

On Staten Island, Rep. Max Rose has been doing some of the usual bipartisan and local initiatives that befit a freshman Democrat who stunned a Republican stalwart in NYC’s most conservative House district. See the push along with GOP fixture Rep. Pete King for more Homeland Security funding, and the testimony to the House Armed Services Committee about inadequate support for Staten Island veterans. Of course, he's also fundraising for 2020.

But that hasn’t stopped Republican Assemb. Nicole Malliotakis from filing a statement of candidacy and racking up campaign funds herself. She's held fundraisers in Bay Ridge, Staten Island, and the Russian Tea Room in Manhattan. 

Malliotakis lost soundly to Bill de Blasio in the 2017 mayoral contest but she more than doubled his total in Staten Island, which covers much of the 11th Congressional District.

Her campaign spokesman Rob Ryan says a focus will be on the “rise of socialism,” including telling her story about her mother fleeing Cuba after Fidel Castro's government confiscated the family’s gas stations.

Ryan compared this version of socialism to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s, she of the Democratic Socialists of America and the Green New Deal.

Yes, most everything political these days comes back to AOC. It seems unlikely that there will be a clamoring of opponents braving a run against the Bronx/Queens representative who has become a national superstar. Of course, establishment types are happy to grumble ahead of time: “I didn’t get the sense that she is interested in playing well with others,” one anonymous labor leader told Politico for a piece about AOC as tradition-defier.

Other NYC primaries are more certain, like in the Bronx where Rep. Jose Serrano Sr. is vacating his seat due to illness.

Even Michael Grimm is making noises about a comeback despite his federal conviction and loss in last year’s Republican primary on Staten Island.

More announcements are sure to come this summer along with more active fundraising appeals and campaigns.

And it’s only spring 2019.

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