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Jul 25, 2017 1:15 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Thiele, Others Consider Challenging Zeldin In 2018

Assemblyman Fred Thiele considers a 2018 bid against incumbent Representative Zeldin for New York's 1st district congressional seat.
Jul 25, 2017 2:41 PM

Fresh from a two-day trip where he met with members of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington, D.C., State Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. said this week that he is seriously considering a challenge of Republican incumbent U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin in next year’s race for the 1st District seat.

The DCCC’s invitation last week was especially notable, given that Mr. Thiele is a registered member of the Independence Party, and not a Democrat. The meetings did not sway him to consider changing his party registration, however.

“I would welcome [the DCCC’s] endorsement, but I will not change my party registration,” Mr. Thiele said in a phone interview on Friday. “I’m an independent, and I’m going to stay an independent.”

At the same time, Mr. Thiele—who would have to make the choice of running in November 2018 for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives or for another term in the State Assembly—said he did not get the impression that his party affiliation would stop the DCCC, and its extensive fundraising capabilities, from supporting his congressional campaign if he opts to run.

“If I’m endorsed by the Democrats, I think all of that [funding] would follow,” Mr. Thiele said. “My sense of it is, if I do my job, they’ll be there to help.”

While on Capitol Hill, Mr. Thiele said he met with many DCCC staffers, including the recruitment chairman, U.S. Representative Denny Heck of the state of Washington. Mr. Heck did not immediately return a call about his meeting with Mr. Thiele.

Mr. Thiele said he does not expect to make a final decision about his political future until sometime after Labor Day and Columbus Day, however. In the interim, he said he is contemplating many things, including his effectiveness in Albany and the current environment in Washington, D.C., and a President Donald Trump-lead White House.

“I enjoy being in the State Assembly,” Mr. Thiele said. “It’s a job that I feel I’m effective at and where I’m able to accomplish things, and it is something that I’m comfortable with …

“But when I look at the congressional race now, after 2016, I see the direction of the country, and I see that Congress is more partisan than ever,” he continued. “The approval rating of Congress is down to single digits. I see issues that I care about, like the environment and public education and health care, headed in the wrong decision, or worse—that there are problems in those areas and nothing is happening.”

That said, Mr. Thiele is not the only person interested in possibly challenging Mr. Zeldin in fall 2018. Earlier this year, former Suffolk County Legislator Vivian Viloria-Fisher, a Democrat from East Setauket, announced her intention to seek the Democratic nomination to run against the congressman. Ms. Viloria-Fisher served as deputy presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature for half of her 12-year term, which ended in December 2011 when she was term-limited out.

Another potential candidate who has stuck her toe in the water is Suffolk County Legislator Kate Browning of Mastic, who, just last month, switched her registration from the Working Families Party to the Democratic Party. Ms. Browning is completing her sixth and final term as county legislator this year, meaning she will be unable to seek reelection to her current post in November.

“I have been asked [to run] and I will consider it, but I haven’t made a decision yet,” Ms. Browning said on Monday. “I am term-limited, and I would have that year to focus on that race. I think it’s important, looking at the political climate and how vulnerable [Mr. Zeldin] is.”

Mr. Thiele stressed that his final decision about whether to challenge Mr. Zeldin depends on the rest of the field. He said he wants to avoid another Democratic Party primary, as happened in 2016, when former Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst first had to fend off a challenge by Dave Calone, a Democrat who had the support of party members who opposed the decision to back a longtime member of the Independence Party.

In his specific case, Mr. Thiele said he would not want to be in a position where he would have to battle Ms. Browning for the right to challenge Mr. Zeldin next fall—and that feeling appears to be mutual.

“I have a lot of respect for Fred Thiele,” Ms. Browning said. “I’ve worked very well and very closely with him, so I’m hoping [that], at the end, there’s one candidate to focus on for an election against Lee Zeldin.”

Other potential Democratic Party candidates include: Perry Gorshon of East Hampton, a chief investment officer at Jefferies LoanCore LLC, who has raised $100,000 in campaign funds to challenge Mr. Zeldin and intends to formally announce his candidacy later this summer; and Elaine DiMasi, a physicist with the Brookhaven National Laboratory who lives in Ronkonkoma. She also intends to announce her candidacy later this summer.

Hannah Selinger, a sommelier from Sag Harbor and a columnist for The Press, has suspended her campaign after failing to raise the requisite $5,000 to file with the Federal Election Committee. “I wish the best of luck to whoever runs,” she said on Friday.

Jennifer DiSiena, Mr. Zeldin’s director of communications, said the congressman is not worrying about potential challengers whom he could be facing 16 months from today. “Congressman Zeldin’s focus is on securing more victories to improve our community, state and nation,” she said. “That is the work that got him reelected last November with almost 60 percent of the vote in one of the nation’s most competitive races.”

During last week’s visit to Washington, D.C., Mr. Thiele said he also met with several other members of Congress who represent New York. “For me, it was like an Assembly alumni meeting—there were a number of people that I’d served with,” he said. “It was amazing how many members of the State Assembly move up to Congress. They were very encouraging.”

Mr. Thiele said that the meetings were productive and gave him a chance to see how the Washington insiders viewed the upcoming race, especially in the light of the 2016 presidential upset, when Donald Trump was propelled to an electoral victory against most predictions and polling.

“They put this seat, out of 465, in their Top 50 of most competitive seats,” Mr. Thiele said, referring to DCCC staffers. “On the other hand, a year ago, it might have been in their Top 10.”

Additionally, Mr. Thiele said he does not think he’d fall victim to the damage that befell Mr. Zeldin’s last challenger, Ms. Throne-Holst, who switched her longtime party affiliation from Independence Party to Democrat just prior to entering the campaign. Mr. Zeldin handily defeated Ms. Throne-Holst in November 2016, receiving 59 percent of all ballots cast, to win reelection for the first time.

“Times have changed a little bit, and I think that the condition the country has moved in over the last six months has focused the attention of Democrat and independent voters to join forces and work together,” Mr. Thiele said. “There are always people to whom the labels are the most important, but I think that among Democrats and independents, there is a unity of belief that we need to change the direction of the country that will minimize the tribal differences that creep into politics.”

Between now and the end of summer, Mr. Thiele said he intends to gauge how much support he has before committing to making a run for the 1st District seat.

“It’s important to me to stand in front of every post office, every 7-Eleven, every shopping center and listen to what people have to say,” he said. “I get to learn by listening to people, and people get to learn a little bit about me and what my career has been about, what I’ve worked on, what I think it important.

“And if those two things meld together,” he continued, “it makes for a successful campaign.”

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Zeldin has not done a damn thing that would warrant him being fired.
By even flow (801), East Hampton on Jul 25, 17 3:37 PM
2 members liked this comment
That's it. Keep those bars low, America.
By June Bug (2193), SOUTHAMPTON on Jul 25, 17 5:01 PM
3 members liked this comment
The bar hit the floor in 2009
By 27dan (2494), Shinnecock Hills on Jul 25, 17 6:15 PM
1 member liked this comment
Zeldin has not done a damn thing that would warrant him being fired... No, but Sessions has... The only reason Hillary was not prosecuted was it was believed that not prosecuting her was the price paid to avoid a deep state coup attempt. Since the coup attempt has continued anyway there's no reason to protect the Clintons or any other former Democrats of the former government. The fact that Sessions is still clinging to protecting the Clintons despite her obviously breaking the "deal" is the reason ...more
By joe hampton (3213), The Hamptons on Jul 25, 17 6:26 PM
1 member liked this comment
Where do you find such idiocy to repeat? Jaysus.
By June Bug (2193), SOUTHAMPTON on Jul 25, 17 6:34 PM
2 members liked this comment
America knows you smarmy liberals hate them. Good luck earning their vote.
By even flow (801), East Hampton on Jul 25, 17 6:46 PM
joe and his conspiracy theories.
By Mr. Z (10649), North Sea on Jul 25, 17 8:19 PM
Zeldin has not done a damn thing. That would warrant him being fired.

Fixed the punctuation for you, even.
By VOS (1126), WHB on Jul 26, 17 4:31 AM
Typical liberal. Takes my original, brilliant work, copies it, screws it up and thinks he is the clever one. Smh.
By even flow (801), East Hampton on Jul 26, 17 6:40 AM
2 members liked this comment
Actually I am not sure you have. The correct use of a restrictive clause is
"Zeldin has not done a damn thing that would have warranted his being fired" Use the possessive case before a gerund.
By ILOONI (11), CUTCHOGUE on Jul 27, 17 11:38 AM
1 member liked this comment
Do any of these folks work or are they just always running for office?
By HB Proud (887), Hampton Bays on Jul 25, 17 3:59 PM
1 member liked this comment
The Senate passed Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s motion to proceed on the upper chamber’s healthcare reform bills Tuesday, a move that will allow senators to vote on both the 2015 Obamacare repeal bill and the leadership’s healthcare reform legislation. If either bill ultimately passes, it will repeal large sections of Obamacare.

Have a nice day Mets
By 27dan (2494), Shinnecock Hills on Jul 25, 17 6:21 PM
1 member liked this comment
After several failed attempts to pass something, Mitch McConnell finally managed to pass a " motion to proceed" on a bill that not even the Senators of his own party had any idea what they were going to vote on until the last minute. Attesting to the motion's popularity was that they had to fly in Senator McCain, recovering rom brain surgery and diagnosed with cancer, to pass the motion. About the bill, the Senator dully noted he would not vote to pass it under its current form. Further attesting ...more
By Toma Noku (616), Southampton on Jul 25, 17 7:51 PM
1 member liked this comment
The only measure of the orange cheetoh is whether you have better coverage for less money. Part of his really great, great plan. Gee, this stuff is really complicated. MRGA!!! Making Russia Great Again!!!
By Mets fan (1272), Southampton on Jul 26, 17 7:32 AM
You start every day with a hate crime or just today?
By SlimeAlive (1015), Southampton on Jul 26, 17 8:10 AM
Making Russia Great Again! Great political speech to the Boy Scouts. Lowest of the low talking about himself. I guess when nothing is getting done that he promised, bring Obama and Hillary into it. What a low-life! The scouts are a non-political organization, but you wouldn't expect the child-liar-in-chief to know that. The lesson is stay in school or else you make incoherent speeches like the orange orangutan.
By Mets fan (1272), Southampton on Jul 26, 17 8:42 AM
1 member liked this comment
I'm not sure how old you are but I'm 100% positive that this is the first time in your life you ever gave 2 thoughts to the boy scouts. That's because your media controls your thoughts.
By SlimeAlive (1015), Southampton on Jul 26, 17 9:05 AM
What does that mean? I know stupid when I hear it. Blame the media for Trump's incoherent and inappropriate speech. Sounds like a real whimpering snowflake to me.
By Mets fan (1272), Southampton on Jul 27, 17 11:33 AM
2 year terms are ridiculous. 6 months of work followed by 18 months of campaigning.
By Mouthampton (409), Southampton on Jul 25, 17 11:03 PM
DC Rocked: FBI Reportedly Investigating Smashed Hard Drives from Wasserman Schultz’s Pakistani IT Worker’s Home

The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) is reportedly investigating several smashed hard drives seized from the home of two Pakistan-born brothers who worked as IT workers for former DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz
By 27dan (2494), Shinnecock Hills on Jul 26, 17 9:16 AM
Why did he smash them when he could have just " wiped them with a cloth" ?
By Ditch Bum (606), Water Mill on Jul 26, 17 9:21 AM
The Russia thing has always been about creating a smoke screen, to hide all the real crimes of the last administration.

Obama, Hillary and the rest of the team nearly destroyed this nation.

I will always back up Trump. Trust no Democrat or Rino Republican, they are ALL IN ON IT TOGETHER.

This is a HUGE development and goes very deep.

By 27dan (2494), Shinnecock Hills on Jul 26, 17 9:24 AM
Just what we need, an idiot like Thiele to "represent" us in D.C. I guess his record of helping his friends qualifies him for office just as he has used his office to benefit his legal practice. Oh and he can deny it but I have been in the room when he has done both with other government entities. He's a crook who's used his elected office for personal gain. Perfect for the DNC.
By Preliator Lives (315), Obamavillie on Jul 26, 17 12:52 PM
The Democrat Party is irrelevant in national politics , don't quit your day job Fred!
By bigfresh (3850), north sea on Jul 27, 17 1:53 PM
Nothing from TB. Tells me this story is dog poop.
By Draggerman (835), Southampton on Jul 30, 17 11:02 PM
Gosh, so many anonymous couch jockeys, big/bad talking. All I can add is that the guy lives modestly down the street from me, raised his kids locally and his voting record reflects the needs of his constituents, Job 1.The tenor of the day is to put down people on the internet as a default. Not very promising.
By TimNichols (7), on Jul 31, 17 6:30 PM
And while the on going WH circus continues, the Honorable Lee (sic) cosponsors a bill to erase the First Amendment. He and others from the NY delegation are sponsoring a bill (S. 720/H.R. 1697) making it a felony to criticize or advocate for boycotts of Israeli products proving once again he puts Zionist interests ahead of the United States and our Constitution.
By bird (735), Sag Harbor on Aug 1, 17 1:18 AM
1 member liked this comment
Israel Anti-Boycott Act

"...a law that would make it a felony for Americans to support the international boycott against Israel, which was launched in protest of that country’s decades-old occupation of Palestine. The two primary sponsors of the bill are Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Rob Portman of Ohio. Perhaps the most shocking aspect is the punishment: Anyone guilty of violating the prohibitions will face a minimum civil penalty of $250,000 and a maximum criminal ...more
By Mr. Z (10649), North Sea on Aug 1, 17 5:44 AM
That bill will never pass
By bigfresh (3850), north sea on Aug 1, 17 5:46 AM
Don't kid yourself Big Fresh, the power of Zionist money on Congress is strong. This assault on the Constitution already has 46 cosponsors in the Senate including both NY Senators and 249 in the House, 17 of which are from NY. My guess is the sponsors thought this would be a good time to sneak it thru while everyone is watching the circus at the White House. Please notice there is absolutely no news coverage of this.
By bird (735), Sag Harbor on Aug 1, 17 11:33 AM
Well bird, I guess you were more comfortable when the Muslim Brotherhood was involved with the Obama administration....
By Biba (494), East Hampton on Aug 2, 17 12:28 PM
1 member liked this comment
Really? In which of my posts did you read that?
By bird (735), Sag Harbor on Aug 2, 17 1:18 PM
1 member liked this comment
Hmmmmmmm...

Set the health care record straight: Republicans helped craft Obamacare
Ross K. Baker, Professor of political science at Rutgers University
Aug. 1, 2017


The Senate has rejected a measure to repeal parts of former President Barack Obama's health law, dealing a serious blow to President Donald Trump and the GOP agenda. The final vote was 51-49. (July 28) AP

A final vote isn't the whole story. It's like researching your ancestry and going no further ...more
By Mr. Z (10649), North Sea on Aug 2, 17 12:13 AM