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Aug 22, 2017 2:56 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Center Moriches Bartender Brendon Henry Considers Bid To Unseat Lee Zeldin

Buckley's Inn Between bartender Brendon Henry is weighing a 2018 congressional bid. KATE RIGA
Aug 23, 2017 7:29 AM

Clinking glasses, Keith Urban’s country crooning and intermingling chatter swell within the dimly lit bar at Buckley’s Inn Between in Hampton Bays. At 9 p.m. on an ordinary Tuesday, it’s a place of escape and release, of laughter and friendship.

These days, it’s also the breeding ground for a congressional bid.

Brendon Henry, a 36-year-old bartender from Center Moriches and a Democrat, whips up an Irish coffee like it’s second nature, pouring the whiskey while bantering with his regulars, adding the cream while he wipes down a spill. One would never know, at first glance, that the seasoned and friendly Buckley’s employee fosters political ambitions and, more specifically, is seriously considering a run for U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin’s seat in the 2018 election.

“A lot of working families out here are struggling, and are upset with how our current administration is handling things,” he said during a recent interview. “I’ve had a lot of people coming up to me in person and online pushing me to do this and to represent the working people of this district.”

Mr. Henry has filed his candidacy with the Federal Election Commission, submitting required paperwork and establishing his campaign committee, though he is still deciding whether or not to run. He anticipates making a public announcement either way within the next few weeks.

“I’m a working person—I have bills, I have a mortgage, I have a son, I have a wife—so I have to weigh these things out, because this is something that you can’t take lightly,” he said of his possible run. “It’s a big commitment.”

Mr. Henry has no political experience, though he earned a political science degree from Long Island University in 2004. Born and bred in Westhampton, he graduated from Westhampton Beach High School in 1998 and has never strayed far from his roots. He now bartends at Southampton’s Publick House in addition to Buckley’s, and helps his wife, Brittany, raise a 5-year-old son.

Mr. Henry also founded the Cabin Fever Music Festival, a concert series offered every February and held in bars and restaurants throughout western Southampton Town. He said he’d turn that responsibility over to others if he decides to make a bid for Congress.

Southampton Town Democratic Committee Chairman Gordon Herr had no comment when asked this week about Mr. Henry’s interest in possibly challenging Mr. Zeldin.

Though he has not yet started raising funds, Mr. Henry suspects that he’ll need tens of thousands of dollars to wage a primary for the Democratic Party nomination next fall. If he makes it that far, Mr. Henry estimates that he’ll need to raise at least $5 million to match Mr. Zeldin’s war chest in the general election.

For now, Mr. Henry is focusing on the first steps.

“We just started our Facebook page up, and it took off, actually,” he said. “In three or four days, there are, like, 700 people on there. I’ve seen people sharing it all over.”

As of Tuesday, August 22, the Facebook page “Brendon Henry for Congress” has garnered 754 likes and many five-star ratings.

One such rating from Kristen Asher-O’Rourke of Hampton Bays sings Mr. Henry praises, both personally and as a potential candidate. “Brendon is a extremely kind, fair person who poses true leadership skills,” she wrote. “He will excel as a congressional leader and be not only a voice for the people, but a listener as well.”

Another Hampton Bays resident, Daniel Spampinato, also lauds Mr. Henry’s character. “[You] couldn’t ask for a more honest, fair, hardworking family man,” he wrote. “I am sure Brendon Henry will work for the people.”

Mr. Henry ultimately wants to convert this energy into action.

“No one asks people things anymore,” he said. “We’re told why we get things. And we want to be more involved with the community—meet people, talk to people, get people involved in democracy.”

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Individual congressman rarely have much sway, they are usually only mouthpieces for their special interests. Mr. Henry could accomplish more by getting active locally, making arguments for or against specific resolutions supported by solid evidence, and communicating them openly. Becoming a community organizer, like Obama did (or more locally, Mr. Bender. Remember him?). The article offers no evidence he has any particular insight or skills, and if Mr. Obama's 8 years in office did nothing to ...more
By Funbeer (272), Southampton on Aug 22, 17 4:08 PM
I agree with Funbeer. I will never disrespect a person for their chosen profession - but what reason do I have to vote for someone who's career, to this point, has been a bartender? There is nothing wrong with being a bartender - they certainly are in-tune with the comings and goings of the local community, but that does little to qualify you to run for office and to represent myself and my fellow tax-payers. His degree is encouraging - but you need to bring a set of skills to Washington. Is ...more
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Aug 22, 17 4:25 PM
"The leader must aim high, see big, judge widely, thus setting himself apart form the ordinary people who debate in narrow confines."

~ Charles de Gaulle
By Mr. Z (11670), North Sea on Aug 22, 17 8:23 PM
1 member liked this comment
And, let's show the NFL - do not turn on a game until after the Anthem has been sung - let them lose their sponsors for the first few minutes of every game - spread the word.

God Bless America - Please!
By HamptonDad (236), Hampton Bays on Aug 22, 17 9:38 PM
Something about the alcohol business that seems to inspire people to challenge Lee Zeldin. First it was a sommelier (since withdrawn), and now a barkeep. Maybe a moonshiner next?

No disrespect, but have to agree with Funbeer and Nature's comments here -- guy has no experience and brings nothing to the table besides his good intentions.

Still, if it came down to Henry and Zeldin, I'd vote for Henry. Hey, I'd vote for almost anyone over Zeldin, but the Dems can't win with just ...more
By fidelis (199), westhampton beach on Aug 22, 17 9:49 PM
2 members liked this comment
Lots of comments on Henry's lack of experience holding public office.

Do we know any other elected federal officeholder who had no prior experience holding public office?

By aging hipster (201), Southampton on Aug 23, 17 7:03 AM
1 member liked this comment
Lee Zeldin?
By Pacman (270), Southampton on Aug 23, 17 6:05 PM
I was thinking of the guy with the bizarre hair style.
By aging hipster (201), Southampton on Aug 24, 17 8:38 AM
2 members liked this comment
Shockingly, all the customers stirred their whiskey in approval
By SlimeAlive (1181), Southampton on Aug 23, 17 8:52 AM
1 member liked this comment
GO for it ! Zeldin has been issuing the Party talking points and has thrown his hat into the ring with the science denying liar and buffoon in office now
By lo-cal (77), southampton on Aug 24, 17 11:10 AM
It would be a very long shot for someone with no political experience to run against a politically very well connected incumbent. I agree with an earlier comment that gaining experience on a community level would be a better way to enter politics.
By dbneh (1), East Hampton on Aug 24, 17 12:33 PM
Zeldin's first run was for Congress. With absolutely no experience in politics. Kudos to him for that. He lost. He ran for State Senate next and won. Not what's considered a small time position. Again, kudos to him. He then went right to Congress. Henry has no political experience. And that's why he's going to win. Not only does political experience not matter anymore, it's now a detriment. Newcomers with ambition, care, integrity and honesty are the future of government.
By Bgtconsulting (2), Westhampton Beach on Aug 24, 17 9:32 PM
1 member liked this comment
Interesting BGT Consulting is speaking of integrity. Also for a guy who's for the "working families". As a WHB Trustee you can't even come clean on the cost and effect of the WHB sewer system on the taxpayers of this community- the people who voted for U. Time to come clean BGT. Time to talk the talk and walk the walk.
By realistic (468), westhampton on Sep 1, 17 10:51 AM
The idea that being heavily connected to party politics is the only way to win is what is wrong with this country. I'm sure that this is going to be an uphill battle for Mr. Henry, but I applaud his interest in entering the arena and I hope that as many people that have an interest in serving the people do the same.
By reddistrictliberal (5), Westhampton Beach on Aug 24, 17 2:09 PM
2 members liked this comment
Batch of know it alls , disrespecting a hard working middle class family man before you even heard him speak or his ideas ....Get em Brendan , a lot of us have faith in you and eagerly anticipating what your going to lay out for the working middle class of eastern Long Island .
By patrick61 (18), Hampton Bays on Aug 26, 17 3:28 PM
Seriously The fact that our President in office Trump is a bubbling idiot with no experience says to the voters anyone can run for office. Zeldin is a idiot Trump Lackey Dump him for anyone with any brain matter. !
By 1percent (52), Quogue on Aug 28, 17 11:10 AM
Love it when people call someone something, and can't even get the insulting term correct. Speaking of bumbling (not bubbling, LOL) idiots, you do realize that short of a few months as a Senator Obama himself had no experience short of some community agitating. Then we have Tim Bishop who as Provost had some responsibility with the bankrupting Southampton College and zero political experience before being elected. Do you think Bishop was a lackey for Obama? He sure was.
By Mr. Snerdley (397), Southampton on Aug 28, 17 12:19 PM
2 members liked this comment
This doofus is banking on the drunks he serves at the bar and randoms from high school 20 years ago to vote for him. Get real bro.
By slickrick77 (1), Westhampton on Aug 30, 17 12:00 AM
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