Incumbent set to reclaim seat in 1st Congressional District

Incumbent Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin ran for reelection, competing against Democrat Nancy Goroff for New York’s 1st Congressional district. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Congress.

Though New York is an overwhelmingly blue state, especially in presidential elections, New York’s First Congressional District has had a Republican representative since 2014. According to the live updates from The Associated Press, Lee Zeldin has 61.3 percent of the votes in the district over challenger Nancy Goroff. 

District 1 encompasses Suffolk County, on the eastern-most tip of Long Island. It has a population of 713,000 people, of which more than 531,000 people are registered to vote, according to the NY Board of Elections. According to Census data from 2019, the district is 86 percent white, and 18 percent is of Hispanic descent. Blacks, Asians, and Native-Americans make up 9 percent of the district’s population. It is also a relatively wealthy district, with a median household income that is $25,000 above the state median. The split between Democrats and Republicans in the county is also razor sharp, with approximately 153,000 active registered Democrats and 158,300 active registered Republicans. There are also approximately 130,500 active independent voters. 

Suffolk County was labeled by Ballotpedia as being one of the 206 “Pivot Counties”, which are counties that voted for Barack Obama in 2012 but then pivoted to vote for Donald Trump in 2016. The current Republican representative, Lee Zeldin, defeated a ten year Democratic incumbent in 2014. Zeldin is a 40-year old Army veteran who served a tour in Iraq and then came back home and opened a law firm. Zeldin ran in 2014 on a platform of lowering taxes and followed through on that platform by cutting property taxes and payroll taxes for the MTA. 

Following his 2014 victory, Zeldin has fended off two different Democratic candidates, all while aligning himself closer and closer to Trump. He appeared on Fox News multiple times praising the president’s various policies such as negotiating prisoners from North Korea and pulling out of the Iran deal and reinstating sanctions. Zeldin also now has a seat on the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee which he has used to pursue pro-veteran and pro-Israel policies. Using his legal knowledge, Zeldin became part of President Trump’s Impeachment defense team, defending the President’s conduct with Ukraine. 

Zeldin’s opponent this year is Nancy Goroff, a Harvard graduate with a degree in chemistry. Goroff is a 53 year old professor who received awards in 2011 and 2013 for her chemistry work with polymers at Stony Brook University.  Being that she is a scientist herself, Goroff’s platform heavily focused on the need for a return to listening to scientific advice, both on climate change and the coronavirus. She advocates for police reform, but made it very clear in a debate held between the two candidates via Zoom, that she does not support “defunding the police.”

It was necessary for her to make this distinction because Zeldin and his campaign ran ads claiming that Goroff called police officers “dangerous,”  labelling her a “radical professor” who “refused to condemn looters and rioters.” These are some of the same lines that President Trump has been using against his opponent, Joe Biden. Goroff stood behind her positions, insisting that more can be done to make people in non-white communities feel safe around the police.  

Goroff ran on a platform to expand Medicaid and Medicare, noting that her opponent was one of the very few New York representatives to vote for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act in the House. Goroff supports a public option for health insurance, similar to Joe Biden. In many ways, the election in District 1 is a mirror of the presidential election we are facing this year. On one hand, there is a moderate Democrat appealing for a return to ‘normalcy’ and ‘civility,’ while advocating for science, expanded healthcare and measured police reform, on the other hand, a Republican who stands firmly against the ACA, as well as police and tax reform. 

The race in District 1 will likely be a good representation of how moderate whites in America are feeling about the political discourse in America today, given the district’s demographics. According to a Pew Research Center Poll, an estimated 62 percent of white men and 47 percent of white women voted for Trump in 2016, and District 1, a majority-white district, was one of several to be flipped by Trump. Currently, in the presidential election President Trump has 214 electoral votes compared to 253 electoral votes for Biden. Results have not been finalized and ballots are still being taken into account at this time.