By Andrew Wroblewski
Candidates are jockeying to fill the congressional seat that will be left behind by Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), who announced Tuesday he will not seek re-election in November.
Suffolk County Democratic Chairman Richard Schaffer, who said Wednesday he was as “shocked as anybody” to learn of Israel’s decision, said several candidates, including some with heavy ties to the Town of Huntington, have contacted him to say they are interested in running for the Third Congressional District seat, which serves the entirety of Huntington, other portions of Suffolk, and parts of Nassau and Queens.
Suffolk legislators William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) and Steven Stern (D-Dix Hills) both confirmed they are considering becoming candidates for the position.
Spencer said he believes he has “worked hard in a short period of time” to produce a record of “bipartisan success. I do think that I would be a good candidate and, for me, it would be a matter of working with my family… and working with the party leadership.”
Stern said Israel will be “sorely missed,” and that he’s “strongly considering” filling the seat.
Israel worked with Stern last year to propose federal legislation that would provide housing for homeless veterans. The federal legislation would be an extension of Stern’s “Housing Our Homeless Heroes Act,” which was passed in Suffolk in 2014. “That would continue to be a priority of mine,” Stern said.
Huntington Supervisor Petrone has been asked to consider running and that he is going to “think about it,” Huntington town spokesman A.J. Carter said in an email Wednesday.
Mark Cuthbertson, who has been a Huntington Town councilman for 18 years and served on the town board with Israel from 1998-2001, said he is considering a run as well.
“I’ve had a number of people approach me about it and… it’s definitely something I’m thinking about,” Cuthbertson said.
Schaffer named included councilwomen Susan Berland and Tracey Edwards as other potential candidates, though Edwards said in a phone interview she wasn’t interested. Berland did not return a call seeking comment.
Having spoken with Nassau Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs, Schaffer said there are also several Nassau Democrats interested in the seat. They include former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi; Assemblyman Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove); Nassau County Interim Finance Authority Chairman Jon Kaiman; and North Hempstead Councilwoman Anna Kaplan.
Schaffer also named Robert Zimmerman, a member of the Democratic National Committee, as a potential candidate.
“We’re going to give everybody an opportunity to come in, talk to us and tell us why he or she should be the candidate,” Schaffer said, adding that candidates from Queens will also be considered. “We’ll work quickly on a candidate that we can all agree on, and, if not, then we’ll let them go the primary route.”
He said a Democratic primary would be held June 28.
On the Republican front, state Assemblymen Chad Lupinacci (R-South Huntington) and Andrew Raia (R-East Northport) both said they are also considering a run.
Lupinacci said in a statement he is “strongly considering entering the race” after receiving “numerous” encouraging phone calls from community leaders.
“They believe that it is time to bring prosperity back to Long Island and preserve our quality of life, and are confident that my record of proven results will make a positive impact in the United States House of Representatives,” Lupinacci stated.
Raia, who called Israel “a great public servant,” said he is “seriously looking at” running for his seat.
“Being in the minority in the Assembly, you learn how you can be a very effective, and smarter, legislator because it takes that much more effort to get your legislative agenda through, and to get your voice heard,” Raia said. “To be part of the congressional majority in Washington would certainly open up a whole new avenue.”
Suffolk Legislator Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said Thursday that he is also interested in running for the seat. “I think it’s a great opportunity,” he said.
Suffolk County Republican Chairman John Jay LaValle could not be reached before deadline, but, according to a report in Newsday, he has named Huntington Councilman Eugene Cook, an Independence Party member, as a potential candidate.
Cook said he was “flattered,” but had not yet spoken to LaValle as of Wednesday evening. Trotta did not respond to a request seeking comment.
Manhasset Republican David Gurfein, a retired marine and former Goldman Sachs associate, announced his candidacy on Wednesday.
Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) is also considering a run.