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Feb 4, 2016 3:31 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Congressional Hopefuls Skewer Zeldin, Trumpet Progressive Agenda

Democratic congressional hopefuls Anna Throne-Holst and David Calone met for their first head-to-head debate in Amagansett on Wednesday night. MRW
Feb 9, 2016 3:04 PM

The race for this fall’s congressional election hit full stride on the East End this past week, as the two Democrats in line to challenge U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin in November met face to face for the first time in Amagansett on Wednesday, throwing roundhouse punches at Mr. Zeldin and waving the flag of environmental protection as the priority of both challengers.

Democratic primary candidates Anna Throne-Holst and David Calone set a thoroughly progressive tone for the campaign in laying out their stances on national issues, and each touted their own accomplishments in environmental protection and economic advancement for local residents.

Stimulating economic development locally while aggressively pressing efforts to restore water quality in local bays and ponds were at the fore of the Democrats’ local to-do list, while combating corruptive corporate influence in national politics, advancing gun control, and applying a thoughtful and strategic approach to foreign affairs topped the broader issues the pair discussed.

The Democrats also each excoriated—even mocked—the freshman Republican congressman whom one of them will face in the general election as a “right-wing zealot,” and characterized him as a Tea Party foot soldier who is more interested in national political posturing than on the concerns of East End residents.

“It’s so frustrating to see what the Tea Party Republicans are doing to our country … and the worst part of it is, our congressman is at the head of the parade,” Mr. Calone, a private equity investment banker, Harvard Law School grad and former chairman of the Suffolk County Planning Commission, said in one of several shots at the incumbent.

“He’s not focusing on growing the Long Island economy. He’s on Fox News all the time talking tough—how about working tough for the people of Long Island all the time? How about focusing on how we’re going to get housing here so our kids don’t have to leave? Be an advocate for our economy, for our housing needs. Lee Zeldin isn’t focusing on any of those.”

Mr. Calone’s more immediate opponent, Ms. Throne-Holst, was equally as hard on Mr. Zeldin’s voting record and work in his first year in the House of Representatives, calling him “the gift that keeps on giving,” for his stridently conservative stance on most issues.

“We have a member of Congress who is a climate change denier—and we live on Long Island,” Ms. Throne-Holst, the former three-term Southampton Town supervisor, said incredulously before the crowd of about 50 gathered in St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Amagansett.

She said that in the year she served as Southampton Town supervisor while Mr. Zeldin, a resident of Shirley, was in office, she never had a direct communication with the congressman, contrasting it to the active relationship the town had with his predecessor, Tim Bishop, a Southampton native. “Mr. Zeldin has completely ignored the fact that local government can’t operate without a federal representative. If you have a representative in Congress that is not bringing taxpayer dollars back, he is failing.”

Both candidates pointed to some of Mr. Zeldin’s stances on national issues, like votes to de-fund Planned Parenthood and support for budget proposals cutting funding of Pell Grants, which provide student loans for college kids. They also referred, several times, to a story in the New York Post recently, claiming that Mr. Zeldin missed nearly two-thirds of the meetings of the House Foreign Policy Committee, of which he is a member, while frequently appearing on news shows to criticize American policy on the Iran nuclear deal and the country’s efforts to contain ISIS.

The two Democrats were cordial, even complimentary, to each other throughout the two-hour debate, and neither ever challenged a claim made by their primary opponent or even trumpeted the superiority of their own achievements in comparison to the other’s.

Mr. Calone pointed to his years of work on the Suffolk County Planning Commission, which included a vote that ultimately derailed the broadly unpopular “555” apartment complex proposal in Amagansett, leading to a deal to preserve the land, and his role in the establishment of an agriculture subsidy program, in partnership with the Peconic Land Trust to help young farmers pay for capital costs of expanding or starting a new farm.

“We stopped what was proposed at the ‘555’ property, and I was proud to fight that fight with many of you,” he said, looking into an audience that included Democratic East Hampton Town Board members, all of whom have endorsed Mr. Calone. The Suffolk County Planning Commission’s rejection of the proposed 80-unit apartment complex forced a supermajority vote to approve the plan, which fell short, with two Democratic board members voting against it. Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, who cast one of those “no” votes, said after the debate that the derailing of the project and the ultimate preservation of the land never would have been possible without Mr. Calone’s involvement.

Mr. Calone also touted his role as a founding board member of Patriot Bootcamp, a program that helps military veterans start technology businesses, and his work with the Planning Commission on renewable energy programs to give incentives for solar-panel projects.

“We need a representative in Congress who understands that we need to … protect our environment,” and local waters, he said. “They are our most precious resource.”

Ms. Throne-Holst recalled her history of resurrecting the Bridgehampton Child Care Center from financial and operational ruin, and, while Southampton Town supervisor, of slashing costs and waste and restoring the town’s finances from multimillion-dollar deficits.

“When you run not-for-profits, you know you’ve got to squeeze every cent out of every dollar,” she said. “We cut millions in wasteful expenditures. We put in environmental policies that had never been seen in Southampton. We started the most aggressive land preservation program the town had ever seen.”

Ms. Throne-Holst nodded to Southampton’s preservation of 1,300 acres of land during her tenure, a ban on single-use plastic bags, and her leading role in the creation of the New York State Center for Water Quality Technology, a research center founded this year at Stony Brook University focusing on developing affordable residential septic treatment technology and water quality improvement strategies, which is now headed by her former deputy chief of staff, Jennifer Garvey.

“It’s creating jobs, it’s creating education opportunities, it’s at the forefront of our environmental and economic well-being here, and it also is creating a product that will have application worldwide,” Ms. Throne-Holst said of the technology center. “When you are leading in Washington, you have to understand what it is like to lead locally,” she added, also noting the two hurricanes that struck the region while she was supervisor, in perhaps the evening’s only subtle contrasting of the primary opponents’ different resumes.

In response to a question from the East Hampton Democratic Party, which sponsored the debate, both candidates called for an East End that is more energy efficient and reliant on renewable energy sources.

“We are on the front lines of climate change,” Mr. Calone said. “We need to be sure that we are a leader in renewable energy. It’s critically important that we move away from the diesel generators here on the South Fork.”

Ms. Throne-Holst said that the South Fork should be looking toward a future in which it could be entirely energy independent through the proliferation of wind and solar power sources. “We have wind and sun like no one else,” she said. “We don’t need LIPA—LIPA has led us down the wrong road from the very beginning.”

Both Democrats also touted their centrist-liberal stances on national issues like gun-control, campaign financing, corporate political influence and terrorism.

On the issue of gun control, Mr. Calone said that stringent controls on the sale of assault weapons and expanded background checks for gun buyers would be top priorities.

“The problem in our country is that we’ve allowed the gun lobby to control our Congress,” he said, highlighting Republican Party efforts to slow gun control efforts. “I will stand up to the NRA. Gun safety is about national security. It’s about being safe in our schools, being safe at work—for God sakes, those people were at a holiday party,” he added, referring to the recent shooting in San Bernardino, California.

Ms. Throne-Holst said that guns should be looked at like viruses, some of which cause substantial health concerns.

“We need to treat the issue of gun safety as a public health issue—we need to bring it to the public like a public health crisis,” she said, saying that public exploration of factual statistics of gun violence could reframe the debate from the vague and emotional Second Amendment arguments the NRA has made the battleground. “For any of us raising kids today, we worry that they won’t come back from school at the end of the day, we worry that we can’t go to the movie theater, we worry that we can’t go to a public place.”

Building on the influence of the gun lobby, the candidates called for extensive campaign finance reform. Ms. Throne-Holst, whose fund-raising prowess has been a highlight of her previous campaigns, said that the country should be striving for a system similar to that in other countries, where campaigns are entirely publicly funded and financial contributions are prohibited. “We need to take the money out of it,” she said.

“We need a member of Congress that recognizes corporate influence is skewing our economy,” Mr. Calone added. “Corporations are not people, period.”

To combat the growing income inequality nationwide, the Democrats called for better free access to education and job skills training and increases in the minimum wage.

“Our country doesn’t succeed unless we give people the tools they need to make the most of their god-given abilities,” said Mr. Calone, who is on the board of directors of United Way of Long Island.

Ms. Throne-Holst said that a top national priority should be universal free day care and free pre-K education. “The costs of putting that in place is mitigated by the social costs that are so much higher when kids are not given access to quality education,” she said, calling for reform of the way schools are funded to remove inequality in poor neighborhoods, boost government support of community colleges and raise the minimum wage. “If you’re not making $15 an hour, you are going to take advantage of social services that will cost us more.”

Voting in the Democratic primary will take place on June 28.

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Anna blaming everyone else again...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Feb 4, 16 4:32 PM
1 member liked this comment
" I will just go right back at him with my track record.” Anna if you want to win I wouldn't do that.
By GoldenBoy (351), EastEnd on Feb 4, 16 4:57 PM
1 member liked this comment
Lee Zealot. I like it. I like it a lot.
By Brandon Quinn (191), Hampton Bays on Feb 4, 16 7:37 PM
Good luck ATH - welcome to the big leagues. if you were smart you would back out now
By farmlocal (83), Southampton on Feb 4, 16 7:38 PM
1 member liked this comment
The last thing we need is another liberal in Congress, especially one "representing" us! Lee will trounce either of these light weights.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Feb 4, 16 8:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
David Calone has the breadth of experience to oppose Lee Zeldin effectively and the cool to deal with his negative attacks. Anna Throne-Holst is right to anticipate that Zeldin will take the low road, but she has not demonstrated the temperament to withstand such tactics. I would not give much for her chances against Lee Zeldin.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Feb 4, 16 9:38 PM
1 member liked this comment
After the Obama sycophantic Tim Bishop, the East End is finally getting some common sense, pragmatic leadership with Lee Zeldin. Wake up citizens....the liberal, progressive socialist agenda is a disaster. What more proof is needed?
By BillWillConn3 (180), Southampton on Feb 4, 16 10:07 PM
3 members liked this comment
Simply put we need local representation. Though Mr Calone seems to be a smart guy, the north shore and western Suffolk will benefit from his election. People have certain feelings about ATH on this website, but she lives here and has a lot more government experience that Mr Calone. I don't think that today there are any candidates in any election that are the clear choice, however look where you live and vote for the person that will do their best locally. We have a lot of issues here on the east ...more
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Feb 5, 16 7:48 AM
The people on this website have certain, definitely not uncertain feelings about Anna and her anti-progressive policies, especially her pro developer, pro PDDs and anti-environment and anti-clean water policies that all of us know and she ain't fooling the locals with her usual tomfoolery.

Her crucifixion of Bridget Fleming, the only Democrat and Progressive on the Town Board was not a mirage. Just ask Bridget who called working with Anna a novocaine free root canal procedure every day. ...more
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Feb 5, 16 8:44 AM
2 members liked this comment
Anna Throne-Holst, Licensed Real Estate Sales Associate: We're going to call her for the next house we buy. We can trust anything she tells us about the home and neighborhood, yes. I hear she is showing Mike a few large tracts of land and Bob some property near the Shinnecocks.
By FiddlerCrab (96), Westhampton Beach on Feb 5, 16 9:38 AM
It boggles the mind that anyone who works for a living would consider voting for the Democrat Party in a national election
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Feb 5, 16 8:25 PM
1 member liked this comment
It boggles the mind that anyone who works for a living would consider voting for the Democrat Party in a national election
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Feb 5, 16 8:25 PM
This primary contest is not about looking back but about looking forward. Both candidates have fine records but looking ahead, the question is, which will be the better candidate and the better member of Congress?

I've attended probably more Town Board meetings than anyone who isn't paid to go. I can tell you that Anna Throne-Holst is easily rattled, is given to bickering, is not open to compromise, and most of all, she is never wrong -- not ever.

That's not what we need in the ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Feb 6, 16 10:16 PM
It's disturbing that we are having a Democrat debate when fifty percent of the candidates are not Democrats. Shame on the Southampton Democratic Party and it's leaders like Gordon Herr and George Lynch for selling out our Town and our party to these phony Independence people like Anna Throne Holst. They gave us her instead of supporting and running Real Democrats. Now they start supporting a real Democrat like David Calone but only after they gave away our Town and allowed a True Democrat Bridget ...more
By CleanWaters (80), Southampton on Feb 7, 16 7:38 AM
Allow me to quote "Turkey Bridge" regarding ATH's political affiliation. It's pretty clear.
No, Anna Throne-Holst is a member of the Independence Party who was endorsed by the Democrats when she ran for supervisor in 2009." Apr 2, 11 9:43 PM"

Although, Mr Lynch is definitely in Mr. Calones corner.
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Feb 8, 16 8:07 PM
None of these Dem hopefuls stand a chance against Lee Zeldin, who consistently appears twice weekly on FNC & FBN and is quickly gaining national recognition and acclaim. (try and top THAT kind of exposure). The only people that don't care for him are the Dem core base.
By Zorro (66), Southampton on Feb 7, 16 10:06 PM
1 member liked this comment
I'm not sure ATH understands the job description.

And its amazing to me that Turkey Bridge is throwing her to the wolves.

By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Feb 8, 16 7:08 PM
1 member liked this comment

I think you will find that George bit the bullet on more than one occasion concerning the late lamented departed Supervisor. And on more than one comment here he made clear he was less than satisfied with her on certain issues.

As for Congressman Zeldin, he rides his military background and clearly enjoys the foreign policy realm. Whether that is good for the district or not remains to be seen. I recall Tom Downey was a regular on a number of news shows back in his day ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Feb 8, 16 9:04 PM
1 member liked this comment

All interesting points. One thing we can agree on. Anna is wasting her Million Dollars...I doubt she will even show.

Lee has been very vocal on his agenda, no doubt. I truly believe he is in Washington because he wants to make a difference. He asked for the job of our Rep for the right reasons.

You are most likely correct. The Presidential race will determine the House. Unless all of the first time Bernie fanatics decide to only vote for "The Bern". I'm not sure ...more
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Feb 12, 16 7:34 PM
Congratulations Bernie you killed the witch


TRUMP 2016 !!!
By They call me (2826), southampton on Feb 9, 16 10:42 AM
Feel the Bern !
By local 84 (353), riverhead on Feb 9, 16 5:36 PM
Get Berned
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Feb 14, 16 10:14 PM