The two candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for the First Congressional District seat in a primary argued over who has better job creation ideas during a debate held by the Southold Democratic Club Tuesday night at Southold High School.
Former Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst of Bridgehampton and former Suffolk County Planning Commission chairman David Calone of East Setauket are both looking to challenge incumbent Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin of Shirley in the fall.
Mr. Zeldin won the seat in 2014, defeating longtime incumbent Democratic Tim Bishop of Southampton.
Mr. Calone is an attorney and CEO of Jove Equity Partners LLC, a venture capital firm that helps start and build technology companies. He served on the Suffolk County Planning Commission from 2008 to 2015 and was its chairman for several years.
Ms. Throne-Holst’s four-year tenure as Southampton Town Supervisor ended in 2015. She also served as a town councilwoman for two years prior and is a former executive director of the Bridgehampton Child Care Center. Ms. Throne-Holst is also a founder of the Hayground School in Bridgehampton.
Both candidates agreed on a number of the issues during Tuesday’s debate, such as a $15 an hour federal minimum wage, which Mr. Calone feels should be indexed to inflation; plans for a legal path to citizenship; funding for Planned Parenthood; and taking climate change concerns seriously.
Unlike an earlier debate they had in Amagensett, there was a little more disagreement between the candidates this time around, particularly on a question about how to create skilled, high paying jobs.
“It’s very important to understand what the economy in this community — in this district — is built on,” Ms. Throne-Holst said. “This economy is built on agriculture and the service industry, the healthcare industry and, yes, tourism, second-home ownership and the environment. And if we don’t support and build that job base, we are letting down what is the basis of us in economy here.”
She pointed out that as supervisor, “We put some revitalization and economic development plans in place in one of the most economically distressed communities in Southampton: the Flanders Riverside area.”
Mr. Calone said he created the Long Island Emerging Technologies Fund, which has helped ten companies get start-up funding in the past two years. These are companies that came from research facilities, including Brookhaven National Lab, Stony Brook University and Cold Spring Harbor labs, he said.
He also was involved in a program that helped young farmers get money for equipment in order to expand or start farms on Long Island, he said.
Ms. Throne-Holst said that while Mr. Calone talks of high-tech jobs, she questioned how many people actually work in that industry.
“We need to make sure the service industry and the healthcare industry are supported,” she said.
Mr. Calone said he’s been a leader in developing aquaculture companies, too.
Ms. Throne-Holst said she was involved in the creation of the state’s Clean Water and Technology Center in Stony Brook University, which attempts to address nitrogen pollution in groundwater and surface water.
In order to win back the seat held by Mr. Zeldin, Ms. Throne-Holst said: “We’re going to need a candidate that can beat him…And I’m the only candidate here that has run and won in four elections, and defeated Republicans.”
Ms. Throne-Holst said she’s also the only candidate to have served in elected office, where, she says, she cut spending and debt and helped improve the town’s bond rating.
“We need a candidate who has actually gotten the job done,” she said.
Ms. Throne-Holst said she’s been supported by U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, former Congressman Tim Bishop and former Congressman Steve Israel.
Mr. Calone said he’s been a federal prosecutor who fought corporate fraud and worked with foreign governments to fight international crime and terrorism. He also said he’s helped jumpstart numerous businesses and has served on the Suffolk County Planning Commission, which has developed guidelines for solar and wind power installation.
In addition, Mr. Calone said he’s helped start a non-profit called Patriot Boot Camp, which supports veterans to start technology companies.
Mr. Calone pointed out that he’s backed by the Long Island Environmental Voters Forum and that all of the elected Democrats Ms. Throne-Holst served with on the Southampton Town Board are supporting him, not her, for Congress.
The Long Island Environmental Voters Forum criticized Ms. Throne-Holst on its website for her “support for high-density development in water-sensitive parts of Southampton Town.”
Ms. Throne-Holst said the Long Island Environmental Voters Forum “has gone astray” and is being supported by Caithness, a company looking to build a large power plant in Yaphank.
Mr. Calone said he’s been a Democrat all his life, and believes in Democratic principals, whereas Ms. Throne-Holst was registered with the Independence party before she ran for Congress and changed her enrollment to Democrat.
The primary is June 28.
Photo: Former Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and former Suffolk County Planning Commission chairman David Calone at Tuesday’s debate at Southold High School. (Credit: Tim Gannon)