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Meet the candidates running for local state, federal offices

Election Day is Tuesday and early voting is already under way in Suffolk County. We put together brief profiles of each of the local candidates for Congress and the State Legislature.

Read about each of the races, see additional coverage and watch the candidates in recent forums below.

Goroff vs. Zeldin for Congress

Two candidates are vying to represent the 1st Congressional District in the House of Representatives. The winner will serve a two-year term.

Nancy Goroff

Nancy Goroff

Hamlet: Stony Brook

Party lines: Democratic, Working Families

About her: Ms. Goroff, 52, is running for public office for the first time. She won a primary against three challengers to become the Democratic nominee. A scientist, Ms. Goroff had been the chair of the chemistry department at Stony Brook University. She said as the department chair, she ran a 300-person department with a multi-million budget. In her research lab, she said she had to come up with innovative research ideas and pitch the ideas to gain support. She would be the first female Ph.D. scientist ever elected to Congress.

She’s lived in the district for 23 years where she raised her two daughters.

Her pitch: Ms. Goroff said her background in science will be vital to helping lead the country out of the pandemic and to address the growing threat of climate change. She said the pandemic requires a national plan and elected officials must also address underlying health equity problems exposed during the pandemic. She said she opposes defunding the police and that addressing systemic inequities should be done by investing in public education, public housing and public health resources in addition to police reforms.

In her words: “I got in this race because I want our kids to live in a world where the government is actually trying to make people’s lives better and policy decisions are based on facts and reality. I was so frustrated and infuriated at politicians willingness to ignore the facts and ignore the evidence on issue after issue.”

Lee Zeldin

Lee Zeldin

Hamlet: Shirley

Party lines: Republican, Conservative, Independence

About him: Mr. Zeldin, 40, is seeing his fourth term as congressman for the 1st Congressional District. He was born and raised in the district and currently lives with his wife and two daughters close to where he grew up. He served four years in active duty in the U.S. Army and has spent the past 13 years in the Army Reserve, attaining the rank of lieutenant colonel. In Congress, he serves on the House Committee on Financial Services and House Committee on Foreign Affairs. He is also co-chairman of the House Republican Israel Caucus, co-chair of the Long Island Sound Caucus and founding member of the National Estuary Caucus in addition to being a member of 40 other caucuses.

His pitch: Mr. Zeldin said growing the economy, ending the pandemic, strengthening national security, improving health care and supporting law enforcement are all key issues. A vocal supporter of President Trump, Mr. Zeldin said his recent accomplishments including securing personal protective equipment and medical supplies like ventilators for Suffolk County during the height of the pandemic in April. He said a “huge win” was the announcement earlier this year that the U.S. Department of Energy will fund construction of a $2 billion electron-ion collider at Brookhaven National Lab in Upton. He said the country is at a “crossroads” and said one-party Democratic rule in New York City and Albany has not been effective.

In his words: “I’m ranked the 12th most bipartisan congressman n America and I’ll work with anyone to find common ground however possible.”

Watch Candidate events

Prior coverage

Zeldin, Goroff clash on a number of issues in online debate

Congressional candidates speak on environmental issues ahead of election


Palumbo vs. Ahearn for State Senate

Two candidates are running for the 1st District State Senate post being vacated by longtime incumbent Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who is retiring after 44 years. The district covers the entire East End as well as parts of eastern Brookhaven Town.

Anthony Palumbo

Anthony Palumbo

Hamlet: New Suffolk

Party lines: Republican, Conservative

About him: Mr. Palumbo, 50, is an attorney and former prosecutor who has been an assemblyman since 2013. He said he had never been involved in politics before that. 

His pitch: Mr. Palumbo feels the COVID-19 pandemic has created a crisis that should be dealt with, and that the way to dealt with it this is to “smartly” reopen small business so they can operate safely without burdensome state regulations. He supports adding a half-percent real estate transfer tax that would go toward affordable housing. Mr. Palumbo is opposed to the New York State Health Act, and says it won’t work if the state tries to enact it on its own and would put rural hospitals out of business.

Mr. Palumbo opposes the repeal of a law known as 50-a, which shields of officers’ disciplinary records from being made public. 

He also feels the state’s recent criminal justice reform measures were done without input from all stakeholders, such as from law enforcement and judges.

His words: “So our problem has always been a spending problem in New York. When the governor first took office, the budget was around $90 billion – with a ‘B.’ Now it’s $178 billion last year.”

Laura Ahearn

Hamlet: Port Jefferson

Party lines: Democratic, Protect the Taxpayer

Laura Ahearn

About her: Ms. Ahearn, 56, is an attorney, a social worker, a “military mom,” the wife of a retired Suffolk police officer and is the executive director of the nonprofit Crime Victims Center, which operates under contract with governments.

“For nearly 25 years, I have fought to keep us safe and have provided services to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, gang violence, human trafficking, hate crime, elderly veterans and disabled victims of crimes.”

Her pitch: Ms. Ahearn said the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on people’s lives and the economy. She said federal relief is needed and she would join the Long Island delegation to strengthen their voice and fight for the area’s fair share in Albany.

Ms. Ahearn said tax revenues are down in all levels of government.

She doesn’t think the records of police officers should be made public if allegations against the officer are unsubstantiated, but she does support the release of substantiated claims, in reference to the 50-a repeal. 

As far as the state’s criminal justice reforms, she feels that “some of that legislation was absolutely needed.” 

Ms. Ahearn also supports a half-percent real estate transfer tax that would go toward affordable housing. On health insurance, she feels “health care is an absolute human right, but that it should be done on the federal level so it’s the same in all 50 states.” The New York Health Act, she said, “is never going to pass.”

In her words: “I am a fighter and I am an independent.”

Watch Candidate events

Prior coverage

Palumbo, Ahearn vying to fill vacated seat held by LaValle

Senate candidates Ahearn, Palumbo share environmental positions at forum


Giglio, Jens-Smith and Van Helmond vie for Assembly

Three candidates will be running for the 2nd District State Assembly seat, which covers the North Fork and parts of Brookhaven Town. They are running for the seat being vacated by incumbent Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), who is running for the State Senate seat left open by the retirement of longtime Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson.) 

Jodi Giglio

Hamlet: Baiting Hollow

Jodi Giglio

Party lines: Republican, Conservative, Independence

About her: Ms. Giglio, 53, has been elected to five two-year terms on the Riverhead Town Board and cannot run again due to term limits. She owns a land use and construction business and is running on a pro-business platform.

Since she’s been on the Town Board, over 2,000 acres of farmland have been preserved, as have several pieces of open space, she said. 

She does not support defunding the police, and favors “giving police the tools they need.”

Her pitch: “I am solution-oriented and very well-versed on the issues that are happening in Albany right now,” Ms. Giglio said. Balancing the budget is the biggest hurdle that Albany has to worry about right now, she said, adding that she would be very focused on that.

In her words: “My experience in environmental issues, water quality and infrastructure make me qualified to work in the state legislature,” Ms. Giglio said. “I have experience and knowledge of what’s happing today.” 

Laura Jens-Smith

Hamlet: Laurel

Party lines: Democratic, Working Families

About her: Ms. Jens-Smith, 57, is a former Riverhead Town supervisor who served two years on the board with Ms. Giglio. She was the first female supervisor in the town’s history. Prior to that, she was a registered nurse for most of her career and she also served six years on the Mattituck-Cut-ch-ogue Board of Education, including two as board president.

Laura Jens-Smith

Her pitch: She said she has experience with budgets and added that when she took office, as town supervisor, she put $4 million back into town reserves and obtained more than $5 million in grants. 

She said she took advantage of low interest rates to refinance town bonds at lower rates. 

In her words: Ms. Jens-Smith feels affordability is a top issue in the state. “We know so many people whose kids leave after we educate them,” she said. “It became too expensive to live here.”

William Van Helmond

Hamlet: Jamesport

Party lines: Libertarian

About him: Mr. Van Helmond, 57, owns a landscape and property management company and is a former president of the Greater Jamesport Civic Association. 

William Van Helmond

He has been involved in numerous other non-profit civic organizations such as the Mattituck Lions Club, EPCAL Watch, the North Fork Chamber of Commerce, the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce and the North Fork Promotional Council. 

He ran for Riverhead Town Council in 2019 on the Libertarian line and finished last. 

His pitch: “There should be no more closed door meetings or vested interests involved in decision-making,” he said. He wants to give people a choice beyond the two major parties and bring more accountability into government.

In his words: “As a Libertarian candidate, I am not part of the two-party system that has been in control of our state and nation for over 100 years. And they basically blame each for all that’s wrong with government, and it really accomplishes nothing.”

Prior coverage

Three candidates for State Assembly discuss key issues