Nick LaLota defeats two challengers to win GOP primary; race set for 1st Congressional District

Nick LaLota, a former Suffolk County Board of Elections commissioner, defeated two challengers to win the Republican primary for the 1st Congressional District.

The win in an unusual late August election sets the stage for November’s general election, where Mr. LaLota, 44, will face Democrat Bridget Fleming for the seat in the House of Representatives that will be vacated by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley).

Mr. LaLota defeated Michelle Bond, 46, of Port Jefferson, and Anthony Figliola, 42, of East Setauket. Mr. LaLota gathered with about 60 supporters at the Portuguese American Center of Suffolk in Farmingville Tuesday evening. He took the stage to declare victory shortly after 10:30 p.m. The Associated Press called the race at 10:39 p.m.

Unofficial results from the Suffolk County Board of Elections showed Mr. LaLota with 46.9% of the votes with only a handful of districts left to report. Ms. Bond was second with 27.7% and Mr. Figliola was third with 25%. At that time, Mr. LaLota had 12,271 votes compared to 7,222 for Ms. Bond and 6,549 for Mr. Figliola.

The Suffolk County GOP endorsed Mr. LaLota as its candidate in February and it appeared it would be the Democrats heading toward a primary, but the Navy veteran still found himself in a three-way primary.

Mr. LaLota, a former trustee in the Village of Amityville, doesn’t live in the 1st District, but he has said he plans to move if elected. The Constitution requires that members of the House of Representatives live in the state they represent when elected, but not necessarily in the same district.

Ms. Bond, a cryptocurrency trader, only joined the race in June. She pitched herself as “the only MAGA-endorsed candidate” who was “running to restore President Trump’s America First agenda in Congress.” The three candidates at times were vying against each other to see who can be the most pro-Trump.

Mr. Figliola is executive vice president of a government relations firm and was previously deputy supervisor in Brookhaven Town had been campaigning since January.

Despite entering the race late, Ms. Bond made a big push by raising $1.1 million, according to federal campaign records. Mr. LaLota, meanwhile, raised just over $484,000.

Speaking to supporters Tuesday night, Mr. LaLota said Mr. Figliola “put his heart into this and deserves your applause,” while adding that Ms. Bond tried to buy the election.

“Long Island is not for sale,” he said.

Mr. LaLota has been an advocate for voter ID in New York, saying on his website that fraud by impersonation at a polling place is “relatively easy in New York.” There’s been no evidence of widespread voter fraud in New York. Opponents argue a voter ID requirement would disenfranchise voters.

He’s cited health care, economic issues related to inflation and crime as key issues.

“I’m going to work my tail off just like I did for the last six months for the next 11 weeks to make my cause to the voters of Suffolk County that my candidacy and the parties that I’m endorsed by are the best parties to have solutions to the problems that Long Island faces,” Mr. LaLota told News12 after declaring victory.

Supporters of Mr. LaLota at the Portuguese American Center of Suffolk in Farmingville Tuesday night. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Ms. Fleming, the Suffolk County Legislator and former Southampton Town councilwoman, lost a 2020 primary for the Democratic nod, which went to Nancy Goroff. Ms. Fleming didn’t wait long to jump back into the race for 2022, announcing her candidacy in May 2021. She was the first Democrat to announce and ended up securing the nomination without the need for a primary after several other challengers eventually dropped from the race.

Jackie Gordon had announced her intention to run in the 1st District in February, but will now be seeking to represent the 2nd District. The original redistricting maps Democrats outlined landed her in the 1st District, but those maps were later redrawn by a New York state court.

Ms. Fleming emerged as the party’s candidate in mid-May after Legislator Kara Hahn dropped her own campaign.

As polls opened Tuesday morning, Ms. Fleming criticized the candidates in the GOP primary for all “fanning the flames of extremes.”

“They’re anti-choice, they’re against common sense solutions to our gun violence epidemic & they want to shut down American prosperity for all but the very few,” she wrote on Twitter.

Mr. Zeldin, the four-term congressman in the 1st District, won a GOP primary in June to secure the party’s nomination for governor. He will challenge Democrat Kathy Hochul for the top position in the state that has been a Democratic stronghold in recent elections. George Pataki was the last Republican governor.

Mr. Zeldin won the 1st District in 2020 by nearly 10 points. The Republican candidate would appear to maintain a slight advantage, even after redistricting. The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan political newsletter that analyzes races, lists the 1st District among the competitive races and “lean Republican.” The political website FiveThirtyEight has the Republican as “favored” to win in its projection model.

Tuesday marked the second primary election in New York in the past two months. State and local primaries were held June 28, while the Congressional and state Senate elections were pushed back to the later date. The primaries Tuesday would have been held in June as well, but a court ruling the redrawn maps as unconstitutional forced the date to be pushed back.