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Democrat James Gaughran files to challenge GOP Rep. Nick LaLota in 1st Congressional District

By Vera Chinese

Democrat James Gaughran has filed papers with the Federal Elections Commission declaring his candidacy in the 1st Congressional District.

Gaughran, of Northport, is challenging freshman GOP Rep. Nick LaLota of Amityville in the 2024 election. Republican Darrion Stewart has also filed to compete against LaLota in a primary.

Gaughran, a former state senator and former chairman of the Suffolk County Water Authority, said he is motivated to run in part by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2022 that overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

“As I see what's going on here on Long Island and nationally, I decided it's time to step up,” he said Monday. “My daughter now has fewer rights than her mother and grandmothers had.”

Gaughran served in the state Senate from 2019 until 2022 and decided against seeking re-election after his district, which stretched from Glen Cove to Huntington, was redrawn. He was part of a “blue wave” of Democrats who flipped the state Senate in 2018 when he defeated 24-year Republican incumbent Carl Marcellino.

The 1st District spans Suffolk County's North Shore and eastern portion and has traditionally been a swing district, although it has shifted right in recent years.

Sabato’s Crystal Ball of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics rates the district as “likely Republican” for the 2024 race.

In an email to supporters, LaLota said Gaughran "gave his voting card to NYC progressives" during his state Senate tenure and "is unfit to represent our suburban values in Washington."

Rich Schaffer, chairman of the Suffolk County Democratic Committee, said in a statement that Gaughran "has always been an honest, hardworking Democrat who fights to make Long Island a better place to live, work, and raise a family.”

Suffolk County Republican Committee Chairman Jesse Garcia said LaLota has strong local support and stood up to his party by opposing efforts to extend the $10,000 SALT cap for deductions of state and local taxes on federal income tax returns.

“That's courage. That's representing the values of the 1st Congressional District,” Garcia said.

Republicans in November swept all four House seats on Long Island, including two in Nassau that had been in Democratic hands for decades.

Former U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) held the 1st District seat for four terms until his unsuccessful bid for governor in 2022.