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New district lines shake up field

Rita Ciolli

New congressional district lines drawn by New York Democrats are already shaking up one race on Long Island.

Former State Sen. James Gaughran, who previously said that he would drop out if he lost his base of support in Huntington Town, announced Tuesday afternoon that he would not seek the Democratic nomination in the First Congressional District.

While the new map only moved a few of Huntington’s election districts west to CD3 and kept Gaughran’s East Northport residence in CD1, he told The Point, “They gutted my support.” Gaughran urged the remaining prime Democrats, Nancy Goroff and John Avlon, to rally around one person. “I was hoping they could work something out. The district is now more Republican, all the more reason why a primary should be avoided,” he said.

But it doesn’t seem as if there will be a kumbaya moment among Suffolk Democrats, at least not yet. Late Tuesday, Gaughran said he will be supporting Avlon.

“Voters have the right to choose their candidate in a primary and their representative in the general. I welcome anyone to this race who is ready to join the fight to beat Nick LaLota in November,” said Goroff in a statement to The Point.

Avlon, the journalist and former CNN political commentator from Sag Harbor who jumped into the race last week, said he is pressing forward. “I am in it to win it,” he said.

“The new lines increase the argument for my candidacy,” he told The Point, contending that as a centrist he has the best chance of drawing Republicans and independent voters. “Nancy Goroff already had a shot and the results speak for themselves,” he said. Goroff, the former chair of the chemistry department at Stony Brook University, lost to Republican Lee Zeldin in 2020 by almost 10 points. Attorney Craig Herskowitz has dropped out of the race and is expected to support Goroff.

Meanwhile, the lines in CD4, represented by GOP freshman Anthony D’Esposito, were untouched in Albany. Laura Gillen, the former Hempstead Town supervisor who lost in 2022, is seeking a rematch and has the support of many Democratic organizations. State Sen. Kevin Thomas, who is not running again for his seat, initially jumped into the House race but fundraising has remained elusive and he is under a lot of pressure to drop out. He was not available for comment Tuesday, but the talk among Democrats is that he is planning an exit soon.

However, former Nassau County Legis. David Denenberg told The Point that he’s still in. “Nothing has changed my plans,” said Denenberg, who represented South Shore Nassau communities for 15 years in the county legislature and lately has been fighting to get rid of Liberty Water, the private utility that services the area.

“I think primaries have worked both ways. They can make the winner stronger because you are dominating the news and the candidates get into the public,” Denenberg said, while acknowledging that such races can use up “precious” resources for the general election.