Politics

Throne-Holst Will Challenge New York's Lee Zeldin

Absentee ballots pushed her over the edge in Democratic primary

New York Rep. Lee Zeldin is one of the most vulnerable members of the House. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Anna Throne-Holst, a former Southampton town supervisor, has won the Democratic primary for New York's 1st Congressional District.  

She defeated venture capitalist David Calone by 319 votes a week and a half after the state's June 28 primaries.   

Democrats are making this Long Island district one of their top targets in the fall and hope that they can use freshman Rep. Lee Zeldin's embrace of presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump against him.  

[ Roll Call's 2016 Election Guide: House ]  

"I want to congratulate Dave Calone on a spirited race, and I share in the respect and support he garnered in the district, as demonstrated by the very close margin and the strength of his candidacy," Throne-Holst said in a statement Friday afternoon.  

"I look forward to working together with Democrats across the district to take back this important seat," she added.  

In a statement Friday, Calone endorsed Throne-Holst for the general election, saying, "We cannot continue being represented by Congressman Lee Zeldin, one of Donald Trump's loudest advocates in Washington."  

Twenty-nine votes separated the two at the end of Election Day in late June.  

But the votes that decided this primary were the nearly 1,800 absentee ballots the Suffolk County Board of Elections began counting on Thursday.   

Campaign volunteers and attorneys for each campaign supervised the counting.  

[ General Election Contests Set in Competitive New York Races ]  

In between the primary and the end of the ballot counting, there was little either team could do but wait. The absentee ballots were all cast before June 28. The delay left both campaigns in limbo over the past week. They weren't fundraising for the general election, but they also couldn't afford to sit back because Zeldin is sitting on a pile of money and gearing up for a tough fight in November. [ New York Could Hold Key to Democratic Majority in the House ]  

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has endorsed Throne-Holst and sent a fundraising email for her this week, saying the candidate is “staring at a costly recount.” Throne-Holst outspent Calone, and EMILY’s List poured more independent expenditure money into her race than any other House race. The New York Times backed Calone, saying he has "the stronger record as an environmentalist.  

"The sooner we can get through this process, the better it will be for the eventual Democratic nominee," Calone campaign manager Rahul Kale told Newsday Thursday.  

But the delay would have been much more problematic had New York's primaries still been held in September instead of June. An unresolved primary that late in the cycle would have left the eventual primary winner with little time to turn the corner toward the general election.  

"The fact that two Democrats had a close election won’t distract from the fact that Lee Zeldin" needs to be defeated, said Throne-Holst campaign manager Andrew Grunwald.  

[ The 10 Most Vulnerable House Members ]  

Democrats are salivating over the opportunity to tie Zeldin to Trump. The freshman Republican has endorsed the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.  

“If the election were held today, he’d definitely carry the 1st Congressional District of New York,” Zeldin said outside the Capitol Hill Club on Thursday after Trump’s meeting with House Republicans.  

Zeldin is No. 7 on Roll Call’s list of the most vulnerable House members — in part because of his willingness to court Trump and his controversial comments about President Barack Obama being a racist.  

"Lee Zeldin has shown in every way how out of step and wrong he is not only for Long Island, but for the country," Throne-Holst said Friday.  

Obama carried the district under its current lines by 4 points in 2008 and even more narrowly in 2012. The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report /Roll Call rates the race Tilts Republican .

Contact Pathé at simonepathe@rollcall.com and follow her on Twitter at @sfpathe .

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