The map is finalized. And the race to take on Republican Rep. Nick LaLota in Suffolk County is coming into focus. 

Democrats are vying to flip New York’s 1st Congressional District, which has been in GOP hands for nearly a decade. The two leading Democrats - Nancy Goroff and John Avlon - insist that although the map has gotten slightly redder after redistricting, it is still a swing seat.

In interviews, both Goroff and Avlon argued that Republicans in Washington are showing themselves to be incapable of governing, and LaLota needs to go. 

What You Need To Know

  • Nancy Goroff, who taught chemistry at Stony Brook University, and John Avlon, who worked for media outlets including The Daily Beast and CNN, are vying for the Democratic nomination in NY's 1st Congressional District

  • The district map changed a bit as part of redistricting. The modifications inch the district to the right, from Joe Biden winning by a hair in 2020 to backing Donald Trump by just under 2 points 

  • The winner will face off against incumbent Rep. Nick LaLota, a freshman Republican, in November

  • The Democrat-aligned House Majority PAC said in a memo that even after redistricting it could shift “substantial” resources into the race for the fall election, as Democrats seek to retake control of the House

“When I see people here struggling, it's really infuriating to see how little Nick LaLota is doing for them,” Goroff said. 

“I think he's been a Trump flunky, and people get that. I think he’s far too far-right for this district,” Avlon said of the incumbent.

Both candidates said they would have voted for the Senate-crafted bipartisan border deal, and hit LaLota over its collapse. Last month, the congressman blasted the deal, writing online that his “nine year old did a better job negotiating last night’s bed time.”

“Get people ginned up at an issue and then you refuse to fix it. That's a firing offense,” Avlon said. 

“He was just following the most extreme elements of his party, and clearly doesn't want to actually solve the problem,” Goroff said. “He just wants to talk about it.”

Goroff, who made an unsuccessful bid for Congress four years ago, taught chemistry at Stony Brook University for years, including serving as chair of the department. 

The community, she said, “is my home. And it's where I raised my kids. It's where I built my career.”

Avlon has held roles at various media outlets, including The Daily Beast and most recently, CNN. Also on his resume: a stint writing speeches for then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani. 

“I worked for Rudy when he was sane,” Avlon said. “I think all real New Yorkers understand that that Rudy was very different than the man who's unfortunately disgraced himself in the service of Donald Trump.”

Avlon said he was previously registered as an Independent.

The newly approved congressional map inches the district to the right, from Joe Biden winning by a hair in 2020 to backing Donald Trump by just under 2 points. 

Both candidates insist it is still a swing seat. 

As the two vie for the 2024 nomination, Avlon argues that Goroff’s performance in 2020 should speak for itself. She underperformed Biden in the contest, and lost by nearly 10 points to incumbent Lee Zeldin, a Republican. 

“You need candidates who can energize people, inspire the base, but also win over independent voters and that reasonable edge of Republicans,” Avlon said. “I think I can do that. I think my record and my beliefs can help facilitate that.”

Goroff says that unlike in 2020, when the pandemic raged, this year she will be able to go door-to-door. She also took a subtle jab at Avlon’s time working outside the district in Manhattan - something that Republicans have already hit him on. 

“We need to give voters a reason to show up. We need to give them a reason to vote for the Democrat. That means providing a real contrast with Nick LaLota,” she said. “I have lived in this community my whole adult life. I have very deep ties here.”

Avlon said his legislative priorities include expanding the child tax credit, investing in local infrastructure - including high speed rail, and combating climate change. 

Goroff listed ending gun violence, fighting climate change, and protecting abortion rights. 

Whoever wins the primary would share the same ballot as Biden, who is lagging in the polls. Asked about that prospect, both voiced support for the president. 

“I will be proud to be on the same ballot. He has accomplished a tremendous amount,” Goroff said. 

“I think he has been a consequential and effective president. And I think that record deserves reelection,” Avlon said. 

Despite the district’s new tilt to the right, the Democrat-aligned House Majority PAC said in a memo that even after redistricting it could shift “substantial” resources into the race for the fall election. The memo argues that the redistricting process “shored up” other competitive districts in New York.

Asked about the Democratic field, LaLota shared a statement, saying, “Reasonable people are eager to see if my Democrat opponents address President Biden’s failures on the border or how House Democrats blocked an increase in the SALT cap, or if they’ll just try to scare voters about a never-happening nationwide abortion ban or cry Trump and MAGA every other sentence.”