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Rep. Josh Gottheimer Might Be Gaining a New Ally in Congress

New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer seems set to realize one other ally in his ongoing effort to undermine Democratic priorities on taxation and social welfare spending. Absent a speedy consolidation by progressive parts within the district, that ally, Lengthy Island congressional candidate Joshua Lafazan, seems more and more more likely to win a hotly contested major, the place he has benefited from a fractured subject, a scarcity of consideration to his controversial report, and the last-minute assist of a brilliant PAC with ties to crypto pursuits.

Cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried is spending over half one million {dollars} by his political motion committee aimed toward pandemic prevention, Shield Our Future, to spice up Lafazan within the run-up to the New York Democratic major on Tuesday. The assist from cryptocurrency pursuits, which Lafazan seems to have actively courted throughout his marketing campaign and time within the Nassau County Legislature, offers him a monetary benefit over a crowded subject vying to exchange retiring consultant and failed gubernatorial candidate Tom Suozzi.

Voters within the third District have a historical past of electing corporate-friendly Democrats. Suozzi, who has endorsed Lafazan, is taken into account one of many staunchest defenders of enterprise pursuits within the caucus. However whereas Suozzi is a dependable defender of key Democratic priorities like firearm regulation, abortion rights, and LGBTQ+ protections, Lafazan’s historical past suggests there are few, if any, points he’s unwilling to compromise on with a purpose to safe elected workplace.

That Lafazan has not rejected the sizable outdoors assist raises additional questions on his independence from company pursuits and conservative activists who’ve supported his prior runs for public workplace. Lafazan, who registered as a Democrat with a purpose to run for Congress final 12 months, has accepted the poll line of a far-right New York political occasion in his final two runs for workplace and has lengthy touted his shut relationships with native enterprise pursuits — together with a recent endorsement from company curiosity group No Labels, which labored to halt the passage of President Joe Biden’s home agenda final 12 months. Lafazan, who’s presenting himself as a mainstream Democrat in his marketing campaign’s political ads, didn’t reply to a number of requests to remark for this story.

Lafazan’s obvious public auditioning for assist from crypto kings started in March, when he self-published an op-ed extolling the know-how’s virtues. In it, he drew consideration to laws he launched within the county legislature to create a process drive charged with “exploring how crypto can assist bolster Nassau’s financial system” and figuring out methods to draw crypto companies to the county. That op-ed was adopted by an announcement in June that his marketing campaign would settle for donations made by way of cryptocurrency, although it’s unclear whether or not any donors have really chosen to make the most of the choice.

Lafazan’s embrace of cryptocurrency pursuits is the most recent episode in a political profession marked by high-profile appeals to highly effective curiosity teams. That report features a questionable relationship with an area billionaire couple who supplied a mortgage to Lafazan for faculty tuition whereas he pursued political workplace — a relationship that’s now the subject of a Federal Election Fee grievance by one in all Lafazan’s opponents.

Lafazan’s political profession began earlier than he obtained his highschool diploma. As a senior, he ran for and received a seat on the Syosset County Board of Schooling in 2012, changing into the youngest elected officeholder within the state of New York. After reelection to a different time period in 2015, Lafazan rode the wave of anti-Trump sentiment to a seat within the Nassau County Legislature by defeating Republican incumbent Donald MacKenzie in 2017.

Throughout his reelection bids in 2019 and 2021, Lafazan, who caucuses with the Democrats within the Naussau County Legislature, accepted the poll line of the far-right Conservative Celebration, which touts extremist stances in opposition to gun management, abortion rights, prison justice reforms, and a number of different points. Whereas Lafazan has distanced himself from the progressive Working Households Celebration, on whose poll line he has additionally appeared, he defended his affiliation with the Conservative Celebration earlier this 12 months, telling local outlet Metropolis & State New York that “the Conservative Celebration’s two greatest priorities had been taxes and substance abuse — they usually occur to agree with me on each of these points.” His continued alignment with the occasion’s stances on taxes specifically indicators that he’s more likely to proceed courting company pursuits whereas in Congress.

Lafazan put much more distance between himself and the Democratic base following the uprisings over the homicide of George Floyd. After declaring to a crowd of protesters that “institutional racism is alive and nicely on this nation, and in 2020, racism is alive and nicely on this county,” Lafazan appeared to then reverse his place and curry favor with native police unions by supporting staunchly pro-police laws that that sought to make legislation enforcement officers right into a protected class and prohibit bystanders’ capacity to report police interactions the next 12 months.

Native leaders, together with the NAACP’s Lengthy Island Regional Director Tracey Edwards, condemned Lafazan’s obvious opportunism in stark phrases at a hearing for that laws in August 2021. After recounting Lafazan’s phrases to Black Lives Matter protesters, Edwards expressed disbelief at Lafazan’s turnaround. “Which legislator are you?” she requested repeatedly.

Regardless of the appreciable blemishes on Lafazan’s report, mainstream and progressive Democrats within the district seem poised to allow his election by failing to coalesce behind one of many three different candidates competing for the seat: Suffolk County Deputy Government Jon Kaiman, Democratic Nationwide Committee member Robert Zimmerman, and progressive activist Melanie D’Arrigo.

No challenger is rising as a perfect candidate to consolidate behind and overcome Lafazan, who has raised over $1.6 million along with his assist from particular pursuits. There isn’t any public polling out there to point which candidates are aggressive, however fundraising data and endorsements point out a two-man race between Lafazan and Zimmerman.

Whereas D’Arrigo is the favourite of progressive organizations — she has the endorsement of the Working Households Celebration — her FEC reports point out that she is getting into the ultimate leg of the race with lower than $30,000 available — an quantity far in need of the assets essential to mount a critical marketing campaign. Kaiman, a average Democrat who entered the final stretch of the race with virtually $200,000 available, has additionally lagged far past Lafazan in fundraising, bringing in solely $600,000 over the course of the marketing campaign. Zimmerman, who has by no means held an elected workplace, has managed to maintain tempo with Lafazan by raising $1.4 million, and his marketing campaign started August with almost half-a-million {dollars} available.

Regardless of holding elected workplace for the whole thing of his grownup life and his constant appeals to conservative voters and enterprise pursuits, Lafazan has deftly moved to place himself as an outsider with mainstream liberal positions in his bid for the Democratic nomination. In a latest campaign advertisement, he ignores D’Arrigo’s candidacy and alleges that Kaiman and Zimmerman are “profession political insiders,” and emphasizes his assist for gun reform and abortion rights.

Zimmerman’s marketing campaign supervisor, Evan Chernack, instructed The Intercept that their marketing campaign is uniquely poised to consolidate the anti-Lafazan vote as a result of his assist comes from efforts to enchantment to all corners of the occasion. Whereas he has shut relationships with the Democratic institution, Zimmerman helps progressive priorities like Medicare for All and a Inexperienced New Deal. “Robert is the one candidate within the race with overwhelming assist from progressive activists, labor teams just like the AFL-CIO and present and former occasion leaders like Hillary Clinton,” Chernack mentioned.

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