In a surprise announcement only months after losing her re-election bid to represent the Fourth District in Congress, Democrat Laura Gillen said Wednesday morning that she plans to run for the seat she lost to Republican Anthony D’Esposito.
She came out with a blistering attack against D’Esposito, saying he is aligned with the extreme elements of the GOP.
Gillen, a Democrat who had been Hempstead town supervisor, lost to D'Esposito in November's election in what was widely regarded as a Republican sweep on Long Island.
In an early morning statement Wednesday, Gillen said she is running "because public service can be a noble calling that makes people's lives better; but too many in Washington care about political gamesmanship, sound bites and photo opportunities than actually making real progress for our families."
Gillen, a lawyer, returned to private practice after her loss to D'Esposito, a former New York City police officer and Hempstead town board member. During the fall campaign, D’Esposito, like other Long Island Republicans, hammered on the theme that Democrats were soft on crime.
In a phone interview, Gillen said she had decided to run for several prime reasons including the continuing gun violence across the country and the Republicans’ position on the debt crisis. Republicans insist that President Biden reduce spending before they will agree to raise the debt ceiling.
In the brief interview, Gillen said D’Esposito had been "soft" on common sense gun control.
"You can’t be strong on crime and soft on control," she said.
Despite D'Esposito’s fund-raising abilities so far, Gillen said she was certain she would be able to raise the money necessary to run for office.
She said she was entering the race early to be able top raise money, meet with voters and put forward her views on gun violence and the debt crises.
In her statement, Gillen noted that she is a lifelong resident of the 4th C.D., which includes Long Beach, Oceanside, and Rockville Centre, among other communities.
Gillen attacked D’Esposito, saying he “has aligned himself” with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green, a Georgia Republican who persistently advances false theories that Donald Trump won the 2020 election. Gillen said D’Esposito “celebrates putting our economy on the brink of collapse and cutting critical national programs for public safety, veterans, seniors and our schools.”
Regarding the economy, Gillen was referring to ongoing talks between Biden and congressional Republicans about ways to resolve the national deficit.
“Historically,” Gillen said, "Long island's congressional delegation had a long tradition of bipartisan representation where voices on both sides collectively advocated for residents from Atlantic beach to Montauk. We need to reclaim that tradition to ensure our concerns are addressed no matter the political landscape."
D'Esposito may prove a formidable opponent. A veteran NYPD detective who boasted during the fall campaign of having "made 600 collars' during his career on the force, he has raised over $500,000 already in preparation for a re-election campaign.
But Gillen said she had worked with a Republican majority on the Hempstead town board "and lowered taxes every year, refinanced the town's debt to save taxpayers millions and passed historic ethics reform and transparency legislation for all town contracts and budgets."
She also said "tirelessly work to finally pass common sense gun legislation that will protect our families."
During the fall campaign, D’Esposito did not press for new gun legislation.
Matt Capp, a spokesman for D'Esposito, said, "Nassau County voters have already rejected Laura Gillen's soft-on-crime policies as well as her record of support for raising taxes. Congressman D'Esposito look forward to campaigning on his record of lowering taxes, slashing wasteful federal spending and protecting neighbors in New York's 4th Congressional District."
D’Esposito succeeded Kathleen Rice, representing most of southern Nassau County at the federal level, putting a Republican in the office for the first time since Daniel Frisa lost re-election to Carolyn McCarthy in 1996. McCarthy served nine terms before retiring in 2015, and Rice has represented the district ever since.
Aside from D’Esposito, Republicans elected George Santos to congress from the North Shore’s Third District.
Above all, Republicans have attacked their Democratic opponents on the issues of crime and inflation, linking what they described as “liberal” bail reform laws on recent rises in crime, and blaming Democrats for the dogged inflation that continues to affect the economy.
D’Esposito focused his congressional campaign on affordability, promising more funding to local schools, increased access to health care, eliminating the cap on state and local tax exemptions, and combating congestion pricing.
Throughout his race for congress, D’Esposito also stressed the importance of a limited, fiscally responsible government. He said numerous times that he will cut wasteful spending in Washington, and that a small government approach will help correct inflation.
The campaign trail was not free of jabs back and forth. Democratic campaign literature portrayed D’Esposito as an extremist on issues like abortion and guns, claiming he might support a nationwide ban on abortion and allow weapons of war on New York streets.
D’Esposito denied to the Herald he would ever support a national abortion ban, but did attack New York laws the he claimed allowed free access to late-term abortion. On guns he asserted that the focus of government should not be writing new laws, but cracking down on illegally possessed weapons.
Republicans meanwhile linked Gillen to a number of national issues on which they portrayed Democrats as weak. Mailers from the New York Republican State Committee declared that Joe Biden and Laura Gillen were raising taxes, responsible for the recent national rise in crime, and allowed fentanyl to flood into Nassau County.
Gillen countered by citing her record as town supervisor, during which time she claimed to have cut taxes. Gillen has also insisted that a tough on guns approach can help to curb crime.
While Rice herself endorsed Gillen, D’Esposito boasted his own support from a long list of law enforcement groups and police unions.