Melanie D’Arrigo, a Port Washington resident and progressive Democrat with a history of campaign activism, is challenging U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) for the Democratic nomination in the 3rd Congressional District.
The district includes Manhasset, Roslyn, Port Washington, Great Neck and Floral Park, among other areas. Suozzi, the former mayor of Glen Cove and former Nassau County ex- ecutive, was first elected to the seat in 2016.
D’Arrigo, originally of Lindenhurst, graduated from Barnard College and earned a Master of Science degree from the School of Health Professions at Long Island University, and later worked as an allied health professional for health care companies Optum and Cigna.
Following the election of President Donald Trump, D’Arrigo turned her attention to activism, volunteering as campaign manager in Democratic state Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso’s successful re-election bid in 2018, working on campaigns for Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Mariann Dalimonte (D-Port Washington) and state Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck), and organizing the 2018 Women’s March in Atlanta.
“While Trump propelled me to become more politically active, it wasn’t until Brett Kavanaugh that something shifted,” D’Arrigo said.
It was in the summer of 2018 that D’Arrigo watched the Senate hearings for the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who had been accused by Christine Blasey Ford of a sexual assault in the 1980s.
As she watched Ford’s testimony on television, D’Arrigo, herself a survivor of sexual assault, felt something had to be done. She later took her family to Washington, D.C., to protest Kavanaugh outside the Supreme Court.
“I had gone down to protest twice, and the last time was the day of the vote,” D’Arrigo said.
She said she wouldn’t ever forget the moment when she was standing with her husband, two daughters and infant son that October, and it was announced that Kavanaugh had been confirmed in a 50- 48 vote by the Senate.
“I was standing at the front of the Supreme Court with my little girls’ hands in mine, and I was looking around and I was like, ‘How did we get here? How did this happen?’” D’Arrigo said. “I was thinking to myself, there is no way I’m going to let this happen.”
That, D’Arrigo said, was when she decided to run for office.
She says she opted to challenge Suozzi for the Democratic nomination in the 3rd District because she found him to be “silent” on most of his record and stances.
“I started to realize after the Kavanaugh hearings that my congressman was eerily silent,” D’Arrigo said. “I started to really dig into his voting record and his stances on issues, and what I found surprised me initially.”
D’Arrigo claims that Suozzi did not speak out against Kavanaugh or Trump, and that he kept his longtime support of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits grant- ing federal funding to abortions except in instances of incest or rape, quiet because “[Suozzi] knew his Planned Parenthood endorsement would be in jeopardy.”
“I don’t know how you can claim to be a champion of women and support the Hyde Amendment,” D’Arrigo said.
While Suozzi was among the Long Island lawmakers who supported an FBI investigation into Ford’s claims, he did not provide details on the subject of Kavanaugh in a 2018 interview with Blank Slate Media, and in a July 2018 statement to Newsday, before news of the accusations broke, said that “Judge Brett Kavanaugh has a detailed history that must be reviewed carefully. The Senate must ensure that he will fairly and responsibly base and apply his decisions on the rule of law, not on personal or political beliefs.”
As for the Hyde Amendment, a video from a town hall held in October 2017 shows Suozzi being asked about the issue.
“I’m 100 percent committed to keeping abortion safe and legal,” Suozzi said in the video. “I do believe, however, that we have to try and create a society where abortion is more rare.”
Suozzi did sign on to co-sponsor the EACH Woman Act last October, which would repeal the Hyde Amendment, but D’Arrigo says it was only after a Vice article published in September drew attention to his position.
Kim Devlin, a consultant for Suozzi’s 2020 campaign, disputed the claims in a statement to Blank Slate Media, and said that Suozzi voted against a January 2017 bill from Republicans to make the Hyde Amendment permanent and had a 100% rating from Planned Parenthood, which has endorsed him in each of his congressional races.
“Tom Suozzi looks forward to highlighting his record of over 25 years in public service. He has held over 50 town halls since he first ran for Congress in 2016, including over 30 since being elected. He is a leader in Congress in fighting to restore the SALT deduction that was irresponsibly capped by the GOP tax bill, he has been successful in bringing millions of dollars for the Long Island Sound and millions more to clean up the Navy Grumman plume. He has a long and strong record of fighting for veterans and seniors, to make healthcare and prescription drugs more affordable, to fight for immigration reform and to reduce gun violence,” Devlin said.
D’Arrigo said that while Suozzi may have campaign contributions from corporations, her grassroots campaign will attempt to “out-organize him.”
Among the issues she looks to address if elected are campaign finance reform and health care reform.
D’Arrigo is an author and proponent of the Politician Accountability Information Disclosures Benefiting You (PAID BY) Act, which requires politicians and elect- ed officials to publicly disclose any corporate PAC donations received ahead of any related votes. The proposed legislation is supported by four other challengers to House of Representatives incumbents across New York State.
As a former employee in the health care industry, D’Arrigo says she supports Medicare for all as a public option, calling the current health care system “unsustainable.”
D’Arrigo supports Democratic U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, and increased gun control. She also supports repealing the 2017 tax cuts and approving a wealth tax, and says that she is “looking at different proposals” for free public college programs.
Additionally, while D’Arrigo says she does not support the 2018 decision to have the American embassy in Israel moved to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, she says that Israel “has a right to exist.”
D’Arrigo has been endorsed by the National Organization for Women, Brand New Congress and Muslims for Progress.
The primary for the Democratic nomination in the 3rd Congressional District will be held on Tuesday, June 23.
Originally published in the January 24, 2020 editions of Blank Slate Media’s newspapers.