By Paige Cornicelli and Pamela Wong
Stony Brook University chemistry professor Nancy Goroff has started her 18-month leave of absence to race as a Democratic representative in the November 2020 New York 1st Congressional District race.
Goroff announced her leave on July 9. Until then she was the Department Chair of Chemistry. Goroff, who wants to focus her platform rooted in science and fact.
“I’m running for Congress to use my experience as a scientist to combat global warming,” she said. “Make health care affordable, protect a woman’s right to choose and end the gun violence epidemic.”
New York’s 1st Congressional District is currently represented by Lee Zeldin, a Republican from East Meadow, N.Y.. Zeldin has recently sponsored bills in National Security and Armed Forces (29 percent) and International Affairs (18 percent), while sponsoring very few education and health bills. Zeldin leads a very conservitive district, but other candidates lean towards a more progressive one.
“I’m running because I am really frustrated with our current representative and current administrative have turned their priorities upside down and backwards,” Goroff said. “What I see from our current administration and our representatives is so far away from that [equality]. I felt I needed to jump in and put my full effort into it.”
Goroff, who has been a professor at Stony Brook for the last 22 years, said in her statement that she hopes her scientific background will help provide an edge over her opponents.
“It’s good for a variety of fields of expertise to be represented,” Thomas De Luca, a professor of political science and director of international studies at Fordham University said. “As well as, and especially, different work and living conditions democratically representing all classes and interests.”
Having to go up against candidates like Perry Gershon and incumbent Congressman Lee Zeldin, Goroff says the main focus of her campaign is science.
“She’s done a phenomenal job as a candidate— to get the message out there and I think she has a compelling background and biography,” Jacob Sarkozi, Goroff’s campaign manager and Assemblywoman Sandy Galef’s former intern, said. “ I think there’s a real hunger and desire for that fact-based policy making in the world of alternative facts.”
“I could go on and on about how wonderful she was to have as a professor for my organic chemistry class and then as my research mentor,” Naphtali O’Connor, chemistry professor and former student, said. “I can honestly says she cares about the issues that she’s advocating for as a candidate. She isn’t a cynical politician.”
If Goroff does not win the election, she will either have to decide whether to try again, or go back to teaching.
“She may never be able to return to her former life as a tenured chemistry professor,” Jose Aleman, a Fordham political science professor said. “Not because she doesn’t want to, but because it will be difficult for prospective employers to assess her commitment to the teaching and service mission of her prospective university once she changes careers.”
“I don’t know [if I’ll go back to teaching],” Goroff said. “The future is cloudy at this point. I don’t have a crystal ball. Everyday that I am doing this, it feels really good to be putting my full effort into something so important. My doctor said my high-blood-pressure hasn’t been this low in years.”
If Goroff is elected, she will be the first female member of Congress with a Ph.D. in Chemistry, which she earned from UCLA in 1994.