DEER PARK, NY — The general election is right around the corner as Long Islanders will hit the polls Nov. 3 to decide who will succeed longtime Republican U.S. Rep. Pete King, who is not seeking re-election. Jackie Gordon won the Democratic primary for the seat while Andrew Garbarino won the Republican primary. Green Party candidate Harry Burger is also running for the seat.
New York’s 2nd Congressional District includes the Nassau County communities of Levittown, North Wantagh, Seaford, South Farmingdale and Massapequa. Suffolk County communities include Amityville, Copiague, Lindenhurst, Gilgo, West Babylon, Wyandanch, North Babylon, Babylon, Baywood, Brentwood, Brightwaters, Central Islip, Islip, Great River, Ocean Beach, Oakdale, West Sayville, Bohemia, West Islip and Ronkonkoma.
In anticipation of the election, Patch asked candidates in the contested races to answer questions about their campaigns and will publish candidate profiles as election day draws near. Here are their answers, lightly edited for clarity.
Harry R. Burger
Age as of Election Day (Nov. 3): 37
Town of residence: Deer Park
Position Sought: U.S. Congress
Family: I’m single, no kids. Parents are in Huntington, 3 younger brothers are scattered across the country.
Does anyone in your family work in politics or government? Nope
Education: Dual BS from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in mechanical engineering and science & technology studies.
Mechanical design engineer for 15 years, designed point of purchase displays, automation machinery, commercial lighting fixtures, aircraft ground support equipment – pretty much anything that puts air or liquids into or takes it out of an airplane, I’ve had something to do with it.
I’m also a micro business owner, I make wax seals & signet rings using CAD modeling & 3D printing.
Previous or Current Elected or Appointed OfficeFirst time running
Campaign website: Burger4Congress.com
Why are you seeking elective office?
Our political system is supposed to have a feedback loop to correct itself, the people who write & enforce the laws are held accountable by the citizenry. Big money has corrupted our politics, to the point that both of the « Big Two » parties are bought & paid for by the same billionaires & large corporations, so neither offers the people a choice of representative who will truly put their needs ahead of corporate profits.
I make it clear in the strongest of terms, my campaign accepts $0 from corporate sources, directly or indirectly, and always will. The Green Party also makes the same pledge at the national level. The Big Two parties don’t – the DNC & RNC are full of money from corporate PACs & billionaires, and they always come with strings attached – when « The Squad » doesn’t dance to their tune, they get very, very well funded primary challengers.
The single most pressing issue facing our nation/state/community is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it.
We’re the only « highly developed nation » in the world that doesn’t guarantee health care for everyone. We spend more per person on healthcare than any of them, but we’re No. 37 on average life expectancy. We’re the only one that allows people to become billionaires by denying insurance claims and forcing working class people into bankruptcy. Their wealth is a moral abomination, evil itself. The CEO of United Healthcare took home over 66 MILLION dollars last year – that’s more than a QUARTER MILLION every day he walks into the office, more than I’ve ever made in a year. This year, they’re making record profits because people aren’t seeking medical attention unless it’s worth the risk of contracting COVID-19 to get care, while our unemployment rate is through the roof and people are being evicted from their homes.
My goal is to create a nonprofit, democratically controlled national health service that gives every human on American soil health care free at the point of service. This way we put all the old health insurance companies, their executives, and their major shareholders into chapter 7 bankruptcy, destroy them financially. Anything less is putting the profits of the few above the health, safety, and lives of everyone but the filthy rich. Also, all of Congress and our families need to « eat our own dog food » – be prohibited from spending any of our own money on health care that is not guaranteed to even the penniless illegal immigrant who just crossed the border. That way any problems with the system affect us personally, so we’ll make absolutely sure that it’s quality health care. Health is life, therefore health care is a right of all people, absolute and inviolate.
Health care also means your whole body – mental, dental, and vision coverage are only not part of all « standard » health insurance because some rich people figured out how to squeeze even more money out of the working class that way and we couldn’t stop them.
What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?
They have sold their souls to the corporate oligarchy for money and power. Anyone who doesn’t want to remove every trace of capitalism from the health care industry from top to bottom, do everything and anything necessary to stop climate change before our only home becomes unfit for humanity, and cut our spending on war to pay for it doesn’t want what’s best for the American people and humanity. They only care about « What’s in it for me? »
I would rather just continue to be an engineer; I don’t want power for my own gain. I just don’t trust either of the Big Two parties to act in my best interest, and when the Green Party leadership asked for volunteers to step forward to run for this office, everybody else stepped back.
If you are a challenger, in what way has the current board or officeholder failed the community (or district or constituency)
Peter King isn’t seeking reelection, but he and the rest of the Republicans, and Democrats, in office are responsible for the status quo. A nation where the maximum campaign contribution from an individual to a candidate for public office automatically adjusts for inflation every year, but the minimum wage doesn’t, because one affects the people who make the rules directly, and one of them doesn’t. Every worker, regardless of education, regardless of what job they do, should be able to work 40 hours a week, and for that be paid enough for a safe place to live, safe water to drink, healthy food to eat, be able to provide for their children, and the means to an education to improve their station if they want to, and by working only 40 hours a week, have time to do that. That was FDR’s New Deal, that was the original goal of the federal minimum wage, for more than just bare survival. We as a nation have failed to keep up with that dream, concentrating ever more wealth in the hands of the few by exploiting the many.
If a company can’t afford to pay somebody that much to empty the garbage cans and sweep the floor, then they can’t afford a separate person to do that job – have all the other employees do it themselves, take turns. When I walk around the neighborhood for exercise after sitting in my work-from-home office all day, I carry a garbage bag and a litter claw because I want a clean neighborhood. Picking up trash is beneath nobody’s dignity, it’s a show of respect for the land and the community.
Our government gave away untold quantities of money away to businesses to keep them afloat when the COVID recession hit, not too long after the same companies got a massive tax reduction and used all the excess funds for things like dividends and stock buy-backs that made the rich even richer but gave none of the windfall to the working class employees – the company should have to borrow all that money back from their executives and shareholders BEFORE getting any bailout money, make them sell their fourth houses and yachts to pay it, and not be allowed to give them back a dime until after the company has paid the government back with interest.
In Canada everybody gets $2,000/month for the duration of the pandemic, so they can afford to pay rent on time and buy things like food – Americans got $1,200 one time only, now it’s been seven months that some are out of work, people are getting evicted in some states – how does that not make all of us less safe in a time of pandemic? The establishment doesn’t want us to be OK with not working, they want the masses desperate enough to beg to go back to work even under threat of a plague. We need to at least either give everyone enough money to pay for their primary home (tax it back later from the millionaires), or cancel all the rent past due. Even if everybody got back to work tomorrow, people who were living paycheck to paycheck before have no way to pay seven months of missed rent. Only the federal government can just conjure that kind of money out of thin air like they always do when it makes CEOs of military manufacturers or owners of private prisons rich
Trickle down economics has never worked, not for the people it’s supposed to trickle down to, because the rich always take their fat cut off the top. Now the airlines are threatening to lay off tens of thousands right before the election if the government doesn’t give them another bailout – that’s extortion, but they’ll get away with it because Our Dear Leader can’t afford another black eye like that.
I’m profoundly blessed to be considered an essential worker but also able to work from home almost all the time, for a company that has taken more precautions than required for our health, and I’m at my full pay. Half of my $1,200 went to a food bank that my church was offering matching funds for, the other half went to mutual aid for people who haven’t been as lucky.
Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform
We need a real, full strength, eco-socialist Green New Deal. The Green Party has been pushing that for a decade now, and back then we said we have 10 years to stop climate change before it’s too late, yet we (humanity) have done nowhere near enough. It’s still a 10 year plan because nobody can figure out how to get it done more quickly than that, and we have to hope it’s not too little, too late. The pandemic, more hurricanes and more intense when they hit, 100 degrees at the North Pole and in Siberia, dwindling polar ice caps – the writing is on the wall, and ignoring it isn’t a solution. Joe Biden plagiarized the « Green New Deal » name, but his version is not enough by half, and will still make the few at the top even more wealthy while leaving the rest of us to settle for scraps. Make no mistake, ours is an exceptionally ambitious plan – it has to be in order for it to actually work. The alternative is human extinction, if not the children of today, perhaps their grandchildren will see the end if we don’t stop heating up the planet.
Greta Thunberg explained the present situation well – it’s as if someone pulled the fire alarm at a large building, everyone looked around and agreed that part of the building is on fire, but that’s not my problem, back to work, and nobody is putting the fire out. The only disagreement is over how much time we have left, or if it’s already too late, but there can be no doubt that the problem is real, and we need to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions fast to have any chance.
We want as close as possible to nobody burning fossil fuels by 2030. As an engineer, I can tell you that means no more airplanes flying unless there literally isn’t any other way to get from here to there or it’s a matter of life and death. Replace planes with technologies like the Hyperloop that are almost ready for prime time, and with sufficient priorities and public investment could fling pods full of people across the country faster than airplanes while running on solar energy. Cancel all fossil fuel subsidies, require the companies selling the oil to pay tax on it to subsidize offsetting 125 percent of the CO2 it produces when burned, plus all the costs of cleaning up the environment nationwide from spills, accidents, and contamination of the past, and subsidizing the development of the zero carbon infrastructure – the more expensive those fuels are, the sooner alternatives are cost competitive, and really we’re just concentrating ALL of the costs of burning the fuels on those who benefit from the burning instead of putting those costs on the health of people who can’t afford to not live in polluted areas like Flint, Michigan. We’re already doing more with video conferencing to avoid the risks of COVID associated with travel – let’s keep that going, farther, faster.
Here’s the really important part – the infrastructure products that we build are to be owned cooperatively by the users. No private investors skimming off the top and getting rich. The people share equally in all the benefits.
We pay for it with massive cuts to our military budget. We already spend more than the next 10 nations combined – if we cut that in half over five years, we’ll still be over the next three combined. What gives America the right to bully the rest of the world into dancing to our tune? The only valid answer to that is « nothing » – the U.S., alone, should not, that’s what the United Nations should be for, and if it’s not, we need to rethink the UN. If the UN decides that an country’s government is not legitimately representative of its people, any intervention should be lead by the UN and paid for by all the member countries proportional to their GDP, with violent invasion as a very last resort for only the most extreme cases, or when any nation initiates violence against another without the UN saying it’s necessary to prevent something horrible like genocide.
Also on the military front, the F-35 idea was great for the manufacturers who get more money from the government for every problem they find and need to solve, and the government officials who they find ways to funnel money to in ways that are technically-not-actually-illegal, but terrible for everyone else – the most expensive aircraft in the history of aviation. I know a LOT of engineers, and as soon as you tell any of them that the original plan is to make one aircraft that will catapult-launch/wire-capture for the Navy, short take off/vertical landing (STOVL) for the Marines, and need Air Force level range, literally 100 percent laugh and say you can’t possibly expect the same fighter jet to do all of those (now there are three « variants » of it. If I was in the room where that first got proposed to Congress, the presenter would need a proctologist to remove my boot.
Now we can’t stop making them because the Japanese & UK navies have already built aircraft carriers that will only work for the STOVL F-35, those ships would be useless without it and the development timeline for a new STOVL jet from scratch would take years while those ships are essentially useless in combat. One-fourth of its fuel is used as coolant, which basically means that they need to treat 1/4 tank left as empty or they fry computer systems, at least one of which can only be serviced by cutting the (aluminum) structural frame and welding it back in place afterwards, leaving it weaker than the original.
Meanwhile the A-10 was designed with slide rules & drafting tables in the 1970s, they’re still flying today, cheap per hour, loiter over a target area like nobody’s business, take off & land safely from dirt runways, and are nearly indestructible. Titanium bathtub of armor for the pilot with an armored glass bubble canopy, two independent hydraulic systems AND mechanical linkage backup, iron sights for the main autocannon that was made to turn a column of Soviet tanks into scrap metal even with the electronics knocked out, can still fly without one engine, half a wing, one elevator, and half a tail. It was made for one thing only – long range close air support, and still does that job better than anything in the air. Stealth is not so important when you’re flying low altitude to see the ground situation clearly – the enemy can see it coming, and hit it with an AK-47, but the plane doesn’t care, it shoots back 30 mm depleted uranium armor piercing & incendiary rounds.
What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?
Your other choices are morally bankrupt – anyone who takes DNC, RNC, corporate PAC/SuperPAC funding or support in that action has sold their soul and cannot be trusted to put the people first. I’m the only one left who’s clean. I’m the only one who wants there to be no billionaires so long as anyone lives in poverty.
I’m an Eagle Scout – that was part of my life every week from K-12, and I did a whole bunch of volunteering as an adult leader for the Scouts after college – that’s the base foundation of my principles, that leaders walk out in front, and don’t ask anybody to do anything they aren’t willing to do themselves. Leaders take the blame when things go wrong, and give the credit down the chain when things go well. Be prepared.
In college I was in Army ROTC (officer training) for my first two years, but never took their scholarship money so I wouldn’t be stuck with the full bill if I decided this wasn’t for me, which turned out to be a good choice – I couldn’t start my third year of the program without committing to join the military after I left school, so I made my most important decision – that I don’t want the story of my life to be about death.
That also meant not working for military hardware manufacturers when I graduated – for a mechanical engineer on Long Island, that’s where most of the jobs are, including the best paying options, but I stuck to that principle even at significant financial cost. I know so much about military aviation because that was my father’s whole career, I grew up with that as dinner table conversation. I’m still fascinated by it, knowledgeable about it, recognize there needs to be some of it, and anything worth doing is worth doing well.
I also know all too well what being abused is like. Like many engineers, I’m on the autistic spectrum, something I didn’t even hear about until college and only got an official diagnosis in the past few years. It means I think differently than most – hard, formal logic, computer programming, complex 3D geometry are second nature to me, but for social skills I’ve had to put a lot more work into learning. Every day of my education until I got to a university where almost everyone was like me, I was the nerd getting teased, harassed, beat up for being different.
So after I left the Army, I took up martial arts which I still practice today – every kata begins with a block and ends with a strike; never hit first, always hit last. I learned to shoot a rifle safely at 12 years old and still enjoy shooting sports. The best defense is making sure the other side knows they will lose too much in any fight for it to be worth the trouble in the end, but nobody ever gets out of a real fight unhurt.
I’m also a survivor of domestic abuse. I never got seriously injured, but it wasn’t a healthy situation to live with. I never hit back because this was someone I loved and didn’t want to hurt. I know I’m very lucky that all the guns in the apartment were mine, I had family to stay with nearby when I first left, I was the one making most of the money, but it’s still not easy to walk out.
Many are much less fortunate, and I completely understand why there’s a place for « red flag laws » to take guns away for a strictly limited time immediately upon accusation of domestic abuse, to protect the lives of survivors when the abuser is the gun owner, especially when there are children involved or other reasons why the abused can’t just leave immediately and get to safety. The accused still needs speedy due process and at least a grand jury indictment to extend the ban until a criminal trial is concluded.
The best advice ever shared with me was:
Two is one, and one is none – always have a backup plan.
I still have paper maps, even with GPS. Emergency kits at home, in the office, the car, some things I carry every day, like the same Swiss Army knife I bought in middle school and use nearly every day for something.
What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?
I can’t stand bullies, no matter where they’re from – our government & corporate executive suites are full of them. I will always be found standing up for the oppressed, the downtrodden, those exploited into consenting to a choice they would never have made if they had any other option. Green is the other choice.