Updated: June 24, 2014 at 10:32 pm
MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — State Sen. Lee Zeldin defeated former Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer George Demos on Tuesday in a Republican primary for the 1st Congressional District, representing a wide swath of eastern Long Island, in a race that was watched by both national political parties.
With 88 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday night, Zeldin had 63 percent of the votes to Demos' 37 percent, in unofficial returns. He now faces incumbent Democratic Rep. Timothy Bishop, a former university provost, in November. Bishop is seeking his seventh term.
A National Republican Congressional Campaign spokesman, Ian Prior, last week called Bishop "one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the country." He cited Bishop's support of the Affordable Care Act and an ongoing ethics complaint that was filed against Bishop during the 2012 campaign.
Prior said the NRCC is reserving $1.1 million in cable TV time for ads.
More than $1.2 million was spent on the GOP primary by outside super political action committees seeking to portray candidates they opposed as too liberal to merit Republican support, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The PACs have spent $854,000 against Zeldin and $380,000 against Demos.
Zeldin had the support of the local county organization and last week welcomed outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to a Hamptons fundraiser. Demos, who ran in 2010 and 2012, received the backing of former Gov. George Pataki and New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and both recorded television commercials for him.
Demos was an SEC enforcement attorney from 2002 to 2009 and worked as a member of the Bernard Madoff prosecution team.
Zeldin is serving his second two-year term in the state Senate. He is an Army veteran who served in Iraq.