David Calone ’96 decided to launch his bid for the House of Representatives this year after realizing that the current Representative for his district, Lee Zeldin, did not have a strong environmental or job creation record.
“To see someone currently in office in Congress who has not cared about these kinds of issues was troubling to me,” Calone said. “That’s why I decided to run.”
Calone is running as a Democrat to serve in the House of Representatives for New York’s 1st Congressional District. The 1st District encompasses eastern Long Island, and includes the towns of Brookhaven, Southampton, East Hampton, and Shelter Island. He is currently running against fellow Democrat Anna Throne-Holst for the party nomination, and if he wins, will face Republican Rep. Zeldin in the fall.
Calone currently serves as the CEO of Jove Equity Partners, a venture capital firm that invests in early-stage technology companies, and is a board member of the Long Island Angel Network, Accelerate Long Island and the United Way of Long Island.
Calone decided to make a run for Congress this year due to his work on the Congressional Caucus on Innovation and Entrepreneurship and his experience running a venture capital firm that helped create jobs. He said that there are very few people in Congress with this kind of background, and he noted that the country needs more of these kinds of people in Congress.
Washington Democrat Rep. Derek Kilmer '96 said that he was thrilled when he found out Calone was running for Congress, since he is very service-oriented and has private and public sector experience.
“He brings a depth of experience that is very valuable,” Kilmer said. “This is a guy who has experience starting businesses and growing jobs.”
Calone explained that another issue facing the district is affordable housing, since the district is surrounded by New York City and Long Island, which have high costs of living. He said he wants to bring good-paying jobs to his district, and develop more affordable housing to attract younger residents. He noted that his work on the Suffolk County Planning Commission, where he was the chair, and in the private sector makes him qualified to address these issues.
“My background is a perfect fit for what the needs of this district are,” Calone said.
Calone noted that the 1stCongressional District is unique in that it is only one of five districts nationwide that President Obama carried in 2008 and 2012, but elected a freshman Republican Congressman in 2014. He explained that Zeldin’s views are much further to the right than what is normally found in the Northeast.
“That sort of right-wing politics may work in Texas, but it’s not a great fit in New York,” Calone said.
He added that his experience on the Planning Commission and the Congressional Caucus shows his ability to work with people on both sides of the aisle to pass legislation for job creation.He explained that he wants to work with members of both parties to pass legislation for job creation.
Calone noted that his Democratic opponent, Anna Throne-Holst, just became a Democrat a couple of months ago, whereas he has been involved with the party since he was 18. He also added that he has a stronger environmental record, and has a better chance of beating Rep. Zeldin in the fall. He stressed his background in law enforcement, job creation, and national security issues, and noted that he has received the endorsement of the Independence Party, which usually supports an incumbent. Calone explained that this endorsement gives him a 3 percentage point compared to Throne-Holst in a matchup against Rep. Zeldin.
East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said that Calone is really smart and easy to work with, and tries to find solutions to real problems and help get these solutions accomplished.
“He has a decent understanding of how government works, and can apply his experience in the private sector to help solve problems,” Cantwell said.
Colorado Democrat Rep. Jared Polis ’96 said that Calone’s background makes him suited to be one of the most effective members in Congress, and his experience as the only two-term Undergraduate Student Government president in the University’s history reinforces that.
“He has prosecuted terrorists, built businesses and created jobs,” Polis said. “Ever since his time at Princeton as a two-term USG President, he has demonstrated his leadership and consensus-building skills and that's exactly what we need in the U.S. Congress.”
Calone grew up in Mount Sinai, New York, which is located on Long Island, and attended Port Jefferson High School. He enjoyed playing baseball, participating in theater, and serving as class president. Calone first thought about applying to Princeton after receiving the Princeton Book Prize in high school, which was awarded by the Princeton Club of Long Island.
“They recognized me for academics and extracurricular stuff,” Calone said. “The fact that they recognized me got me really interested in Princeton.”
He added that he really enjoyed reading the book he received, “Battle Cry of Freedom” by University History Professor Emeritus James McPherson.
Calone was accepted into the University, and arrived on campus in the fall of 1992. He took classes in a wide variety of subjects, and traveled to California as part of his geology class. He also had the opportunity to take Professor McPherson’s Civil War class, but ultimately decided that he wanted to study economics and economic policy. He was interested in how the economy works, specifically focusing on how policy affects macroeconomics. During the summer of his junior year, he interned at the White House and worked on the National Partnership for Reinventing Government.
“I focused on how should government be changed to deal with modern issues,” Calone said. “The government was changing into a digital age, and we focused on newer technologies.”
For his senior thesis, he wrote about when government should provide certain services to the public and when the private sector should provide those services.
On campus, Calone was most known for being actively involved in Undergraduate Student Government (USG), and was a member of Cloister. As a freshman, he was elected chair of the Mathey College Council, where one of his achievements was installing paper towels in all the bathrooms. In sophomore year, he decided to run for USG President after noticing the ineffectiveness of the current student government.
“There were some issues with student government, and it wasn’t doing very much,” Calone said. “The President at the time was starting to do some very good things, but [USG] had not had a very impressive history in recent years.”
Calone’s run for USG President was unusual, since the last time a sophomore decided to run was 10 years prior. He was ultimately elected USG President, and became the second sophomore in the University’s history to hold that position. He was subsequently re-elected in his junior year, and became the first USG President ever elected twice.
Trey Tate ’96 said that Calone was well-respected on campus, and is extremely likeable and genuine. He added that Calone is an idealized version of what a politician should be, since he really cares about people and wants to make America a better place.
“I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t have something good to say about him,” Tate said. “He definitely has the spine to get things done and is very effective.”
As USG President, Calone noted that the job was overwhelming, since he had to meet with various student groups, faculty members, and the administration. He instituted the first ever online voting system for USG elections, and used some encryption protocols jointly developed by the School of Engineering and the U.S. Navy.
“We did the first online election in the U.S.,” Calone added. “We got recognized for that.”
According to Calone, his most notable accomplishment was focusing on increasing student amenities, which culminated in the construction of the Frist Campus Center. At the time, he said the student center was located in Chancellor Green, and was very small. Calone noted that other schools had constructed large campus centers with dining options,and he wanted the University to upgrade its student center.
“When people would go to those other schools, they would say ‘Oh, they have such a nice student center with good food options and places to hang out’,” Calone said. “We didn’t have that.”
Calone focused on the construction of the Frist Campus Center throughout his two years as USG President, and organized a committee to poll students about what amenities they would want in the center. He ironically noted that despite being the catalyst for the construction of the center, his class would never get a chance to use it since it was completed in 2000.
“By the time anything significant gets built, it’s years later,” Calone said. “A lot of the work you do is for students you’re never going to meet.”
Calone noted that his experience helped him realize that change starts with single steps. He explained that the Frist Campus Center was only built after he and a couple of students decided to start discussing the possibility with the administration and after visiting other colleges’ campus centers.
“Without someone getting the ball rolling, nothing’s going to happen,” Calone said. “The same is true with the issues of our country.”
Michael Fischer ’97, who succeeded Calone as USG President, said that Calone was very easy to work with and was a consensus builder. He noted that Calone encouraged students to become involved and advocated for more student involvement in administration decisions.
“He was very good at soliciting input from all types of students and listening to the feedback he received,” Fischer said. “It was a very effective leadership style.”
He added that Calone’s USG governing style is what is needed in Congress, and could help solve the current issue of polarization.
Jeff Siegel ’98, who was also a USG President, echoed this sentiment, and explained that during the planning stages of Frist Campus Center, Calone had to balance out the needs of clubs and student groups who were worried that membership would decline, and students who wanted a communal space. He added that Calone also worked on academic reform, specifically enabling students to reschedule final exams that occurred on the same day.
“He was very focused on enhancements to the quality of student life,” Siegel said. “The student course guide was a big effort the USG did at the time.”
Siegel added that Calone has received many endorsements because everybody likes working with him.
After graduating from the University, Calone attended Harvard Law School, and went on to join the U.S. Department of Justice, where he helped prosecute corporate fraud cases by investigating the oil and gas industry.
After 9/11, Calone was asked to help with a federal terrorism prosecution of a member of Al Qaeda who had been captured in the U.S. For his efforts, Calone received the national Attorney General’s Award for Outstanding Contributions by a New Employee.
Calone left the Justice Department to return to Long Island with his wife, and joined the New York Attorney General’s Office as a Special Assistant Attorney General. He explained that he received an offer to join the Attorney General’s Office from Eliot Spitzer ’81, who had also been USG President. Calone met Spitzer after working on his campaign for New York Attorney General in 1998, and after returning to New York in the early 2000s, was offered the job of Special Assistant Attorney General by Spitzer. He focused on prosecuting hospitals engaged in defrauding patients and taxpayers.
“We got the largest recovery in New York state history for healthcare fraud,” Calone said.
Due to his experience prosecuting corporations, Calone said that he became interested in how companies functioned. One of his classmates, Rep. Polis, reached out to him in 2007 and asked him if he was interested in working with him to invest in early-stage companies. Calone said that he was interested, and he joined Polis’ business. When Rep. Polis decided to run for Congress in 2008, Calone started his own venture capital fund, Jove Equity Partners, which he still runs today.
Jeff Herman, whose company received funding from Polis and Calone, submitted a patent with Polis and Calone dealing with aggregation systems. He explained that Calone is a very clear thinker and is easy to communicate with.
“He was a good sound mind to have on the board of my company,” Herman said. “He was the most active board member that we had.”
Herman added that Calone is trustworthy and honest, and is very calm and collected. He noted that Calone’s demeanor will be a benefit in Congress.
According to Calone, Jove Equity Partners invests specifically in early-stage technology companies on Long Island and across the country, and one of its most successful investments is BridgeHealth Medical.
“We literally signed the papers incorporating this company,” Calone said. “They were named to Inc. Magazine’s list of one of the fastest growing companies in the nation last year.”
He added that he decided to focus on technology companies due to their potential for growth, and their ability to make a difference.
A few years later after launching the fund, Calone was contacted again by Rep. Polis to help start the Congressional Caucus on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Calone noted that there hadn’t been any caucuses focused on job creation, and so he and Rep. Polis decided to start the caucus. He explained that what made the caucus unique was that it was bipartisan, since it had two Republican and two Democrat co-chairs.
“We educated members of Congress and their staff on what it’s like to start a company and how do we get more people to become entrepreneurs,” Calone said.
Rep. Kilmer, who co-chaired the caucus, explained that Calone was very active in helping veterans become entrepreneurs.
One of the caucus’ major accomplishments was launching the first-ever Start Up Day Across America, which encouraged congressmen to connect with early-stage companies in their districts. Calone also worked to simplify early-stage companies’ access to funding.
In 2009, Calone decided that, along with his venture capital fund, he wanted to do something public-spirited. He was appointed by the county executive to the Suffolk County Planning Commission, which is responsible for land-use decisions. A year later, hewas elected chair of the Planning Commission, and he served on the commission until 2016, where he focused on promoting environmental sustainability, such as encouraging solar and wind power, and improving housing diversity and public safety.
“It was a great opportunity to be involved with different levels of government,” he said. “It was a great opportunity to help push for environmental protection here on Long Island and affordable housing.”
Cantwell explained that he worked with Calone to stop a high-density housing complex, which would have detracted from the rural feel of East Hampton.
“This was an urban-type development that was out of character with the community,” Cantwell said.
Cantwell noted that he and Calone also held a forum for local farmers to discuss issues that affect their businesses and he explained that Calone was able to obtain a grant from the state for several millions of dollars of aid for young farmers to buy new equipment.
He also explained that water quality and the marine environment are important issues in the district, and groundwater and ocean water need to be protected from pollution.
“Dave will be an advocate for water quality protection nationally,” Cantwell said. “He knows how important this is.”
Calone is also a member of the Long Island Angel Network, which is a group of investors who invest in early-stage companies. He is part of Accelerate Long Island, which works on getting research laboratories focused on job creation, and created the Long Island Emerging Technologies Fund, which helps launch companies from research labs.
“We focused on taking the science that was being created in our research labs on Long Island and actually creating companies out of that,” Calone said. “There was very little that had been done on that.”
Michael Faltischek, who is a member of the Long Island Angel Network, said that Calone brings enthusiasm to the group, and has advocated for incentives from the government to support entrepreneurial efforts.
“He is very enthusiastic to do business,” Faltischek said. “He has a great personality.”
Calone is also a member of the Board of the United Way of Long Island, where he has worked on bringing STEM programs to underserved school districts. He has worked with private donors and the United Way to fund technology programs in these schools.
“We need all kids to have the exposure to these kinds of educational opportunities, and that means that some of them will be interested in engineering and math,” Calone said. “These are critically important fields to our country’s future.”
In his free time, Calone enjoys spending time with his wife and three kids and playing basketball, soccer, and baseball.
Rep. Kilmer noted that since Calone is a father, he has an added interest in wanting to serve in Congress.“We want to do what we can to make a better world for [our kids] and have a government that’s responsive to the needs of the future,” he said.
Image Courtesy CaloneForCongress.Com