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2nd district: Peter King campaigns in redrawn district

Congressman Peter King speaks to his new constituents

Congressman Peter King speaks to his new constituents at Villa Lombardi's in Holbrook. (Oct. 23, 2012) Photo Credit: Johnny Milano

A packed crowd of 450 Islip Republicans gave a rousing welcome last week to a newcomer to their townwide ticket -- veteran Rep. Peter King.

"Sometimes we Islip Republicans get lucky," joked Islip GOP chairman Frank Tantone. "We now have a new Republican congressman without even having to a run a race."

Tantone was referring to the dramatic eastward shift of King's district last spring in the decennial reapportionment. This district now is 75 percent in Suffolk, whereas the old district was 80 percent in Nassau. It also means that King of Seaford for the first time is running in a district where more than 50 percent of the population never has had a chance to vote for him.

King, at the podium, told the audience at the fundraiser that he has run in parts of Islip in the past. He added: "I can't tell you how happy I am to be running in the whole town," since local Republicans have rebuilt the GOP organization. After his speech, guests lined up to have photos taken with King, who leaned into the camera each time with a big smile.

King, 68, started his political career as a Hempstead Town board member and served as Nassau County comptroller for three terms before winning election to Congress in 1992.

Born in Manhattan, King was raised in Sunnyside, Queens. His father, an NYPD academy instructor, trained Ray Kelly, now the police commissioner.


Known for outspoken style

King graduated from St. Francis College, Brooklyn, and Notre Dame Law School. He interned with Rudy Giuliani at the Wall Street firm of Mudge Rose Guthrie Alexander & Ferdon, which launched the late president Richard Nixon's legal career.

In his political career, King has been known for his blunt outspoken style and controversial stances that sometimes confound even allies.

He was one of few Republicans to vote against the impeachment of Democratic President Bill Clinton. He also opposed the censure of Rep. Charles Rangel (D-Manhattan) as too severe, even though King said he disagreed with Rangel "on virtually every issue."

King won praise for working to seek peace in Northern Ireland. He also held controversial hearings into the threat of domestic terrorism, although Muslim groups accused him of focusing on them to the exclusion of other groups. King maintained he was only trying to guard against an overlooked danger.

Nassau GOP chairman Joseph Mondello, said King has "a mind of his own. He pretty much keeps his own counsel . . . he's not a follower."

Suffolk Republican officials say that while King may be best known in his home county, he also is well known in Islip and Babylon because of his high-profile role as chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and his frequent appearances on Fox News, CNN and other news media outlets. Since Sept. 1, King has made 67 radio and TV appearances, aides said. They estimated that over a year's time he made more than 500 guest appearances.

"There's no question it helps me as far as name ID," said King. But he also noted that he has represented parts of Suffolk as far east as Great River for the past decade and often appeared at local events in areas that are part of his new district. "There's a lot of overlap so it's not entirely new," he said.

The new district is about 30 percent African-American and Latino, after King picked up minority areas including North Amityville, Wyandanch and Brentwood; his old district had only a 2 percent minority population. The district, which stretches from Islip to the Hempstead Town line, has 153,360 registered Republicans and 144,197 Democrats. In the Suffolk portion, Democratic voters outnumber Republicans 107,902 to 92,955.


Meets with black pastors

King said he is reaching out to his new constituents.

He recently held a two-hour meeting with 35 black pastors from throughout Babylon, who have been represented by Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington).

King said the meeting was cordial, though he conceded there were some "candid" exchanges, particularly about his calling for the firing of UN Ambassador Susan Rice, an African-American, for initially saying that the deadly Sept. 11 assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was spontaneous. King said he told the ministers that his stand had nothing to do with race, but that mistakes were made and someone in the administration should be held accountable.

"Some tough questions were asked," said the Rev. Robert Lloyd of Freedom Chapel in Amityville. "But Congressman King handled himself pretty well. I think a number of ministers were surprised because many of his answers were very bipartisan."

"He told us he'll be representing everyone, and [that] we won't hurt his feelings if we tell him what's on our minds," said the Rev. Roy Kirton, pastor of the Circle of Love Mission in Copiague.


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