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Erin King Sweeney drops Hempstead re-election bid

Erin King Sweeney, shown in March, is the

Erin King Sweeney, shown in March, is the Republican majority leader on the Hempstead Town Board.  Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Hempstead Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney, the leader of the town board's Republican majority, said Thursday she is moving out of state and will not seek a second term in November.

"My husband's job has been relocated to North Carolina. Therefore, based upon the needs of my family, I will not be a candidate for re-election to the Town Board," King Sweeney said in a statement. "My personal journey over the last year has made me appreciate more than ever the importance of family. I send my deepest gratitude and best wishes to the residents of the 5th Councilmanic District whom I have had the privilege to serve."

King Sweeney, 45, is the daughter of Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) and was a rising figure in local Republican politics. Known for her independent voting record, King Sweeney nevertheless became the face of Republican efforts to reassert control over the town government after the upset election of Supervisor Laura Gillen, the first Democrat to hold Hempstead's highest office in more than a century.

King Sweeney of Wantagh said she is moving to Charlotte, where she will continue working as an aviation attorney for White Plains-based Eckert Seamans Attorneys at Law and run her consulting firm. Her husband, John Sweeney, works in finance. She said she has no immediate plans to continue her political career in North Carolina. 

"Who knows what the future will hold," said King Sweeney, who has two children. "Public service is in my blood. I believe in it. There's also a time for family, and that's the time I'm in now."

Peter King said his daughter only found out last week that she would have to relocate. 

“One way or the other, she’ll always be active, but she’s making sure she’s focused on everything at home,” King said. “I think she has a future in politics or whatever she wants to do. She has the political ability and she’s not afraid to take a stand.”

King Sweeney's departure temporarily leaves her party without a candidate for her district as Republicans mount their first effort to unseat Gillen and hold their 5-2 majority on the board this fall.

"The Nassau County Republican Party will be represented by a talented and qualified candidate in the November election," Nassau Republican Committee chairman Joseph Cairo said in a statement.

Lora Webster, 32, of Point Lookout is running for the seat on the Democratic Party line.

“I don’t think the opponent makes a difference,” Webster said Thursday. “The focus was not about her, but about me and what I hope to do in office and my goals for the town.”

King Sweeney did not say whether she will serve out the remainder of her term. The board has typically filled vacancies by appointing a replacement, a practice Gillen has protested as undemocratic.

“It would be shameless to appoint someone for two months," Gillen said Thursday. "I hope we have an open seat and a chance at a fair fight.”

Gillen said she was surprised Thursday by King Sweeney’s decision, and that she hoped the two could continue to work on passing a joint proposal to ban flavored vape products.

Republican Councilman Bruce Blakeman said his caucus has not yet met to discuss the matter.

Blakeman thanked King Sweeney for her service, saying she was "bright, articulate and had a good sense of what was always the right thing to do."

The board first appointed King Sweeney in 2015 to fill the seat of retiring Councilwoman Angie Cullen, and voters elected her to a full term later that year. She has been an outspoken voice on the board, at times breaking ranks with her party, most notably during protracted battles with former Republican Supervisor Anthony Santino.

King Sweeney cited a plan to rezone downtown Baldwin in support of transit-oriented development as one of her key legislative initiatives.

"I've always spoken out for what I thought is right," she said. "I still believe in good solid government."

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