A commercial for Rep. Peter King's campaign featuring anti-gang activist Evelyn Rodriguez will start airing Monday, days after her family gave its blessing to run the ad that had been filmed before her Sept. 14 death.
A sport utility vehicle fatally struck Rodriguez, 50, in Brentwood following a dispute over the placement of a memorial for Rodriguez' daughter Kayla Cuevas, a 15-year-old allegedly killed by MS-13 gang members in 2016. A day earlier, Rodriguez had approved the ad, which was set to air Sept. 17, said King (R-Seaford), who is seeking a 14th term in Congress.
With Rodriguez's death, King moved to pull the commercial, which had not been broadcast. In the ad, Rodriguez recalls her final conversation with her daughter and praises King's advocacy on behalf of the community and toward eradicating MS-13, the El Salvadoran gang known as Mara Salvatrucha.
King, who was among a number of officials who eulogized Rodriguez at her funeral Friday in Brentwood, said the family assured him it was appropriate to run the commercial.
Slight alterations were made to the video. "Evelyn Rodriguez' family wanted you to hear her one more time," reads a new introduction in white letters on a black background.
“My daughter did not die in vain," Rodriguez said in the 30-second spot. "We reached out to Peter King. He’s really fighting for the communities. They have so much respect for him. He will continue to fight with me. Peter King is my congressman.”
The commercial will cost $125,000 to air for each of the next two weeks and could run longer, King said Sunday. The ad will be airing on News12 Long Island, Fox, HGTV and perhaps other channels, he said.
King faces progressive Democratic activist Liuba Grechen Shirley, of Amityville, in the Nov. 6 general election.
"Literally, she signed off on that the night before she was killed," King said of Rodriguez.
Freddy Cuevas, Rodriguez's partner and Kayla's father, said Sunday, "I told them go full force with it."
King "came here personally to thank me," Cuevas said. "He came to the house to say that he’s still with us 100 percent, and he’s still in the fight as far as this whole matter is concerned.”
Barbara Medina, a crime victim advocate and close family friend, said Rodriguez “wanted to endorse him [King], and she was at her happiest when she was filming the commercial."
Rodriguez's advocacy brought more attention and understanding to the gang conflict on Long Island, King said.
"The entire Long Island community looked at this as almost intramural fighting, or a group of people killing each other, that it wasn’t going to affect anyone else," King said. "It didn’t have the human feeling that murdering of kids should have.”
He said he texted President Donald Trump's daughter, White House adviser Ivanka Trump, and another Trump friend, to alert the president of Rodriguez' death. Ivanka Trump texted back with the president's tweet memorializing Rodriguez, King said.
"Peter King took off his political hat when he spoke with Evelyn," Medina said, adding Rodriguez "didn't see parties ... didn’t care who you were, she wanted you at the table."