Nancy Hemendinger during a rally in Freeport on Feb. 23,...

Nancy Hemendinger during a rally in Freeport on Feb. 23, 2017, to urge Gov. Cuomo to extend deadlines for elevation of homes damaged by Sandy. Credit: Jeff Bachner

Nancy Hemendinger, a Suffolk County health official, announced Wednesday she intends to run for the Republican nomination in a primary to succeed retiring Congressman Peter King.

Hemendinger, a Babylon Village resident, announced her bid a day after Nassau and Suffolk county Republican leaders endorsed Assemb. Andrew Garbarino (R-Sayville). She touted she’d be the lone female seeking the party’s nomination.

“I’m running to give women the chance to vote for someone like themselves — mothers, daughters, sisters, professionals — who deal with everyday life struggles to get ahead,” Hemendinger, 60, said in a statement launching her campaign. “I want to inspire other women to run for elected office as Republicans.”

In a later interview, she added: "I'm definitely pursuing the primary" against Garbarino. She called herself a moderate Republican who could win Democratic support.

Hemendinger’s announcement was the latest development in what’s expected to be a heated contest to replace King (R-Seaford), who will step down Dec. 31, after serving 28 years representing parts of Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Several Democrats have expressed interest in running, but the party apparatus is expected to back Jackie Gordon, a former Babylon town board member. The National Democratic Campaign Committee recently said it would give Gordon fundraising and staffing support.

It’s still unclear whether other Republicans — especially Assemb. Michael LiPetri (R-South Farmingdale) and Suffolk County Elections Commissioner Nick LaLota — who interviewed with party leaders will challenge Garbarino.

Hemendinger cited the party’s nominating process as part of her decision to run.

“I followed the political process by screening for the nomination, however, after not being notified about the results by the party, I decided it was in the best interest of the residents of the 2nd Congressional District to file and officially announce my candidacy,” she said.

Suffolk County Republican Chairman Jesse Garcia acknowledged he didn't talk to Hemendinger before Newsday reported party leaders had endorsed Garbarino. Garcia said he was disappointed he didn't have a conversation with Hemendinger.

 About the prospect of a primary contest, Garcia said: "The goal is to win the seat ... I believe, after a day or two, cooler heads will prevail." 

Hemendinger said she has worked 36 years for the county Department of Health Services and currently serves as director of health education.

She said her priorities would include increasing government resources to tackle addiction and mental health services, rolling back a federal cap on local tax deductions and “implementing a sensible immigration policy for all.”

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