In a rematch of 2020's 2nd Congressional District race, Jackie Gordon is trying to unseat Andrew Garbarino, who won the seat when longtime GOP Congressman Peter King retired. Drew Scott reports for NewsdayTV. Credit: Newsday Staff

Ask Rep. Andrew Garbarino and his Democratic challenger Jackie Gordon what the top issues are for voters this election cycle and you’ll get two very different rankings of priorities.

The pair — who are facing a rematch of the 2020 2nd Congressional District race when Garbarino won the seat left open after longtime Republican Congressman Peter King retired — are leaning into their party’s messaging in their bids for the House.

Like Democrats across the nation, the No. 1 concern for Gordon, 57, of Copiague, is codifying reproductive rights following the reversal of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.

“I think folks in the district have been really fired up that this constitutional right has been taken away,” she said in an interview with Newsday. “The tides are turning, and that’s a thing that has really energized a lot of folks.”

THE CANDIDATES

Jackie Gordon

Democrat

Age: 57

Hometown: Copiague

Education/career: Graduate of Hunter College in Manhattan; Master’s Degree in Counselor Education from CUNY Queens College; entered the U.S. Army Reserve in 1984 with the rank of Private First Class; taught K-2 in NYC and Half Hollow Hills school district and worked as a guidance counselor at Wilson Technological Center in Farmingdale; retired from Army Reserve with rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 2014

Andrew Garbarino

Republican

Age: 38

Hometown: Bayport

Education/career: Graduate of George Washington University and Hofstra University’s Maurice A. Deane School of Law; served eight years in the New York State Assembly; serves on the House Small Business Committee, as well as the House Homeland Security Committee as a ranking member of the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Innovation

Garbarino, 38, of Bayport, said the increased cost of living is the No. 1 issue. Crime and public safety are also top issues for Garbarino, who co-sponsored the Invest to Protect Act, bipartisan legislation to divert federal funds and resources to small local police departments.

Garbarino said the right to an abortion is settled in New York State.

“Democrats want it to be number one [in issues],” he told Newsday in an interview at Islip Town GOP headquarters, where his father Bill serves as chairman. “But when you talk to the average citizen it’s definitely crime and inflation.”

The district

District lines shifted east this year after a court-ordered special master redrew districts across the state. The 2nd Congressional District, which spans a large portion of the South Shore in Suffolk County and a sliver of Nassau County, now includes the area from Bayport to Eastport.

Democrats outnumber Republicans in the 2nd by 176,581 to 148,073, according to state Board of Elections. There are also 135,895 unaffiliated voters and 9,679 Conservatives.

The population is 61% white, 25% Hispanic, 10% Black and 4% Asian, according to the 2020 U.S. Census.

In 2020, Garbarino beat Gordon 177,379 votes to 154,246.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report, a Washington, D.C., newsletter that analyzes and rates congressional elections and other major races, lists the 2nd District race as “likely Republican.”

Lawrence Levy, executive dean at the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, said the district should be a “fair fight,” although Garbarino as an incumbent has the advantage.

“The big difference in this rematch is one of them is an incumbent and enjoys some of the perks of having a record and being able to raise money nationally to a greater extent,” Levy said.

Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said while the district is more competitive than safe for Republicans, midterm elections typically favor the party not in the White House.

“With Trump in the White House, this is more of a true swing district,” he said. “With Biden in the White House, I don't really think it is.”

2020 vs. 2022

So far, Garbarino has raised $3.3 million for the race, while Gordon has raised about $1.6 million, according to the most recent federal campaign filings. That’s a reversal of 2020 when Gordon spent $4.3 million to Garbarino’s $1.6 million.

Gordon had $55,730.46 in cash on hand as of Oct. 19, compared with Garbarino's $671,963.75.

Among Gordon's donors are national groups including ActBlue, EMILY's List and the Congressional Black Caucus PAC, which works to increase the number of Black members in Congress.

Garbarino has received contributions from the Republican PAC Take Back the House, police unions and from the fundraising committee for King, his predecessor.

Another difference between 2020 and 2022 is that Gordon said she did not knock on a single door two years ago due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“I Zoom, Zoom, Zoomed,” she said. “Sometimes we had five or six Zooms a day.”

Meeting constituents in person has given her a better opportunity to connect with voters, she said.

During his tenure in Congress, Garbarino has not voted in lockstep with his party’s right wing. He voted to certify the 2020 election and in favor of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure act.

That could help him win moderate voters, Levy said.

“It's the suburban swing voter who would determine whether he keeps his job,” he said. “He took some positions that were at odds with the caricature of being a Trump acolyte. And that may help him counteract the Democratic narrative … against a lot of members who only voted with the president.” 

The candidates

Gordon, who immigrated to the U.S. from Bodles, Jamaica, 50 years ago, is a former Babylon Town council member and a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. She taught for 10 years in Brooklyn and Half Hollow Hills and was a school guidance counselor at Wilson Technological Center in Farmingdale.

Gordon has stressed that her background as an immigrant, educator, veteran and single mother allows her to connect with a diverse swath of residents in the district.

“Because of my lived experiences, I can represent the vast majority of folks in this district,” she told a crowd gathered at a meet-the-candidate event in Holbrook last month. “I understand their struggles, I understand what it means to want affordable health care, I understand what it means to want lower costs of medication, or no co-payments.”

Garbarino served eight years in the State Assembly before being elected to Congress in 2020. He sits on the house Homeland Security Committee and is a ranking member on the Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Innovation subcommittee. He also sits on the House Small Business Committee.

He graduated from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., with a bachelor’s degree in history. He earned a law degree from Hofstra University.

Issues

Garbarino has stressed his support for border security and has called for the completion of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He voted against the American Dream and Promise Act, which would have provided a path to citizenship for some immigrants.

Gordon noted immigration is a sensitive issue for her as someone who came to America at age 7.

“I think we need immigration reform, so that we can figure out how do we absorb immigrants so that they feel welcomed, but in a way that we can manage it,” she said.

Gordon said she wants “common sense” gun laws like universal background checks, assault weapon bans and enforcing Red Flag laws.

Garbrarino said he supports some gun legislation like background checks, but he does not support raising the age to purchase a gun. 

“As long as the laws that are currently on the books are enforced, I think it's going to stop the bad people from getting a gun legally,” he said.

Gordon has said she supports Biden's initiative to provide up to $20,000 in debt relief for some student loan borrowers. Garbarino has said the initiative doesn’t address the root cause of the affordability of secondary education.

Gordon said she will work to repeal the SALT cap on state and local tax deductions in federal tax filings.

Garbarino, who has co-sponsored legislation to repeal the cap, conceded that a bill might not pass in this session of Congress. But when the legislation sunsets in 2025, he promised lawmakers in high tax states will fight to raise the cap, if not eliminate it.

“Over my dead body is that staying at $10,000,” he said. “They're going to have to come to the table and negotiate with us.”

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