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Democrat Liuba Grechen Shirley, Rep. Pete King, clash at News 12 debate

Congressman Peter King and Democratic challenger Liuba Grechen

Congressman Peter King and Democratic challenger Liuba Grechen Shirley debate on Wednesday in Woodbury. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) and Democratic challenger Liuba Grechen Shirley engaged in a testy debate at News 12 Long Island on Wednesday on issues including health care, immigration and the MS-13 gang.

King, 74, who is seeking a 14th term in the 2nd Congressional District, touted his experience fighting for funding after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Grechen Shirley, 37 of Amityville, highlighted her experience as an economic development expert working in the nonprofit sector. She holds an MBA from New York University.

The candidates tangled over whether King was truly bipartisan.

“I’m not a blind partisan. I believe in bipartisanship,” King said.

"He has voted with [President] Donald Trump 85 percent of the time," and is against a woman's right to choose and marriage equality, Grechen Shirley said. "This is not bipartisan. Those are extremist view points." 

King said Georgetown University's Lugar Center had rated him the most bipartisan member of the House.

Grechen Shirley has criticized King   for voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017. King defended his vote, but  at the time  said he would push for Medicaid expansion.

At one point, the candidates sparred over how long it’s been since King appeared in a debate with an opponent.

King disputed Grechen Shirley's contention that it had been eight years.

"Just don't lie," said King.

"I'm not lying, that's what you're good at," Grechen Shirley said.

King responded, "You're the best. You're the queen."

King also asserted that Grechen Shirley and supporters came to his district office and approached staff members with cameras and asked questions about his support for extending immigrants' Temporary Protected Status.

Grechen Shirley said only one person carried a cellphone camera.

"We went in with people from the community to ask a question. . . . We didn't go in with cameras to get a gotcha moment," said Grechen Shirley. "We went in to ask a question of our representative who refused to respond."

King said, "I always respond to legitimate constituents who ask legitimate questions."

Grechen Shirley asked, "Why am I not a not a legitimate constituent?"

"The question was asked in a harsh way . . . ," King said. "I've met with thousands of people in my office."

King praised Trump, a Republican, for his efforts to weaken ISIS in the Middle East and for a federal crackdown on MS-13 on Long Island.

However, King said that "verbally," the president "has been much too easy" on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Grechen Shirley said she was "happy" that Trump was working to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.

But "I don't talk about Donald Trump when I'm out campaigning," she said. "People don't want to speak about Donald Trump. They want to talk about what you're going to do for their family." 

The debate will air Tuesday  at 8:30 p.m. on News 12. It can be viewed online at, watched on Optimum Channel 612 or the News 12 app on Altice ONE, and on Roku, Apple TV or Fire TV apps.

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