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Rep. Steve Israel: ‘Not my job’ to pick successor

Congressman Steve Israel outside of the Great Neck

Congressman Steve Israel outside of the Great Neck South Middle School in Great Neck, Friday, Oct. 16, 2015. Credit: Congressman Steve Israel outside of the Great Neck South Middle School in Great Neck, Friday, Oct. 16, 2015.

Rep. Steve Israel, who set off a scramble to succeed him when he made his surprise retirement announcement last month, said it’s not his job to name a successor but that he might make an endorsement before the primary.

Israel, an eight-term Democrat from Huntington, also said in an interview last week that he is in conversations to remain involved in national Democratic politics after he leaves Congress to pursue a part-time writing career.

Washington pundits moved the political status of his 3rd District on the North Shore from a safe Democratic seat to a tossup with the possibility of a Republican victory after Israel’s announcement.

Democratic political consultant Hank Sheinkopf argued that Israel “left early so he couldn’t be blamed for what could be a Republican victory for that seat.”

But Israel said that by leaving this year he will ensure his party will retain his seat.

“It is a Democratic district in a presidential election so I am confident a Democrat will win,” he said, noting that bigger turnouts favor his party.

“It’s not my job to pick the Democrat,” said Israel, who noted that his district stretches into three counties, each with a Democratic chairman.

“Right now I want to see who’s real, who’s not, who’s in, who’s out,” he said. “Candidates owe it to the voters to establish themselves.”

Yet he said, “As we get deeper into the political season I may make an endorsement.”

Democrats running include former North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman, Suffolk County Legis. Steve Stern of Dix Hills, North Hempstead Town Board member Anna Kaplan and lobbyist Brad Gerstman. Former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi is weighing a run.

Israel praised Stern for hiring four of his campaign staff members, and Stern met with Israel in his Capitol Hill office on Wednesday.

Republican contenders include State Sen. Jack Martins of Old Westbury, Suffolk Legis. Robert Trotta of Fort Salonga, Assemb. Chad Lupinacci of Huntington Station, and businessmen David Gurfein of Manhasset and Philip Martin Pidot of Glen Cove.

On his future, Israel said, “I have had conversations with a variety of people about continuing to participate in national Democratic politics. That’s as much as I can say for now.”

He said has put his Washington condo up for sale and intends to live on Long Island.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I’ll tell you what I will not do. I will not be a full-time lobbyist,” Israel said. “I want to be able to spend two to three days a week writing.”

Israel said if his first satirical book, “The Global War Against Morris,” hadn’t been successful he might have stayed in Congress.

But he said that as far back as last summer he was “80 percent” sure he was ready to retire. He said he made his decision on New Year’s Eve.

Israel is working on a second book and has an idea for a third but said he needs a job.

“When I called my agent and said, ‘Listen I’ve decided I’m not going to run for re-election so I can focus on writing,’ my agent said, ‘I hope you’re not doing that to make money because you’ll make none,’ ” he said.


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