WASHINGTON -- Vice President Joe Biden's announcement Wednesday that he will not run for president prompted understanding and sympathy from Long Island lawmakers in both parties, sadness for a local Democratic fundraiser who wanted him in the race and relief for one who didn't.
Two members of the Long Island House delegation said they knew Biden's son Beau, whose death from brain cancer at the age of 46 in May led to the vice president's lengthy rumination on whether to run.
"Beau was a good friend of mine," said Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City). They met as assistant U.S. attorneys in Philadelphia in the early 2000s.
"He always put his family first, just as his father has done over the past several months, putting his family ahead of his own aspirations and making sure they had the time they needed to process their tragic loss," she said.
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) recalled spending time with Beau Biden, an Iraq War veteran, at officer training in Virginia in 2004. "I served with Beau in the Army and view him as a patriotic American who was taken from his family, friends and country much too soon," Zeldin said.
"Beau's death obviously was a huge factor in the vice president's decision and no one should run for president if their full heart and energy isn't into the demands of the position," he added.
Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) said, "Joe has been a buddy of mine and stumped for me on Long Island. I know this was a tough decision for him and totally respect it. He's always been selfless about politics, and was especially so in this decision."
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) called Biden "a good person and a dedicated government official" and wished him the best.
New York Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand -- backers of their party's front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton, as are Rice and Israel -- praised Biden's years of service and respected his decision.
Businessman Jon Cooper of Lloyd Harbor, who is national finance chairman of Draft Biden 2016, said it was "definitely a sad moment" when Biden said he would not run.
"There are a lot of people who believed in him and continue to believe in him, and feel he would have been the strongest Democratic candidate in the general election," he said.
The former Suffolk County legislator who backed Barack Obama in 2007 said he'll vote for the Democratic nominee next fall, but hasn't decided his next step.
"A lot of the campaigns have reached out to me," he said, asking him to get involved. "Right now, I'm just not feeling it."
Robert Zimmerman, of Great Neck, a Democratic national committeeman and Clinton fundraiser, was relieved.
"Joe Biden had many enthusiastic supporters," he said. "I'm very impressed about the number who are calling me about donating and getting involved."