Long Island Republican leaders on Tuesday announced they are backing Assemb. Andrew Garbarino as their candidate to run for the seat of Rep. Peter King, but a fight for the nomination is still possible.
Garbarino, who is in his eighth year in the state Assembly, got the nod ahead of other contenders, including Suffolk County Elections Commissioner Nick LaLota of Amityville and Assemb. Michael LiPetri (R-South Farmingdale).
"The Republican parties of Nassau and Suffolk [counties] are united in their support of Andrew Garbarino to make this run to succeed our great, current Representative in Congress, Peter King," Suffolk GOP Chairman Jesse Garcia said in a statement. "Andrew has been a great assemblyman and he is going to be a terrific congressman."
Nassau Republican Chairman Joe Cairo added: "Andrew Garbarino has the credentials, experience and priorities to be our next congressman in the second district."
It is unclear whether LaLota or LiPetri will contest for the nomination in a Republican primary, which would be held in June if needed.
"Stay tuned," LiPetri said when contacted Tuesday.
LaLota said he and his supporters are talking and expect a decision in a few days. But he noted he's already raised $150,000 in campaign funds and added: "I have scores of volunteers to help me go door to door to get elected."
Others who interviewed with Republican nominating committees were Suffolk’s Director of Health Education Nancy Hemendinger, of Babylon; business consultant and Manhattan resident Thomas Kehoe, who grew up in Northport, and real estate developer Robert Kudler of Merrick. Islip Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt filed a campaign committee but did not interview for the nomination.
Democrats are expected to back former Babylon Town councilwoman Jackie Gordon in what will likely be one of the closely watched congressional races around the nation this fall. Other Democrats who have filed paperwork to run are Patricia Maher, Johanna Ellerup and Mike Sax.
The national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently named Gordon as one of its top tier candidates who it believes can win a Republican seat, giving her access to fundraising support, staff sources and campaign training.
King (R-Seaford) is set to retire Dec. 31, at the end of his 14th term in the House of Representatives. The 75-year-old said he is stepping down for personal reasons, among them the relocation of his daughter and her family to North Carolina.
King’s district, New York’s 2nd Congressional, straddles Nassau and Suffolk counties along the South Shore, with about two-thirds of it in Suffolk. It is considered a swing district — it went for President Donald Trump in 2016, but twice backed President Barack Obama.
King’s retirement shifted the district from being considered “likely Republican” in 2020, to “leaning Republican,” according to the Cook Political Report.
Garbarino, 35, is the son of Islip Republican Town Chairman William Garbarino. Previously, he reported raising more than $200,000 in the first month after announcing his plans to run.
One Republican said the party chose Garbarino in part because of his experience and longer tenure in the state Assembly, and because “his Islip base is very much a swing area" in the congressional district. Garbarino was first elected to the Assembly in 2012; currently, he is the ranking GOP member on the Insurance Committee.
A Suffolk Republican familiar with the party's decision process said a primary run by LiPetri would be a "slap in the face" to Cairo.