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Who will take Pete King's seat?

Rep. Peter King, seen in a 2014 photo,

Rep. Peter King, seen in a 2014 photo, announced on Monday that he is not seeking reelection. Credit: James Escher

Daily Point

Open Congressional Seat: Day 2

News accounts Monday were filled with names of public officials considering a run for the House seat that Peter King announced he will vacate after 2020. 

Some of those mentioned already are taking their names out of contention while others are raising their hands.

Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini emailed his staff Tuesday morning to say that he is not looking for another job, at least not anytime soon.

“On the heels of Congressman Peter King announcing that he is not seeking reelection, rumors have circulated over the last 24 hours that I am a top contender to run for that seat. I wanted to make it clear immediately that I am not considering running for that seat, “ wrote Sini, whose four-year term ends in 2021. The email lists his priorities for the office and says being DA is an “honor and a privilege.”

But the GOP may have one more contender for the nomination, Nick LaLota, the Republican commissioner on the Suffolk County Board of Elections, who tells The Point he is close to making the run. “I’m speaking with family, friends and supporters and everyone thinks it’s a good idea,” he said. LaLota, 41, who served six years as a Amityville village trustee, is a graduate of the Naval Academy in Annapolis who served three deployments in the Philippines. He cites his MBA degree, his fiscal conservatism and his record as an independent broker who busted party dealmaking. LaLota successfully aided three incumbent GOP legislators, winning write-in votes on the Conservative Party line, thereby upending a cross-endorsement deal Democrats made with Conservatives. 

LaLota has three years left on his term, a position that is coveted by political leaders because it’s chock full of patronage jobs that the party can use to reward the faithful. LaLota was reappointed by former Suffolk GOP chair John Jay LaValle a few months before Jesse Garcia took over the party leadership. Getting to replace LaLota with one of his own people may be one of the reasons Garcia would support his candidacy over that of GOP State Sen. Phil Boyle and county Legis. Tom Cilmi. 

—Rita Ciolli @RitaCiolli

Talking Point

Growing pains

The eastbound platform of the Long Island Rail Road’s new Elmont station will be completed by August 2021, while the entire station, including westbound service, will be finished by October 2022, Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials confirmed during a State Legislature hearing Tuesday.

Under questioning from State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, Janno Lieber, who heads the MTA’s capital construction division, said the Elmont station would fall under his purview. Proposals for the station’s construction are due next month, Lieber said.

The overall timetable means that the eastbound platform will be completed before the new arena at Belmont Park opens, but westbound service won’t operate until about a year later.

Tuesday was a busy day for the MTA as its committees met at the same time as the State Legislature hearing, which was convened to discuss the MTA’s next five-year capital plan. Lieber, for instance, was seen at the LIRR committee meeting Tuesday morning, but spent his afternoon with the legislature, less than a mile away. 

During questioning from State Sen. Anna Kaplan, Lieber also confirmed that the East Side Access effort to connect the LIRR to Grand Central Terminal remains on schedule to be finished by the end of 2022.

While all of that seems like good news, there is a hint of concern for those advocating for the LIRR. That came when Assemb. David Buchwald, of White Plains, highlighted what he saw as a funding discrepancy between Metro-North and LIRR. Buchwald, now running for Congress, pointed to the $1 billion difference in the railroads’ capital budgets, and also noted the $243 million loan made from Metro-North to the LIRR in the existing capital program, to fund new LIRR cars. That money had been allocated to Penn Access but wasn’t ready to be spent. 

Buchwald said he worried those funds wouldn’t be paid back, though MTA officials said they would be. But Lieber and MTA chief executive Pat Foye pushed back on Buchwald’s claims, noting that the funding difference between the railroads is being spent mostly on completing the third track and East Side Access projects. That, in turn, they said, will allow for the construction of Penn Access, bringing Metro-North to Penn Station.

“If you do the math, that is a significant benefit to Metro-North,” Lieber said. “We need to account for that in the discussion.”

But in two rounds of questioning, Buchwald didn’t buy it.

“I don’t think Metro-North riders view it as equal treatment despite your statements to the contrary,” Buchwald said.

It’ll be worth keeping an eye on that debate as the MTA capital plan makes its way through the Capital Program Review Board, and state legislative budgetary decisions, in the coming months.

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Pencil Point

Magic trick

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Final Point

Booker’s story

He’s trailing the likes of Tulsi Gabbard and Andrew Yang in recent polls. He’ll be on the debate stage next week, but hasn’t made it for December. He’s watching other establishment center-left African American politicians like Deval Patrick and Eric Holder eye the 2020 presidential race while he skates for traction. With Cory Booker barely clinging to 2020 relevancy and at least not yet central to the cycle’s conversation, The Point read his book “United” as an example of what might have been. 

The New Jersey senator’s 2016 tome has plenty of the usual presidential stuff, to be sure. There are personal stories of struggle plus references to coming together as a people and “the grand conspiracy of love.” The Booker we have seen on the debate stage is the same Booker here: a genial guy who has some inflections of Barack Obama rhetoric and appears to be friends with everyone. His acknowledgements section runs a heady seven pages. 

But this is also a deeply urban book, in stark contrast to a national primary schedule so far focused much more on rural Iowa and New Hampshire than Chicago or Houston. 

It is a book filled with the joys and hardships of Newark, where Booker was a city councilman and then mayor. Given that experience, his book is about elevators not working in tall housing projects and gun violence on street corners as opposed to cornfields. He and his writing team tell compelling city stories: the difficulties of a woman working for $2.13 an hour before tips at an IHOP losing business because it was the site of a shooting; being overwhelmed by the sheer number of people who came to an event to expunge their criminal records. 

He writes about the lack of housing affordability and the long history of segregation and disinvestment in cities, plus the challenges faced by major police departments, including his own evolution on quality-of-life stops. 

Booker is open about his suburban childhood (his parents participated in real estate “testing” to see whether real estate agents were steering black homebuyers away from white areas around Bergen County). And the book covers some of the showmanship that Booker became known for as a young politician: running after a suspect with his police detail, camping out on the street to protest poor living conditions in a housing complex. But it’s refreshing to read about someone who threw himself into the issues of urban living, inviting job-seekers to visit him at his apartment, playing basketball with kids on the street. 

A substantial majority of Americans live in cities, not to mention the suburbs that cocoon and commune with them. But let’s go back to the Iowa State Fair.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano