Scrambling for King's seat
There had been signs all along that Pete King wouldn’t seek another term, but his official announcement Monday sent the Long Island political world scrambling. Now, more possible candidates for the open seat have popped up by the hour.
The two most likely contenders, however, were both at Babylon Village’s Veterans Day Parade on Monday. Today’s money shot would be an image of Republican Phil Boyle and Democrat Jackie Gordon smiling and laughing as they marched side by side at the event.
Boyle, a state senator who will be a top target of state Democrats in 2020, is the GOP’s obvious choice. A darling of Suffolk’s Conservative Party leaders, he would come into any candidate negotiations with their endorsement as well as the local Independence Party in his back pocket.
If Boyle, who was an aide on Capitol Hill for five years, takes a pass, county Legis. Tom Cilmi is next on the list. Cilmi, the legislature's respected minority leader, is term-limited.
One unknown for the GOP is Rick Lazio, who expressed mild interest in a statement Monday. He served four terms in the House from Suffolk County before losing a 2000 U.S. Senate race to Hillary Clinton. Lazio, who technically owns a home in Brightwaters, spends most of his time in NYC and hasn’t been involved in local issues for a very long time.
Nassau County Republicans can have some claim on the seat — the Seaford portion of the district, including blanks and some cross-over Democrats, was solidly for King. But the likely contenders, Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joe Saladino and town council member Steven Labriola, have almost no name recognition in Suffolk County. That’s a concern in the district as currently constituted. According to the state Board of Elections, 352,191 of the district’s registered voters are in Suffolk, a plurality of them Democrats, versus 150,134 in Nassau, where Republicans are stronger.
Right now, Suffolk Democratic leader Rich Schaffer told The Point he supports Gordon, a member of the Babylon Town council. “Jackie Gordon is the one and only candidate I know of. She will have my support. I don't think anyone else will jump in,” Schaffer emailed The Point. While Emily’s List already has supported the Iraq war vet and African American who has a moderate voting record, there is a concern that she won’t have the magnetism needed for such a marquee race.
First-term State Sen. Monica Martinez is supposedly interested in running, according to some in her circle. Martinez, a former Suffolk County legislator from Brentwood, impressed state political leaders in her first year in office and right now there is little appetite among the Democratic leadership to defend that Senate seat so soon.
Liuba Grechen Shirley, an unknown who gave King a scare in 2018 by narrowing his margin of victory to some 15,000 votes, said in a statement that she is considering jumping back. The progressive, however, would face a primary from Gordon and other mainstream Democrats. That didn’t stop the Facebook page of activist group New York's 2nd District Democrats, which Grechen Shirley started, from buzzing Monday with discussion of whether politicians should jump over to Grechen Shirley should she run.
In terms of registration, Democrats have a 177,551 to 164,273 advantage over Republicans in the district. The difference is more than made up by 9,033 Conservative Party members, 19,313 Independence voters and nearly 130,000 blanks, but the district has the opportunity to be a more even playing field than other battleground suburban districts.
Heir to the King?
Just hours after her father said he would retire from Congress, Erin King Sweeney found herself in Raleigh, North Carolina, for a meeting with key political players in the state’s Republican party.
King Sweeney moved to Waxhaw, North Carolina, just south of Charlotte, with her family earlier this fall. She relinquished her Hempstead Town board seat, and any opportunity to run for her dad’s seat, or any elected office in New York.
In an interview Tuesday, King Sweeney said she’s not eyeing a particular run for office now. But her meeting with the GOP, which was planned before her father’s announcement, may mark an early step back into politics.
“At some point, I’d love to get back into politics,” said King Sweeney, who was 18 when her dad was elected to Congress. “My main focus right now is my family. And I’m a carpetbagger so I have to pay my dues, and get to know the local people and the issues.”
King Sweeney also plans to host an event for New York State Republicans at next year's Republican National Convention, which is in Charlotte.
King Sweeney said there was “absolutely no question” that her move south changed the decision-making for her father, Rep. Peter King, who announced Monday that he would not seek re-election next November.
“It was totally a family decision,” King Sweeney said. “Everyone gave their opinion and their input.”
While King has no plans to move to North Carolina, he’ll likely spend more time there once he leaves Congress, particularly to see his granddaughter, and watch her horse competitions there. But could that time include helping daughter Erin with whatever run might come next? After all, King has $1 million in his campaign account, some of which he said Monday that he’d use to support causes and Republican candidates.
Said King Sweeney: “My dad referred in his statement that there’s a season for everything. Likewise, it’s the same in North Carolina, and at some point, it will be my season.”
—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall