Rep. Peter King, seen here on Nov. 16, 2017.

Rep. Peter King, seen here on Nov. 16, 2017. Credit: AP / Susan Walsh

This originally appeared in The Point, the editorial board's newsletter for political insiders. To subscribe, click here.

For weeks, Republican Rep. Peter King and Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi publicized their plans to hold a bipartisan rally at Farmingdale State College to coincide with the national March for Our Lives.

About 1,500 protestors showed up on Saturday.

Suozzi was there, King was not.

Instead, King told The Point, he was in Florida celebrating his uncle’s 90th birthday.

King said the birthday weekend included giving his uncle and 13-year-old grandson the chance to meet members of the New York Mets and attend a spring training game in Port St. Lucie on Friday, with a large family dinner that night.

He said the family weekend was planned back in February. But when Suozzi suggested the rally, King agreed, thinking he’d probably have to remain in Washington for a down-to-the-wire budget vote and miss the festivities in Florida. King said he had told Suozzi from the beginning he was uncertain whether he’d be able to go to Farmingdale. Nonetheless, in a CNN interview in early March, King was the one who brought up the plans for a “massive rally” on March 24.

Even as of Wednesday, King thought the budget discussion would last through Friday or Saturday, and he’d be attending the rally. But once the budget vote occurred on Thursday, King decided to pack his bags and head south.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” King said of his family’s plans. “It was a family moment.”

King, who represents the 2nd District, sent a staff member to the event, which drew many high school students. He said his absence had nothing to do with politics, noting that his support of gun control legislation, and his “F” grade with the National Rifle Association, make his position on guns clear. His representative was booed roundly, requiring Suozzi to step up to the microphone to ask the crowd to let him speak.

“Politically, it would have been better to be there,” King said of the rally. He said his daughter, Hempstead Town Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney, made that point to him in Florida. “If anything, I lost politically. All I could do was gain votes by going there.”