The Republican presidential field is only four candidates shy of assembling a capable roster for a pick-up softball game. But, if such a game would occur, Long Island’s most outspoken Congressman would not even be on the bench, forget about mowing down batters with high heat.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), LI’s most provocative and boisterous elected official, acknowledged Wednesday he is not seeking the Republican nomination for president. King had been toying with the idea for nearly two years, teasing Long Islanders unenthusiastic about former Republican Gov. George Pataki’s candidacy.
“I’ve decided not to run,” King told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Wednesday. “It was a great experience. I would loved to have the opportunity to run, to go all the way; I think I can more than compete with any of those that are in there.
“The reality is as far as money, the fact that I do have a full time job on the intelligence and homeland security committees, it’s just not in the cards,” he continued. “I don’t want to be taking up other people’s time. I don’t want to have 19, 20 candidates, whatever its going to be.”
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) July 1, 2015
The GOP field is already crowded even without King. There are currently 14 candidates, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who announced a run earlier this week. The terrain is likely to get even more cramped with Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker expected to announce bids for the nomination, which would bring to 16 the number of Republican presidential candidates.
King, the current chairman of the House subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, had been mulling a run since at least July 2013. That summer, King emailed donors and acknowledged having misgivings about potential candidates’ ability to handle national security issues.
“While I’m nowhere near ready to declare my candidacy, I am concerned about the lack of a coherent national security and homeland security and counterterrorism policy by the Republican Party,” King said in the email. “So, I won’t rule out a possible run.”
King then hit the road. He traveled to New Hampshire nine times and made stops in Rhode Island and Vermont, he told CNN.
Over the years, King has built a reputation as a national security hawk. He frequently appears on cable news programs to discuss counterterrorism issues, thus building his reputation among like-minded Americans outside New York State.
In his interview, King said he was “concerned” that Sens. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) were monopolizing “the airwaves,” and “getting out what they thought was their Republican message.”
“I wanted to counter that,” King said.
The Congressman has not been shy about criticizing Paul and Cruz for their positions. In May, he said Paul should seek the “Democratic nomination,” and also blasted Kentucky’s junior senator for critical comments he has made about the National Security Agency.
Rand Paul should seek Democratic nomination. https://t.co/eOl45PRm0D
— Rep. Pete King (@RepPeteKing) May 29, 2015
It’s time for Rand Paul to stop doing Edward Snowden’s work and let the Senate preserve the NSA and protect America
— Rep. Pete King (@RepPeteKing) May 30, 2015
Rand Paul’s rant on senate floor vs NSA more irrational than ever – very damaging to American security! Why does anyone listen to him?
— Rep. Pete King (@RepPeteKing) May 20, 2015
As for his chief concern: “There are candidates in the race who are raising national defense issues,” he told CNN.
King did not say which Republican he’d support, but he is willing to help if called upon.
“I’ll do everything I can to work within the Republican Party,” King said.