Fourteen-term U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), the dean of Long Island’s congressional delegation, announced Monday that he will not seek re-election in 2020, setting up a fierce fight for his district.
King, who was first elected to Congress in 1993, remained as feisty as ever in announcing his retirement, suggesting that he believes he’d win re-election if he ran, intends to back President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, and will vote against impeaching the president. He is currently the longest-serving congressman from New York.
“The prime reason for my decision was that after 28 years of spending four days a week in Washington, D.C., it is time to end the weekly commute and be home in Seaford,” King said in a statement. “This was not an easy decision.”
King, who is the most tenured of Long Island’s five congressional representatives, is one of 20 members of the GOP minority in the U.S. House of Representatives to decline seeking re-election next year. His last day in office will be on Dec. 31, 2020.
The congressman started his career in elected office in 1977 as a councilman in the Town of Hempstead before getting elected Nassau County comptroller in 1981, and a decade later won the congressional seat vacated by Rep. Robert Mrazek (D-Centerport), who retired. He represents New York’s Second Congressional District, which spans the South Shore of Long Island from western Nassau County to western Suffolk County.
King, who counts boxing as chief among his hobbies, was not one to back down from a political fight. His time in office was at times controversial, such as during his tenure as chairman of the homeland security committee, when he held hearings on the radicalization of Muslim-Americans, which critics decried as Islamophobic. The New York Civil Liberties Union recently forced him to create a new Facebook page after he was found to be illegally blocking online critics.
But his willingness to challenge his own party sometimes won him praise from Democrats. Such instances include in 2012 when he blasted then-congressional Republican leaders for stalling a $50 billion Superstorm Sandy aid package and when the GOP again dragged its feet on the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. He also worked with President Bill Clinton to achieve the Good Friday Agreement peace accord between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
“I will miss fighting for the people of my district and America and will always be proud of my efforts,” he said.
Democrats have long sought to unseat King without success, including ex-Nassau Legis. Dave Mejias (D-Farmingdale), Suffolk County Legislative Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville), and most recently, Democrat Liuba Grechen Shirley, who made national headlines last year when the Federal Elections Commission unprecedentedly allowed her to use campaign funds to pay for child care while she’s on the trail. Babylon Town Councilwoman Jackie Gordon was the latest challenger to throw her hat in the ring.
King said he will use his retirement to spend more time with his family, including his wife Rosemary, son Sean, daughter Erin King-Sweeney — a fellow Republican Hempstead Town Councilwoman who recently announcement that she’s moving to North Carolina — and his grandchildren.
“My time in Congress has been an extraordinary experience — an experience I wouldn’t have even dared imagine when I was a kid growing up in Sunnyside or a college student loading and unloading trucks and freight cars at Manhattan’s West Side Railway Terminal,” King said. “I intend to remain in Seaford, be active politically and look forward to seeing what opportunities and challenges await me in this next chapter of a very fortunate life.”