‘We will compete to win it in 2020…’
(Liberty Headlines) Rep. Peter King, a moderate Republican who has represented a Long Island congressional district for nearly 30 years, announced Monday he won’t seek reelection, enhancing Democrats’ chances to grab yet another suburban House seat in the far-left state as they defend their majority in 2020.
In the latest indication that congressional Republicans are rallying behind Trump for now, King said he will oppose Democratic efforts to impeach Trump. King also opposed Bill Clinton‘s impeachment in 1998.
“In the coming weeks and during the next year I intend to vote against President Trump’s impeachment and will support the President’s bid for re-election,” King said.
The 14-term congressman, 75, said in a Facebook post that he’s retiring because he wants “flexibility to spend more time” with his children and grandchildren “after 28 years of spending 4 days a week in Washington, D.C.”
His district includes once-reliably GOP territory in southwestern Suffolk County and a portion of Nassau County, about an hour’s drive east of Manhattan. It went narrowly for Trump in 2016.
King, a former chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, has cultivated a reputation for bipartisanship while maintaining a firm line on immigration and crime. He is the longest-serving Republican member of New York’s congressional delegation, and has been among the most pragmatic members of his party.
King’s keen political instincts and reputation as a fighter for New York’s interests gave him remarkable political resiliency; at one point, after the 2008 election that sent Barack Obama to the White House, he was the state’s lone GOP member of Congress.
He won reelection in 2018 by just 6 percentage points.
He teamed up with powerful Democrats such as New York Sen. Chuck Schumer to win a huge Superstorm Sandy aid package after the 2012 storm. On Monday, the Senate Democratic leader took to Twitter to lavish praise on King.
“Peter King stood head & shoulders above everyone else,” Schumer wrote. “He’s fiercely loved America, Long Island, and his Irish heritage and left a lasting mark on all 3.”
However, not all of the Democrats in Congress were ready to lavish praise on him. Freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., attacked him for focusing on Muslim extremism during his brief stint as Homeland Security panel chair after Republican took back the House in 2010.
Peter King is an Islamophobe who held McCarthyite hearings targeting American Muslims, said “there are too many mosques in this country” and blamed Eric Garner for his own death at the hands of police.
Good riddance. https://t.co/cYZOrnaK2M
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) November 11, 2019
More recently, King was an ardent backer of legislation to finance the health care of first responders who have gotten cancer or other severe health problems in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks at the World Trade Center.
He also opposed the 2017 GOP tax overhaul bill, which cut back a federal deduction for state and local taxes that was a big benefit to King’s highly-taxed constituents.
Many wealthy New Yorkers have fled the state after President Donald Trump closed the loophole, and Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo blamed Trump for New York’s massive budget shortfall as the state legislature refused to curtail its spending and proposed an even more radical agenda.
Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., who heads House Democrats’ election arm, said King’s retirement “underlines just how serious Republicans’ problems are in swing districts across this country.” While her party has long targeted his district, she added, “We will compete to win it in 2020.”
Twenty House Republicans have announced they will not seek reelection. Three other GOP lawmakers have resigned and already left Congress.
Only a handful of Republican-held districts being vacated by retirements are expected to be seriously competitive next year, but King’s will certainly be among them. The GOP’s once-powerful grip on Long Island has long since loosened, though King’s seat has been in Republican hands for almost five decades.
Democrats retook the U.S. House majority in 2018, aided by victories in what had been GOP-held suburban seats from Virginia to California.
New York State Republican Party Chairman Nick Langworthy praised King and said, “We have every confidence we will retain this seat and continue the strong representation that Long Islanders deserve.”
Relatively unknown Democrat Liuba Grechen Shirley lost to King by 6 percentage points last year despite being significantly outspent and said Monday that she’s considering another run.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press