Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) announced, earlier this week, that he will be retiring from Congress at the end of his 14th term next year. King, 75, stated in a Monday morning Facebook post that he made the decision after much discussion with his wife and children.
“The prime reason for my decision was that after 28 years of spending four days a week in Washington, D.C., it is my time to end the weekly commute and be home in Seaford,” the posts reads. “This was not an easy decision. But there is a season for everything and [my wife] Rosemary and I decided that, especially since we are both in good health, it is time to have the flexibility to spend more time with our children and grandchildren. My daughter’s recent move to North Carolina certainly accelerated my thinking.”
King described his time in Congress as an extraordinary experience, one he said he wouldn’t have imagined as a kid growing up in Sunnyside, Queens. He also recalled loading and unloading trucks and freight cars at Manhattan’s West Side Railway Terminal while attending college. King graduated from St. Francis College, in 1965, with a bachelor’s degree in political science before earning his J.D. from Notre Dame Law School in 1968.
“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,” he wrote. “Politically, I will miss the energy and dynamism of a re-election campaign, especially since my polling numbers are as strong as they have ever been and I have more than $1 million in campaign funds.”
Liuba Grechen Shirley, the Congressman’s most recent challenger for the 2nd Congressional District, wrote in a statement that she wishes King the best in his upcoming retirement. Grechen Shirley also said she is seriously considering another run for Congress.
“As a mother, grassroots activist and national childcare advocate, I know how much is at stake in the upcoming elections,” she said. “The issues I focused my campaign on last year – from paid family leave and affordable health care to climate change and a woman’s right to choose – are still very much at the forefront of today’s political debate.”
King was re-elected in 2018 with 128,078 votes (53.1 percent). Grechen Shirley received 113,074 votes (46.9 percent).
During his most recent campaign, King told this publication that unlike his political rival, he doesn’t support universal health care and believes we should maintain a private system. Despite voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act on multiple occasions, King said Congress should leave the parts of Obamacare that work, mainly protections for preexisting conditions. He still criticized the ACA for raising premiums.
We also spoke to King about the issue of gun control shortly after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida last year. He said one has to step outside the New York metropolitan area to fully understand the culture surrounding guns in this country, adding that many gun owners view even the slightest regulation as a step towards confiscation.
The congressman, who voted for the federal assault weapons ban in 1994, also expressed his belief that pro-gun constituents would remain powerful even if the National Rifle Association didn’t exist because they are more passionate about the issue than those who casually support reasonable gun control.
King, who is notable for his avid support of those in the police and military, said that he will always be proud of his efforts for 9/11 victims and their families, as well as stand against MS-13 and terrorism.
The congressman served twice as chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and, in 2011, held controversial hearings about what he considered to be the radicalization of Muslims in the United States. The hearings, which he called absolutely essential at the time, according to reports, caused protests and drew accusations of bigotry.
King, who is of Irish descent, supported the Irish Republican movement and expressed sympathy for the Irish Republican Army in the 1970s and ‘80s. King noted his bipartisan efforts with former President Bill Clinton to help achieve the Good Friday Agreement, which he credits with ending centuries of warfare in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The congressman also stated that while in office, he planned on voting against President Donald Trump’s impeachment and supporting his bid for re-election.
“Most importantly, I want to thank the residents of the 2nd Congressional District for giving me the opportunity to represent them in Washington, D.C.,” he added. “I will complete my term of office and continue to work hard for these constituents all the way to the final bell of the final round on Dec. 31, 2020.”
Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-East Islip) is also considering a run for King’s seat. Cilmi, who also serves as the minority leader in the Suffolk County Legislature, said the decision to run for Congress will not only affect him, but his family as well. He’s also in the process of talking with political leaders about the possibility of a run.
“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time,” he said. “I hope, whatever their decision is, that Republicans will present a united front.”
Cilmi was re-elected to a sixth and final term, last week, with 9,700 votes (69.49 percent).