New York 2: Open Seat Shifts to More Vulnerable Category

by Nathan L. Gonzales November 11, 2019 · 4:40 PM EST

Years of predictions finally came true as GOP Rep. Peter King of New York announced he will not seek re-election in the 2nd District. His decision leaves behind another competitive open seat in the suburbs for Republicans to defend. 

In 2016, President Donald Trump carried the southern Long Island district by a significant margin, 53-44 percent, but the longtime congressman’s narrow margin of victory in 2018 (6 points) is fueling Democratic optimism, particularly now that he is not running. 

The 2nd is not a typical suburban district that has shifted away from Trump, and belongs in a separate category from districts in Orange County, California or Northern Virginia. There’s a sizable enough white, non-college educated electorate in eastern Long Island to keep the district competitive.  

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo carried the 2nd by 4 points in 2018, even though he won statewide by 23 points. Also that cycle, King defeated Democrat Liuba Grechen Shirley 53-47 percent. Despite her loss, she made national news for obtaining a ruling from the Federal Election Commission which allows candidates to use campaign funds for child care.

King already had a Democratic challenger this cycle in Babylon Town Councilwoman Jackie Gordon. As an Iraq and Afghanistan War veteran, she entered the race with high expectations. She had $127,000 in her campaign account on Sept. 30, along with endorsements from EMILY’s List and End Citizens United. 

Now that the seat is open, other Democrats who weren’t excited about challenging King will likely take a fresh look. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is likely to field some calls about running for Congress. And Shirley is now considering another run after King’s announcement.

Republicans will obviously need to find a candidate as well. Potential candidates include former state Sen. Chuck Fuschillo, state Sen. Phil Boyle, Assemblyman Mike LiPetri, Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino, Islip Town Councilwoman Mary Kate Mullen, and Nassau County Legislator James Kennedy. King’s daughter, Erin, was a local officeholder and viewed as a likely successor, but she moved to North Carolina.

Since Republicans are unlikely to unveil a candidate as strong as King, the seat must be considered more vulnerable than it was before he announced his decision. We’re changing our rating of the 2nd District race from Likely Republican to Lean Republican. 

That means that at this point in the cycle, the 2nd is not quite as vulnerable as the 22nd and 24th districts in Texas. Those are similarly open seats in suburban territory, but districts where Trump won more narrowly in 2016. 

King is the twentieth Republican to not seek re-election this cycle, and 16 of those members are retiring without seeking another office. In comparison, eight Democrats are not seeking re-election, including five members who are retiring without seeking another office.