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Longtime Republican Congressman Peter King Will Not Seek Reelection

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) - It's the end of a political era on Long Island as Congressman Peter King says he will not seek reelection next year.

The Republican made the announcement Monday on his Facebook page, and there are big political ramifications, reports CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff.

"I made this decision after much discussion with my wife Rosemary; my son Sean; and my daughter Erin," he posted. "The prime reason for my decision was that after 28 years of spending 4 days a week in Washington, D.C., it is time to end the weekly commute and be home in Seaford."

I have decided not to be a candidate for re-election to Congress in 2020. I made this decision after much discussion...

Posted by Pete King on Monday, November 11, 2019

The 75-year-old King represents the Second Congressional District on Long Island and is currently serving his 14th term.

"I want to thank the residents of the 2nd Congressional District for giving me the opportunity to represent them in Washington, D.C," his post continued. "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."

"I loved every minute of being in town there but being away every week for 28 years becomes a lot," said King on Monday. "With my daughter moving to North Carolina, scheduling becomes impossible. I think there is a time for everything, a season for everything and it was time for me to spend more time here in Seaford.

"I've had a good life so far and I'm still healthy, my wife is healthy, there is a new chapter opening up," he said.

A Political Prize

The moderate Republican often was hailed on the other side of the aisle for bipartisan independence, but his seat long eyed as flippable. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee calls New York's 2nd district a pick-up target they "will compete to win" in 2020.

"Now that it will be open, it's going to be one of those seats... millions and millions of dollars to affect the outcome," said Larry Levy, the Hofstra University suburban studies chair.

Liuba Grechen Shirley, the Democrat King beat last year, said Monday she is seriously considering another run for Congress.

Sen. Chuck Schumer reacted to King's announcement on Twitter, saying "I will miss him in Congress & value his friendship."

Praise From Across The Aisle

"Peter King stood head & shoulders above everyone else," Schumer tweeted. "He's been principled & never let others push him away from his principles. He's fiercely loved America, Long Island, and his Irish heritage and left a lasting mark on all 3."

New York State and Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs also released a statement, saying, "Pete King and I disagreed on most issues. However, no one can dispute that he is a true American who has always tried to put his country first. While we have disagreed politically, I have always found him to be a gentleman who respects the two-party tradition in our country. I wish him well."

A former chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, King has cultivated a reputation for bipartisanship while maintaining a hard line on immigration and crime. He is the longest-serving Republican member of New York's congressional delegation. Still, he won reelection in 2018 by just 6 percentage points.

He still backs President Donald Trump, but King offers words of wisdom.

"As much as you disagree with the other side, they make some good points," he said. "Try to find common ground."

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 teamed up with powerful Democrats such as Schumer to win a huge Superstorm Sandy aid package after the 2012 storm, despite foot-dragging by GOP leaders. On Monday, the Senate Democratic leader took to Twitter to lavish praise on King.

"Pete King is a friend," said Democrat Rep. Tom Suozzi, who represents New York's 3rd District. "Much like Ed Koch was, Pete can always be relied on to say exactly what he thinks.

"We tried to work past our differences to find common ground to repeal the SALT cap, to fund the cleanup of the Navy Grumman plume, to help 9/11 first responders, to protect the Good Friday Agreement in Ireland, to find a compromise on immigration reform, and to combat teen vaping," said Suozzi. "Whether you agree with him or not, you can't argue that he compiled a record of accomplishment."

The Election Contest Ahead

His district includes once-reliable 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.

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."

King has a $1 million war chest which he says he will distribute to candidates or return to donors.

Elsewhere in the country, 20 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.

House Democrats retook the 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."

DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos issued the following statement Monday after King announced his retirement:

"Republicans know their toxic health care repeal agenda and wholesale embrace of President Trump's recklessness will guarantee they remain in the minority for years to come. Congressman Peter King's retirement, from a heavily suburban Long Island district, underlines just how serious Republicans' problems are in swing districts across this country. New York's 2nd Congressional District has been a pickup target of ours from day one of this cycle, and we will compete to win it in 2020."

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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