BY JOE SCOTCHIE
As soon as Rep. Steve Israel (D—Huntington) made his surprise announcement that he will not seek re-election to the U.S. Congress, any number of prospective candidates filed papers to create Congressional Campaign Committees to run for Israel’s Third Congressional District.
On the Republican side, that included State Senator Jack Martins (R—Old Westbury), who represents the Roslyn area in Albany. Other Republicans filing to create a fundraising committee include David Gurgein of Manhasset, Stephen A. Labate of North Babylon, Grant Lally of Garden City, State Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R–Melville) and Anthony E. Tolda of Huntington. Gurgein has already announced that he will run for the seat.
On the Democratic side, James Patrick Keough of Hicksville has filed those same papers. Published reports have mentioned State Assemblyman Charles Lavine (D—Glen Cove), County Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) and Robert Zimmerman, a Democratic Party National Committee member, as possible candidates. As with Martins, Lavine represents the Roslyn area.
Either way, the coming months should see lively primary battles in both parties. Israel was re-elected with 54 percent of the vote in 2014, so the district is in play.
Israel has represented the Roslyn area in Washington for the past two congressional terms in the Third Congressional District, one that stretches from Suffolk County to the North Shore of Long Island all the way to a slice of Queens County, in Whitestone.
Upon making the decision, Israel released the following statement:
“Nearly 16 years ago, I was honored to take the oath of office and stand on the House floor for the first time. Now, I’ve decided to leave the House in 2017. I hope to continue to be involved in public service, but it is time for me to pursue new passions and develop new interests, mainly spend more time writing my second novel.
“I considered this decision deeply, but ultimately, I want to be a team player and ensure that my district, which is the only competitive district in House Democratic Leadership, remains in the hands of Democrats when I leave. The 2016 presidential turnout will help assure that. We’ve fought too hard for everyday Americans and against special interests to risk it.
“While there are many things I am proud of during my time in office, I am proudest of the work we’ve done to help New York’s veterans and military families, securing $8.3 million in backpay. Additionally, I’m proud of my work to protect middle class New Yorkers.
“I am also proud of the leadership role I’ve been able to play in the House Democratic Caucus as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and now chairman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.
“It has been an incredible and humbling opportunity to serve my community,” Israel concluded. “I am grateful to my family, friends, staff and, most of all, the people of New York. While I will miss this place and the people I have had the privilege to serve, I am looking forward to spending more time home and frequenting my beloved New York diners. Simply put, it’s time to pass on the torch.”
A native of Wantagh, Israel was first elected to Congress in 2000, when the Third Congressional District’s sitting congressman, Rick Lazio, resigned his seat for what proved to be an unsuccessful run against Hillary Clinton for a U.S. Senate seat. Lazio had first won the seat in 1992, defeating longtime incumbent Thomas Downey and continued to be re-elected by large margins throughout the 1990s. And so, Israel’s election was considered a surprise, as the seat was a longtime Republican Party bastion. In 2012, after the 2010 census and redistricting, the district was redrawn to include the Roslyn area, which had been represented since 2003 by Gary Ackerman. In 2012, Israel was re-elected by a 58-42 percent total over Stephen Labate. In 2014, he won by a 54 to 45 percent margin over Grant Lally.
Also in both 2012 and 2014, Israel served in the high-profile position as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). In 2012, when President Obama was re-elected, the Democrats, under Israel’s leadership, gained seats in House races. However, in 2014, an off-year election when the party in presidential power often takes a hit, the Democrats lost 14 seats. In such elections, all eyes usually turn to the chairman of the DCCC. Still, Israel had his defenders. A Nov. 6, 2014 New York Times profile on the congressman quoted The Cook Political Report, which claimed, “It could have been worse, and the DCCC…[deserves] plenty of credit for shifting their resources to defense early and saving those who could be saved.”
That article also revealed Israel’s passion for fiction writing. While serving in the House, Israel wrote and published his first novel, The Global War On Morris, a comedy about a Republican Party administration that mistakingly targets a fictional New York Mets fan from Great Neck, “Morris,” as a potential terrorist. Also according to that article, Israel is working on a second novel, Big Guns, described as “a sendup” on National Rifle Association (NRA) lobbyists