Updated Jan. 22, 4:53 p.m.
Soon after Steve Israel announced he would not seek re-election to his Third Congressional District seat this year, published reports identified as many as 16 people — 12 Democrats and four Republicans — who are interested or rumored to be running for it.
They all have one thing in common: none of them are from the northeast Queens portion of the Third District.
Geographically, it seems to make sense. Most of the district spans the northern half of Nassau County and the northwestern portion of Suffolk County. The northeast Queens neighborhoods of Whitestone, Bay Terrace, Little Neck, Douglaston, Bellerose, Glen Oaks and New Hyde Park were added to Israel’s district following redistricting in 2012.
The Queens portion also comprises just a small percentage of the more than 724,000 people who reside in the Third District.
Currently, all 16 potential Congressional candidates hail from Nassau or Suffolk counties. Of the 12 Democrats believed to be in the mix, the headliner appears to be Thomas Suozzi, who served as Nassau County executive between 1994 and 2001. He made a failed run at governor in 2006, losing out to then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer in the Democratic primary, then lost to Ed Mangano in 2009 in a bid for a third term as county executive.
Other Long Island Democrats who are potential congressional candidates, according to a Long Island Press report, include Nassau Interim Finance Authority Chairman Jon Kaiman; Suffolk County Legislators William Spencer and Steve Sterns; North Hempstead Town Board Member Anna Kaplan; lobbyist Brad Gerstman; Assemblyman Charles Lavine; Democratic National Committee member Robert Zimmerman; Town of Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone; former Suffolk County Legislator Jon Cooper; Great Neck businessman Todd Richman; and Port Washington philanthropist Laurie Sheinmann.
State Senator Jack Martins of Old Westbury leads a field of four Republicans potentially seeking Israel’s seat. The Press report identified Suffolk County Legislator Robert Trotta, Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci and businessman David Gurfein as the other Republicans considering a run for the office.
The Courier reached out to both the Queens County Democratic and Republican Party Committees for comment about the Third District race. The paper is awaiting a response from the Queens Democrats, but the Queens Republicans indicated they looked forward to one of their own, regardless of where that candidate resides.
“Voters deserve a focused representative whose primary concern is the needs of the district, not party leaders in DC, who will tax us less, keep us safe and create real jobs for constituents, unlike Mr. Israel, who seemed only worried about keeping his own,” a spokesperson for the Queens County GOP told The Courier in an email.
Congressional primaries are scheduled to take place on June 28; only registered party members are eligible to participate. The primary winners will face each other in the Nov. 8 general election, which is (of course) open to all registered voters.
With the presidential race topping the general election ballot this year, it figures that the choice of presidential nominees will impact the turnout — and, accordingly, the results of the Congressional races. In 2012, when President Obama was re-elected, Israel secured 57 percent of the vote; two years later, in the midterm elections that gave Republicans full control of Congress, Israel won re-election with 53 percent of the vote.
In announcing his impending retirement, Israel expressed hope that “the 2016 presidential turnout” would keep his seat under Democratic control.