By Tom Momberg
After 16 years in the House of Representatives, U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Melville), whose district covers part of Queens, has officially announced he will not be running for re-election in November.
Israel was serving on the House Armed Services Committee in 2006, when a Pentagon general spoke at a hearing, apologizing for bad intelligence that led to increased National Security Agency surveillance on a group of thought-to-be terrorists planning an attack on a military base. But they were actually a group of elderly Quakers who were planning a peaceful protest against the Iraq War.
That event sparked the congressman’s idea for his dark comedy fiction book analyzing the politics of the war on terror, titled “The Global War on Morris.”
Now, planning to retire from the House, Israel said he wants to pick up writing, again.
“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,” he said.
Israel’s congressional district mostly covers northern Nassau County, but also includes Glen Oaks, Little Neck, Douglaston, Bay Terrace, Whitestone and Beechhurst.
Looking back, Israel said the proudest work he accomplished while in office was securing $8.3 million in back pay for the state’s veterans and military families.
The congressman said he would miss serving as chairman of both the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, where he proved to be a formidable fund-raiser, and the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, but that it is time to “pass the torch.”
“It has been an incredible and humbling opportunity to serve my community,” Israel said in a statement. “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.
Israel was elected in 2000 and succeeded Rick Lazio, a Republican. He quickly rose in the ranks as a leader in the House Democratic Caucus. He said he believes it is the right time to retire during the 2016 presidential election cycle, when there is a good chance his seat will stay in the hands of the Democratic Party once he is gone.
Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomb