Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) won’t seek re-election to a ninth term in November in order to spend more time writing his second book, he said Tuesday.
The Democrat, who has held the seat since 2000, said in a statement, “It is time for me to pursue new passions and develop new interests, mainly spend more time writing my second novel.”
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He said he is “looking forward to spending more time home and frequenting my beloved New York diners. Simply put, it’s time to pass on the torch.” He will complete his term and retire at the end of the year.
President Barack Obama, in a statement Tuesday night, said Israel “has fought to expand economic opportunity, deliver on America’s promise of equality, honor our commitments to our veterans, and protect our communities from gun violence.”
The Third Congressional District covers the central and northern parts of western Suffolk, northern Nassau County and a bit of Queens. Democrats outnumber Republicans by 41,000 in the district.
Israel has easily won re-election since winning the open seat in 2000, when Republican Rep. Rick Lazio ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate. Still, the Cook Political Report lists the district as a tossup.
Israel said he’s not seeking re-election because he wants to ensure the seat remains in Democratic hands, noting turnout this year will be increased because it is a presidential election year. “We’ve fought too hard for everyday Americans and against special interests to risk it,” he said.
Israel pointed to work he’s done with New York’s veterans and military families, including securing $8.3 million in backpay.
Israel, 57, grew up in Levittown. He served on the Huntington town council, and before that in the administration of County Executive Patrick Halpin.
He served two terms as chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the campaign arm of House Democrats, until 2014. He is currently chairman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.
Israel published his first book, a political satire called “Global War on Morris,” at the end of 2014 His second book is titled “Big Guns,” a satire about the gun control lobby.
Suffolk County Democratic Chairman Richard Schaffer said he would expect Israel to re-emerge in public life. “I know his love for public service and always wanting to make a difference for middle-class families, but I can see where Washington wears you down,” Schaffer said. “I know he’d make a stellar candidate for just about anything.”
Schaffer said Suffolk Legis. Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) could be a potential candidate for Congress. Other names floated by a Democrat close to Israel include Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) and North Hempstead Councilwoman Anna Kaplan. Another Democrat, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Democratic National Committeeman Robert Zimmerman would be interested. Nassau Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs said former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi and NIFA chair Jon Kaiman also could be interested.
Legis. William Spencer (D-Centerport), president of the Suffolk County Medical Society and a physician specializing in pediatrics, said Tuesday night he is also interested in the seat.
On the Republican side, Sen. Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury) issued a statement he was “strongly considering running.” Suffolk Chairman John Jay LaValle said Assemb. Andrew P. Raia (R-East Northport), Huntington Councilman Eugene Cook, Assemb. Chad Lupinacci (R-Huntington) and Suffolk Leg. Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) were potential candidates. Manhasset Republican David Gurfein, a former Marine and Goldman Sachs associate, formed an exploratory committee in September in preparation to run for the seat. Nassau Republican Party spokesman Michael Watt declined to speculate on names.