In his most memorable moments, Peter King — who is vacating New York’s 2nd Congressional District after 14 terms in Congress — was an advocate for his service-oriented constituents. That included the firefighters, police officers and nurses who work long hours and sometimes dangerous ones to keep society ticking, who don't shrink from duty during disaster, be it Sept. 11 or superstorm Sandy.
Many of them had moved to Long Island to carve out middle class lives, the kinds of newcomers whose parents or grandparents might have come through Ellis Island seeking new opportunities, and now they were making good on that gamble here.
It is those constituents and their 21st century dreams who Jackie Gordon is perfectly poised to represent.
Gordon, 55, has already lived a life of service. That includes nearly 30 years in the U.S. Army Reserve as a military police officer. It includes decades as a Wilson Technological Center guidance counselor and Babylon Town councilwoman.
As with so many families in the 2nd Congressional District, hers is one of multigenerational service. She herself deployed to combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan and retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel. And her 31-year-old daughter, Kerrianne, is a captain in the U.S. Air Force.
And as with the families of so many of the people she would serve if elected, with roots from Italy to Ireland to Honduras, she has an immigrant background. She migrated from Jamaica with her post office- and railroad-worker parents at age 7.
"Outside of America, people look at this country as a real beacon of hope, and not just words," the Copiague Democrat said in an endorsement interview with the Newsday editorial board. "If you come here to America, you will do better. That’s what people outside of America believe about America."
Her career of service has taught her the value of working with all parties. This ramrod-backed woman born around the tail end of the Baby Boom generation is no radical, much as GOP attacks attempt to tie her to the most left-leaning impulses of her party. She has highlighted health care, veterans' issues, bolstering Pell grants, and constituent services as top priorities. Even her policy interests, such as a hope for a role on committees including the House Veterans' Affairs or Transportation and Infrastructure committees, are grounded in helping her constituents get what they need. She knows that's crucial for the district, from veterans' health to big construction projects in the region.
Her background includes service on a committee for King's nominations to West Point and other service academies.
Her opponent, Assemb. Andrew Garbarino, is a committed public servant, too, who knows how to work within the legislative process and understands the needs of the district. In years past, he has distinguished himself by sometimes bucking his party as with supporting the "Red Flag" law allowing people deemed to be risks due to substance abuse, violent threats, or other issues to be prohibited from purchasing firearms. He told the editorial board in an endorsement interview that there should be a pathway to citizenship for the Dreamers protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. But the Bayport Republican’s law-and-order campaign focus on "radical mobs" and "chaos and violence" in New York City was disappointing — reminiscent of the old stereotypes of suburbs as white flight havens, and particularly inappropriate given Gordon’s career in law enforcement. This is a woman who has experience with an M16 and 9mm handgun, and who qualified in the military as a sharpshooter and expert.
As a Black woman, she has the chance and the gravitas to work toward policing solutions beyond rhetoric. That means different training for officers and body cameras, and much more responsive, community-focused policing, but also a shift in perspective on this issue beyond stagnant and getting-us-nowhere partisan fights.
"As a military police officer, we were charged to protect and defend," she told the editorial board. "And as a citizen, I want to be protected and defended."
That’s the kind of reasonableness and insight that Long Island needs in Congress, for a new generation. Newsday endorses Jackie Gordon.