Just 12 hours after declaring victory in the June 26 Democratic primary for the 2nd Congressional District race, Liuba Grechen Shirley hit the ground running. Holding a news conference in front of her general election opponent’s office, Grechen Shirley called on 13-term Republican U.S. Rep. Peter King to take part in five debates before Election Day.
An hour later, she announced that she had received the Working Families Party endorsement, and the following day, she and State Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford) publicly endorsed each other.
Through a campaign spokeswoman, King said on June 28 that he “expects to have numerous debates during the campaign.”
Grechen Shirley will square off against King in the November midterms, after defeating DuWayne Gregory in the primary. The day after the primary, Gregory said he would support Grechen Shirley in her bid to unseat King.
So, too, will Jay Jacobs, chairman of the Nassau County Democrats. The day after the primary, Jacobs said he was excited about Grechen Shirley’s candidacy, and would “absolutely” support her in the race against King, who has been in office for 25 years. Jacobs said he didn’t want to get involved during the primary.
Asked about Grechen Shirley’s chances of unseating King, Jacobs said, “I don’t think this is a year that favors incumbents, or Republican incumbents, in the area — not only as it relates to [President] Trump, but as it relates to the establishment. People are not happy.”
District 2 includes Wantagh, Seaford and Levittown and is considered solidly Republican by most political analysts.
Larry Levy, executive dean of Hofstra University’s National Center for Suburban Studies, said that this election season, any incumbent — “particularly one which the national winds are blowing against” — should be worried. “But Peter King has always been able to secure the Republican vote, the Republican swing vote and the independent vote,” Levy cautioned.
Asked about the debates she has challenged King to, Grechen Shirley said that taxes and health care are the two concerns she hears most about from families.
“There needs to be honest, open conversation about the issues that matter most to the voters,” she said. “Peter King, you owe your constituents an explanation. For the past 25 years, you have put your wealthy donors ahead of working families.”
Grechen Shirley maintains that King has taken more than $100,000 from donors in the health care industry while at the same time “taking away health care from 74,000 Americans in his district alone” by voting against the Affordable Health Care Act.
King dismissed the accusation, saying he runs on his record. “No one has done more for middle-income constituents,” he said through a spokeswoman.
“I’ve talked to families who have to choose whether to buy groceries or their prescription medication,” Grechen Shirley said at the news conference. “Last night’s decisive decision that was made here means that Long Island voters agree: Enough is enough. It’s time for real progressive leadership.”
Grechen Shirley has maintained throughout the year that King refused to hold town hall meetings with constituents, claiming to her that they “diminish democracy.”
Asked if she was surprised that she defeated Gregory by 16 percentage points, Grechen Shirley said she “had every confidence in our supporters — hundreds of supporters who knocked on thousands of doors over the past few months.”
“This is a victory for the grass-roots movement,” she added.
During the campaign, Grechen Shirley earned national attention when the Federal Election Commission issued a ruling allowing her to use campaign donations for child care. Former secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton not only supported Shirley’s FEC fight, but also, earlier this month, re-tweeted Gregory, noting, “We need to elect politicians who will protect the vulnerable.”
The national midterm elections will take place Nov. 6.