Jerry Kremer

The challenges for the Long Island Four


Once upon a time, there was a group known as the Long Island Nine. They were the nine Republican state senators who wielded enormous power in Albany. We now have a new group of seven Republican senators, but the spotlight is shifting to a new Long Island Four: the newly elected Republican members of Congress, who will have enormous influence due to the fact that the Republicans in the House of Representatives will be governing with such a small margin.
The Long Island Four are Representatives Andrew Garbarino, Anthony D’Esposito, George Santos and Nick LaLota. On almost any issue where a critical vote is needed, those four must support the needs of the leadership, and that’s where the headaches begin. Sometimes what your leadership wants could be a vote that would do enormous damage back at home. I know from personal experience as a state legislator that bucking the leaders isn’t easy, but you aren’t elected just to do what the bosses want.
Santos was the first of the four to make a public statement about the House’s mission in 2023. He made it clear that he was “not interested in a Congress that spent all of its time investigating the enemy,” and wanted to be a part of productive actions. Santos and his colleagues will be tested very early in the new session, when the far-right wing proposes the impeachment of President Biden and investigations into the business activities of his son Hunter.
The next test will be whether to shut down the federal government to appease a group that would like to cut back on entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security. That will be followed by resolutions to strip certain Democrats of their committee assignments to get even for last year’s actions against Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. I could go on, but that’s just a taste of what is likely to happen early on in their tenure.
Most Long Island voters are just like any other rational voters. They want government to work, and are generally tired of partisan bickering. Inflation is an issue that hurts voters of all parties, and Congress must be prepared to take action that will heal our economy. Last month’s election taught Washington politicians that there is overwhelming support for a woman’s right, in consultation with her doctor, to decide whether she should have an abortion. Women in the four local congressional districts expect their voices to be heard, and that promises to be another dilemma for the Long Island Four.

To add to these new members’ potential political challenges is the fact that most of them received substantial funding from the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee. Without that money, a couple of them might never have made it to Washington. How do you vote on an issue that hurts your district but is a priority of the party leadership? That headache reminds me of the old Tip O’Neill reminder that “all politics is local.”
Of course, there’s a positive side to being a member of the majority. With the backing of your party leaders, you can get grants for programs and projects that will make the voters happy. You also get sufficient staff to be able to handle the thousands of requests for help from your constituents. One of the crucial things that help candidates get re-elected is good constituent service. There are numerous cases of members of Congress losing their seats because they ignored the day-to-day demands of their voters.
Representing our suburban congressional districts shapes up as an enormous challenge. Long Island is a very informed and progressive region. There are no secrets about how our representatives vote on contentious issues, and bad votes will be part of the debate when they seek re-election. Local voters have many issues they care about at the federal level, and they won’t be bashful about demanding action. As one who served almost a lifetime in public office, I wish the Long Island Four the best of luck as they embark on their new challenge. They will need a lot more than luck to stay in office.

Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column?