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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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LI’s House Races

National media outlets are abuzz with talk about the Republicans regaining a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, although it’ll take an electoral upset for a Nassau Republican other than Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) to be seated with New York’s Congressional delegation next year.

Three of Nassau’s four U.S. House members are Democrats, and unseating an incumbent federal lawmaker is a rare occurrence around here. You have to go back to 1996, when Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) ousted then-Rep. Dan Frisa, to find a year when it happened in Nassau County.  Rep. McCarthy’s 4th Congressional District (CD) is the only one which covers Nassau exclusively while the 2nd, 3rd and 5th CDs include parts of Nassau.  Here’s a quick look at each contest:

Rep. Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills), who represents New York’s 2nd CD, was elected to the U.S. House in 2000, succeeding Rep. Rick Lazio, who gave up his seat that year to run for the U.S. Senate.  The key to Rep. Israel’s electoral longevity is that, when the congressional lines were redrawn in 2002, the 2nd CD kept not only portions of Israel’s base in western Suffolk County but also added Nassau communities such as Jericho, Old Bethpage, Plainview, Syosset, and Woodbury, places where Democrats fare well.  John Gomez of Bayport is Rep. Israel’s GOP rival, and Gomez has won endorsements from national Republican figures, such as Mitt Romney, so Rep. Israel is getting a run for his money.

Residents of New York’s 3rd CD have been represented since the early 1990s by Rep. King.  His district includes large swaths of eastern Nassau County as well as parts of southwest Suffolk County.  The Seaford Republican is a heavy favorite for re-election this year against Howard Kudler of Merrick, the Democratic nominee in the 3rd CD.  Should the Republicans secure a majority in the U.S. House, and Rep. King is returned to office, he will likely again become chairman of the U.S. House’s Homeland Security Committee, where he is now the Ranking Member.

Rep. McCarthy’s 4th CD covers southwestern Nassau County, and the congresswoman has benefited enormously over the past 14 years from a friendly press corps (for instance, can you recall the last time you read or heard a negative word about her?)  No one in the media presses Rep. McCarthy to do much, and she obliges them.  Nassau County Legislator Francis X. Becker Jr. (R-Lynbrook) is her opponent this year, and he’s coming off a hard-fought win in a three-candidate Republican primary election last month.

Finally, in the 5th CD, covering northern Queens and Nassau, both Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Roslyn Heights) and Dr. James Milano of Oyster Bay, his Republican rival, emerged victorious last month when challenged in party primaries.  Dr. Milano, a physician at St. Francis Hospital, has appeared recently on shows such as Fox News Channel’s (FNC) Hannity program.  That alone makes the Ackerman-Milano contest an interesting one because the incumbent sent a direct-mail piece during the Democratic primary implying his continued presence in Congress was the only way to keep FNC personalities Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck from taking over D.C.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net