WASHINGTON — A group of Democrats who flipped Republican seats last year are backing a New York candidate to take a longtime Republican seat, made more competitive after GOP Rep. Pete King announced his retirement earlier this month.
Nine of the 41 Democrats who took Republican seats in 2018 — all of whom have either military or intelligence backgrounds — have given a full-throated endorsement to one of their own: Jackie Gordon, a Long Island veteran who's running for New York's 2nd Congressional District.
“We're proud to support and endorse Jackie Gordon for Congress because she is everything we need more of in elected office,” the members of Congress wrote in a joint statement shared with BuzzFeed News. “She is a lifelong patriot who has always put our country first. As a combat veteran and educator, Jackie has committed herself to service and has spent her life fighting for our country and her community.”
The endorsement comes from Reps. Max Rose of New York, Gil Cisneros of California, Jared Golden of Maine, Jason Crow of Colorado, Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania, Elaine Luria of Virginia, Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia.
“So many people thank veterans for their services, and that’s a great thing — but when you look at Jackie’s service, it’s not just done in uniform,” Rose told BuzzFeed News during a phone interview. “Time and time again, she has put her country and her community ahead of herself. And that is exactly the type of person I would be honored to serve alongside in Washington, DC.”
Democrats are looking to broaden their hold on the House of Representatives by focusing on districts once represented by moderate Republicans. The pledge of support is on trend with a growing Democratic campaign to back women veterans for Congress, orchestrated by congressional members who have served in the military, the VoteVets political action committee, and other PACs that support veteran candidates.
Democrats Zahra Karinshak of Georgia, Nikki Foster of Ohio, Janessa Goldbeck of California, and Texas's Gina Ortiz Jones and Kim Olson are among the women veterans also being endorsed in the nationwide push.
Gordon, 54, now sits on the Babylon Town Council; she served in the US Army Reserve for 29 years, during which time she was deployed to Germany during operations for the Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan wars. The Jamaican American moved to the district, which straddles Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island, in 1993. She worked as a teacher and counselor in New York state public schools during her time in the military.
“For them to embrace me … it’s just looking to your left flank and to your right flank, knowing that your team is there for you,” Gordon told BuzzFeed News during a phone conversation.
Gordon, who announced her candidacy for King’s seat on May 15, will face Mike Sax and Johanna Kristin Ellerup in a June 23 Democratic primary. The winner will face a Republican challenger in the general election. As of now, two Republican candidates have filed to fill King’s seat, including Nicholas LaLota, the commissioner of the Suffolk County Board of Elections, and Trish Bergin, a member of the Islip Town Council and former TV news reporter who previously dated singer-songwriter Billy Joel. President Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump is said to be a favorite among GOP voters in the district, according to a poll from the Club for Growth PAC, which surveyed 400 Republican voters.
Lara Trump, who is an adviser on the president’s reelection campaign and is Eric Trump's wife. She has not, however, indicated that she will run so far. But in response to the poll, she told Breitbart, “While I would never close the door on anything in the future, right now I am focused on winning a second term for President Trump.”
King, 77, has represented the district for the past seven years. Since the district's boundaries were redrawn, Democrats now outnumber Republicans among registered voters, according to the New York State Board of Elections. Last election cycle, King faced his most staunch Democratic rival, Liuba Grechen Shirley, who came within 15,000 votes of beating the longstanding Republican.
King told BuzzFeed News earlier this month that the nation is “much more divided than we ever were as a country.” Though he would not contribute the partisanship to the current administration.
Gordon isn’t taking the Democratic majority for granted; she acknowledged, outside of increasing turnout from Democrats, one of her biggest hurdles will be winning over loyal Republican voters who have supported King.
“There’s going to be mourning because it’s going to be a loss for them,” Gordon said. “For me, that’s going to be the biggest hurdle, getting them to trust me and getting them to know that, yes, I may be from another party, but when it comes to serving you — just like I’ve served my country — I don’t play partisan politics.”
Rose, a first-term member of Congress who recently unseated former representative Dan Donovan in New York City, was confident when asked if he thought Gordon will face a tough time in a district with such a large Republican constituency:
“No, Jackie’s going to kick their ass. Are you kidding me?”