Congressman Peter King meeting with Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney.
By Ray O’Hanlon
One of Irish America’s front line political leaders in Washington, Congressman Peter King, is to retire from Congress next year.
King announced that he would not stand for re-election to his Long Island, New York, district in the November, 2020 election.
The announcement has surprised some, but King’s stated reasons are themselves not surprising.
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At 75, and with fourteen two year terms as a Republican member of the House of Representatives on his resume, he wants to spend more time with his family.
And that means an end to the constant shuttling between his Seaford, Long Island home and political base, and the nation’s capital.
In one of the first reactions to King’s announcement, Democratic Senator Charles Schumer reached across the aisle to praise his fellow New Yorker.
“Peter King stood head & shoulders above everyone else. He’s been principled & never let others push him away from his principles. He’s fiercely loved America, Long Island, and his Irish heritage and left a lasting mark on all 3. I will miss him in Congress & value his friendship,” Schumer tweeted.
Congressman King has been a flag bearer for Irish America going back to a time before even his membership of Congress.
King was a frequent visitor to Northern Ireland during the darkest years of the Troubles, this at a time when he was Comptroller of Nassau County on Long Island.
On one of the visits he was accompanied by then U.S. Senator Alfonse D’Amato.
King came in for repeated media criticism because of his close ties, indeed friendships, with members of the Provisional IRA.
But King, never shy or reluctant when it came to expressing his views, frequently challenged the position of government and fellow politicians who viewed the Troubles as a phenomenon that somehow began and ended with the Provisionals.
Less publicized than his meetings with IRA leaders were his meetings with loyalist paramilitary leaders during the height of the conflict.
King’s district is the New York Second Congressional District. It covers parts of both Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Manhattan-born, raised in Queens, and the son of a New York City police officer, King’s Irish roots are in Galway and Limerick.
He is a graduate of St. Francis College, later of Notre Dame School of Law, and served in the U.S. Army National Guard. In 2016, King was named the Irish Echo’s Irish American of the Year.
King, a former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a Facebook posting said he had reached his decision following “much discussion” with his wife, Rosemary, and children.
“The prime reason for my decision was that after 28 years of spending 4 days a week in Washington, D.C., it is time to end the weekly commute and be home in Seaford. This was not an easy decision,” King said.
“Politically I will miss the energy and dynamism of a reelection campaign especially since my polling numbers are as strong as they have ever been and I have more than $1 million in campaign funds.”
He said he plans to remain politically active and that he looked forward “to seeing what opportunities and challenges await me in this next chapter of a very fortunate life.”