Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino (R,C,I Sayville), elected to serve 7th Assembly District constituents in 2012 and subsequently re-elected to his 4th term, filed his statement of candidacy for Republican Congressman Peter King’s 2nd CD seat on Dec. 6, creating Garbarino for Congress.
King, the longest-serving Republican in New York’s Congressional delegation, who hailed from Seaford in Nassau County, announced he was retiring at the end of 2020 after serving 14 terms last month.
Garbarino is the ranking minority member of the Committee on Insurance and sits on Codes, Health, Higher Education and Racing and Wagering committees among others. A Sayville High School graduate, he is an attorney at Garbarino Law Office, his family’s law firm in Sayville. Garbarino sat for an interview with the Islip Bulletin recently.
IB: What made you decide to run?
Andrew Garbarino: I woke up on Veterans Day when Peter King announced his retirement, and had all these text messages and phone calls saying, ‘you should look at this.’ Also, political consultant Mike Dawidziak was asked that day who could be possible replacements and he named Legis. Tom Cilmi, state Sen. Phil Boyle and me. I like to do my research and weigh the pros and cons. One of the things you have to do is raise money. So I called the people who supported me for my first assembly run and they all said, ‘you have to do it.’ I’m comfortable and in a safe seat right now, but it’s not always about being comfortable. The risks include not running for assembly re-election if I’m a nominee. [Congressman] Lee Zeldin called me one Saturday and I had a 40-minute conversation with him. He was in a safe seat in the Senate and took the risk of running for Congress. According to what people I’ve consulted with have said, you have to raise $2 million. I have had local support on this from businesses and families that has been overwhelming, which will be filed in January. But to have people believe in you and support you, especially around Christmas time, is pretty great. Also, I’m the homegrown guy; I’m in a third-generation business, worked for local businesses like Brinkmann’s, and am a Sayville Rotarian. Pete King was great. He did the right thing and was approachable. I feel I’m very similar to Peter King, do what’s right.”
IB: What happens next?
AG: There’s still a National Republican Selection process that has to be decided on. So far, Nick LaLota and Trish Bergin have filed and assemblyman Michael LiPetri. I’ve heard [former congressman] Rick Lazio is thinking about it. Party leadership would pick their candidate in January and announce that person in February. If someone wants to run a primary, that would be June. My campaign consultant is a former Bayport guy, Russ Schriefer, founding partner of Strategic Partners & Media Inc. located in Annapolis, Md. He has had tons of Washington, D.C., experience working on political campaigns.
IB: What would you concentrate on if you win the seat?
AG: SALT, infrastructure, and the environment. I’d like to get the repeal bill on the SALT [Stop the Attack on Local Taxpayers] Fairness Act passed. [Legislation placed a $10,000 cap on how much taxpayers could deduct on their federal income tax returns for state and local taxes in 2018.] The SALT bill hurt a lot of people in my assembly district and in the congressional district. One thing Congress has been trying to pass is the infrastructure bill. On infrastructure, the Long Island Expressway, with its potholes, could use a lot of help. People say this is a national politics bill, that you can’t pass anything that affects local. But the LIE affects quality of life. Also, I grew up going to Fire Island, so making sure the Fire Island National Seashore is protected and the Great South Bay is cleaner through water quality, I would think you could get money there from the infrastructure bill, or it might be a separate one. When I do have kids, I want them to see what I saw growing up on the water. I’d also like to see education get more money. And Medicaid is so bad right now. You want to make sure seniors are covered. There’s got to be a way.
IB: Talk about your work in the NYS Assembly.
AG: I feel I’ve been able to do the right thing. I was one of two Republicans on Long Island endorsed by LGBT advocacy groups [Equality Long Island] and did what I thought was right on bills and projects and got tagged by these groups, ‘proud to support you.’ We’re having hearings on single-payer health care, which I’m against, because it would more than double the budget and it would mean tens of thousands of private health care insurance jobs eliminated.
IB: Stance on gun laws?
AG: New York has passed some laws; some I supported, some I didn’t. I voted for the Red Flag bill. [It authorizes courts to issue a specific protection order allowing police to temporarily confiscate firearms from people deemed by a judge to be a danger to the public.] And I don’t think there is anything wrong with background checks to buy an AR-15. The real problem is illegal guns. We saw that in Albany. Look at MS-13. They’re getting around that [obtaining guns] illegally.
Currently, those in the running as Republicans for Congressman Peter King’s spot include Republican commissioner of the Suffolk County Board of Elections Nick LaLota, Islip councilwoman Trish Bergin, assemblymen Michael LiPetri and Andrew Garbarino. Former Long Island Congressman Rick Lazio has expressed interest. Suffolk County Republican chairperson Jesse Garcia met with Garbarino in Sayville a couple of weeks ago. “That’s when he told me he was interested in running for congress,” Garcia said. “I think we have a stable of strong candidates from all across the district. So it would be unfair until the screening process is over on all the candidates for me to express any kind of support for any one candidate.”
Political consultant Michael Dawidziak, president of Strategic Planning Systems Inc., said, “The Nassau part of the congressional district is rock solid Republican and west of Oakdale. But you want to make sure you win the swing areas. That’s Oakdale, West Sayville, Sayville, Bohemia and Bayport, and Andrew does. He also does well in Ronkonkoma and Holbrook.”
Suffolk County Democrats chairman Rich Schaffer commented on Garbarino. “I know him and we have a good relationship,” he said. “He has been respectful. But as a minority assemblyman, I don’t think he demonstrates the leadership skills he needs as a congressperson. Our candidate is Jackie Gordon, a Babylon Town Board member in office since 2007 who was just re-elected, and is a single mom with two children. She has a daughter in the military and a son who works at the Board of Elections. She’s also getting ready to retire as a BOCES guidance counselor and she’s a retired Army lieutenant colonel who did four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. So we’re very excited about her because of her personal experiences in military and government experience.”
Next week the Islip Bulletin will be profiling Democratic candidate Jackie Gordon.