Democrats face off on who can best tackle Rep. Peter King

Democratic Primary candidates focus on 2nd District incumbent


DuWayne Gregory and Liuba Grechen Shirley both want Peter King out of his 2nd District seat, and are ready to unify the Democratic Party’s support under whoever wins the June 26 Democratic Primary.

Almost two weeks after President Trump said, “Nobody would be crazy enough to run against Peter King,” his two potential opponents debated over who could unseat the Seaford politician in front of close to 100 potential voters at Levittown Hall. Sharing a single microphone passed by moderator Kevin Gorman, president of the Seaford-Wantagh Democratic Club, the two focused on what King has done wrong during his 25 years in Congress rather than harp on differences between their platforms.

“One thing I think Liuba and I agree on is that we are lacking not only leadership, but we’re lacking the presence of our person that is representing us in Washington,” Gregory said during his opening statement.

“No matter who wins this primary,” Liuba said in her closing statement, “we are all going to come together and defeat Peter King.”

The two candidates weaved in comments about King’s past voting record while answering audience-submitted questions. They both argued that King “has no interest in listening to his constituents,” bringing up a mock town hall held in his name by Grechen Shirley in 2017. They brought up his votes for the American Health Care Act of 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and the rollback of Dodd-Frank Regulations — all of which they claimed hurt the average Long Islander’s tax bill and access to healthcare.

When asked about these two candidates’ desire to unseat him, Rep. King wrote a simple response:

"Let the Democrats fight each other. I'm proud to run on my record."

Debate outlines differences, similarities in candidate backgrounds, platforms

During the debate, the two candidates shared similar beliefs on universal healthcare, cleaning up the Bethpage plume that has migrated towards Seaford and immigration reform that gives Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status recipients a clearer path to citizenship. “When you have Democratic Primaries, unless you are in Texas, it’s very progressive — people have very similar points of view,” Gregory said.

One area where the two candidates differ, Gregory said, is his past experience in politics. He went over his past decade in the Suffolk County legislator, where he spearheaded a bill against powdered caffeine and a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers.

Grechen Shirley described her background in consulting and project management, highlighting her work with rural farmers in Ghana and with the United Nations Association. She also brought up Gregory’s unsuccessful campaign against King in 2016, and attacked his belief that Thomas Spota, the ex-Suffolk District Attorney under federal indictment, should not have stepped down from his position.

Spota pleaded not guilty and his trial is planned for March 2019.

“We have party leaders who said that we could still have a DA in his position even though he was under indictment,” Grechen Shirley added, “and that’s a problem.”

Gregory used his rebuttal time to clarify his stance on Spota, stating that he should be entitled to due process.

“Your indictment does not mean you’re convicted,” he said.

Eden Laikin contributed to this article