Dressed sharply in a navy blue suit, red tie and shined shoes, Suffolk County Republican State Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino made his way to the lectern at his campaign kickoff on Sept. 3. He had just listened to fellow Long Island Republican politicians, including outgoing 2nd District U.S. Rep. Pete King, praise his political accomplishments.
He prefaced statements of intent with “When I am congressman,” as if he were offering a spoiler for those in attendance who just didn’t know it yet. And last month, Assemblyman Garbarino became U.S. Rep.-Elect Garbarino with a convincing election victory over his Democratic challenger, Jackie Gordon. Now, beginning with his Jan. 3 swearing-in, the Sayville native will be given the opportunity he has eyed since announcing his candidacy — to succeed King.
Talking with the Herald on Monday, the 36-year-old Garbarino spoke of his eagerness to begin his work for his new constituency in the 2nd C.D., which includes Wantagh and Seaford. Now taking part in new-member initiations, he is getting his first taste of what the next two years in Washington will bring, but he also laid out his hopes for what the next two years might bring residents of Nassau and Suffolk counties.
“From my experience moving from the state to Congress, I’ve spent a lot of time talking about constituent service,” Garbarino said. “Thinking in the legislative way [about] how [legislation] will affect the residents in my area, even if it is a national bill.”
Garbarino said that he had voted with his district’s interests in mind in the State Legislature, and would continue to do so in the House of Representatives. He said he had made clear to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy his intention to choose district over party if the two interests clash — following in the footsteps of King, who at times voted against Republican policies if he felt they didn’t suit the needs of his fellow Long Islanders.
As well, Garbarino has a slew of issues he intends to tackle: infrastructure, the environment, law enforcement and changes in the federal income tax deduction for state and local taxes.
Long Island’s South Shore faces numerous environmental and infrastructural problems, but, Garbarino says, if he can become a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee — after representative ratios are determined and members are voted on — he hopes to distribute funding fairly.
“I want to make sure that not all of that money goes to just roads and bridges,” he said. “Things like clean water, taking care of the [Grumman] plume, whether it’s clean-water well projects or sewers, which is a big [issue] in the eastern part of my district, I want to make sure there is language in that legislation.”
Garbarino stressed the importance of the removal of nitrogen from the Great South Bay as well as aviation infrastructure on the eastern border of his district, at MacArthur Airport.
He said he has no qualms about prioritizing his constituents’ needs over the demands of party politics. Asked about his Nov. 28 tweet that read, “Nancy Pelosi should not be Speaker of the House,” and whether that would prove to be divisive before his swearing-in, he doubled down. “I don’t think she should be,” he said.
Garbarino appears confident in his knowledge of issues and the legislative process. He mentioned wanting to move quickly on an infrastructure bill in the first half of 2021, albeit perhaps thinking optimistically. But he said he was intent on being an effective member of the House.
“The last thing I want is to waste other people’s time and my own,” he said. “If we’re sitting here in two years and I can say, ‘Here are the things I got accomplished,’ and I was effective, that will make me very happy.”