Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Biography

Elected: 1992, 11th term.

Born: April 5, 1944, New York, NY

Home: Seaford, NY

Education: St. Francis Col., B.A. 1965, U. of Notre Dame, J.D. 1968

Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1968–72, 1978–81; Dep. atty., Nassau Cnty., 1972–74; Exec. asst., Nassau Cnty. exec., 1974–76, Gen. cnsl., comptroller, 1977.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Roman Catholic

Family: Married (Rosemary Wiedel) , 2 children ; 2 grandchildren

Republican Peter King, first elected in 1992, went from being known mainly as a loquacious maverick to becoming a serious counterweight to the Obama administration on domestic security matters. His penchant for quotable quips has made him a constant presence on cable television, and he has flirted with a long-shot 2016 presidential bid.

King grew up in Sunnyside, Queens. His parents were Irish immigrants and Democrats, his father a New York City police detective. He went to St. Francis College and law school at the University of Notre Dame, and he clerked one summer at former Republican President Richard Nixon’s law firm with a Long Islander named Rudolph Giuliani. After law school, he followed the trek to the suburbs and became part of the Nassau County Republican machine. He worked as a lawyer and staffer in county government beginning in 1972, and in 1981, he became county comptroller.

When 22-year Republican Rep. Norman Lent retired in 1992, King ran for the seat and won the Republican primary. In the general election, King ran as a fiscal conservative and abortion rights opponent. He won by just 50%-46% but hasn’t had a close reelection since.

King’s voting record ranks him near the ideological center of the House. He is more conservative on foreign policy than on economic or social issues, but with distinctive interests. He is far to the left of other Republicans on gun control, declaring after the Newtown, Conn., school massacre that Americans “don’t need assault weapons” and renewing his call for background checks for firearm purchases at gun shows. He opposes racial quotas and preferences as well as bilingual education. He supports English-only laws and opposes aid to illegal immigrants. He bucked his friends in organized labor in 2009 by opposing their “card-check” bill to facilitate union organizing. He was among the Republicans in 2012 to throw off the restraints of anti-tax activist Grover Norquist’s never-raise-taxes pledge. Norquist angrily accused him of trying to “weasel out” of an agreement; King called Norquist “a lowlife.”

King has been an ardent supporter of the Irish Republican Army. He had a role in 1998 peace negotiations, carrying messages between the IRA and the Irish government. His activism on the issue led to an unusually close bipartisan relationship with President Bill Clinton, who helped broker the agreement. But in 2005, after the suspected involvement of Sinn Féin, the IRA’s political arm, in a bank robbery and a highly publicized murder, King called for the IRA to disband. He has written three novels about politics and diplomacy in Northern Ireland. In one of them, Deliver Us From Evil, a thinly disguised Long Island congressman is the protagonist. “Maybe after I retire from Congress, or get thrown out of Congress, or whatever, I’ll be a writer because as I’ve seen from some newspaper columnists, almost anyone can be a writer,” he told the Long Island Sentinel.

Over the years, King has been a provocative presence on radio and television chat shows. During September and October 2012 alone, his aides told Newsday, he made 67 appearances. When House Republican leaders abruptly pulled from the floor a relief bill for Hurricane Sandy in January 2013, two months after it ravaged the East Coast, King went on CNN to declare, “There’s some dysfunction in the Republican leadership,” and suggested on Fox News that New York and New Jersey residents stop donating to his party. House Speaker John Boehner pacified King by eventually bringing up two Sandy bills, which passed easily. But King later told Newsday that he has come to feel like a “second-class citizen in the Republican caucus” as it has become more South-oriented.

King occasionally has picked fights on TV with Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, one of the leaders of the tea party movement. When Cruz led the attempt to try to defund the Affordable Care Act, prompting a government shutdown in October 2013, King told MSNBC: "We have to start going after him by name. … It’s really time to speak out against him.” And when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor unexpectedly lost his primary in 2014, King told the network: We can’t allow [Cantor's] defeat last night allow the Ted Cruzes and the Rand Pauls to take over the party, or their disciples to take over the party. Because this is not conservatism to me." Cruz later told CNN he had never met King, but that too many politicians spent their time attacking each other. That led King to call the senator "ignorant" because he hadn't taken his advice over the years.

After the September 11 attacks, in which 160 of his constituents died, King became more of a Republican Party regular and focused on legislation to prevent a repeat of the attacks. In 2005, GOP leaders tapped King to be chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. The following year, he was the first House Republican to attack the Bush administration’s plan to give control of six major U.S. ports to a company in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, and he subsequently helped to enact tighter controls on port security.

After President Barack Obama’s election, King sharpened his rhetoric on terrorist threats. He told Newsday in December 2009 that the president was not tough enough on Muslim extremists: “Part of his liberal DNA is that he does not want to use the word ‘terrorism’ unless he absolutely has to,” he said. He said excessive concerns about discrimination against Muslims had hamstrung authorities in the case of Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who went on a killing rampage at Fort Hood in Texas. When the Homeland Security Department published a report in April 2009 about domestic right-wing extremism, King complained that the agency “has never put out a report talking about ‘Look out for mosques.’” The Council on American-Islamic Relations called his remarks “bigoted.”

Nevertheless, King later praised Obama’s willingness to kill terrorist leaders with unmanned drone attacks. In 2012, he gave the president credit for preventing another September 11. But by 2014, he was blasting Obama for withdrawing troops from Iraq and accused him of helping foster the rise of the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). He said in August 2014 that the group was more powerful than al-Qaeda was on Sept. 11 and described the president's handling of that country's situation as "shameful."

After Republicans regained control of the House in 2010, King decided to pursue hearings on what he described as “the radicalization of the American Muslim community and homegrown terrorism.” Islamic leaders said they feared a witch hunt, and King acknowledged that his stance carried risks. “It is controversial,” he told The New York Times. “But to me, it is something that has to be discussed.” The hearings opened in March 2011 amid massive publicity and heightened round-the-clock security for King following reports of threats against him. Some Muslim groups accused him of a double standard in his fervent support of the IRA. King responded, “The fact is, the IRA never attacked the United States. And my loyalty is to the United States.”

Under House GOP rules, King was term-limited from chairing the committee after the 112th Congress (2011-12). He sought a waiver to continue in the post, but Boehner denied it. King settled for the chairmanship of Homeland Security’s Counterterrorism and Intelligence Subcommittee.

As one of the few remaining moderate Republicans in Congress, King has occasionally been held up in GOP circles as an example of how the party can make inroads in Democratic territory like the Northeast. Nassau County legislator David Mejias, a Democrat, ran against King in 2006 with an endorsement from the AFL-CIO. In an otherwise dismal year for New York Republicans, King won 56%-44%. He also had easy wins in 2008 and 2010. National and New York Democrats publicly vowed to redraw his district following the 2010 census, and made it more marginal politically. But their potential top recruit, Nassau County Prosecutor Kathleen Rice, opted not to run in 2012, and King won easily with 59%.

Having declared in September 2013 that he was definitely running for president in 2016, King changed his stance by May 2014 to say he was "certainly looking" at the possibility. "I’m looking at this because I see people like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, and to me, I don’t want the Republican Party going in that direction," he told CNN.

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Election Results

2014 GENERAL
Peter King
Votes: 91,701
Percent: 68.48%
Patricia Maher
Votes: 40,009
Percent: 29.88%
2012 GENERAL
Peter King
Votes: 142,309
Percent: 58.68%
Vivianne Falcone
Votes: 100,545
Percent: 41.32%
2012 PRIMARY
Peter King
Unopposed
2010 GENERAL
Peter King
Votes: 131,674
Percent: 71.92%
Howard Kudler
Votes: 51,346
Percent: 28.04%
2010 PRIMARY
Peter King
Votes: 21,915
Percent: 90.76%
Robert Previdi
Votes: 2,231
Percent: 9.24%
2008 GENERAL
Peter King
Votes: 172,774
Percent: 63.92%
Graham Long
Votes: 97,525
Percent: 36.08%
2008 PRIMARY
Peter King
Votes: 6,847
Percent: 88.42%
Robert Previdi
Votes: 897
Percent: 11.58%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (72%), 2008 (64%), 2006 (56%), 2004 (63%), 2002 (72%), 2000 (60%), 1998 (64%), 1996 (55%), 1994 (59%), 1992 (50%)

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