The election in the newly redrawn 2nd Congressional District is a rematch between Democrat Jackie Gordon, a former Babylon Town council member, and incumbent Republican Rep. Andrew R. Garbarino, who won his first term in Congress after their 2020 go-round.
Gordon has a rare gift for showing moderation and careful consideration, as well as a commitment to interacting with and being a voice for communities she finds are still ignored — factors that figured in Newsday’s endorsement of her last time. The 29-year member of the Army Reserve says the Jan. 6 insurrection was “devastating” to her as an American, a Jamaican immigrant, and a former MP in the service, and that it inspired her to run again.
As a Democrat, she expresses support for key party positions. Gordon would be a reliable vote, if her party’s House majority survives, for codifying abortion rights on a federal level, establishing new restrictions on the sale and proliferation of guns, offering paths to citizenship and legality for Dreamers, improving coastline resilience, and expanding voter access.
But Garbarino has the job now and has cut a commendably independent profile while quickly developing the know-how needed to operate in the House for the nonpartisan benefit of his district. He has often collaborated with Democrats now in the majority who may or may not be in the minority come January.
Defying the famously violent extremists at the Capitol, he voted to certify the results of the election on Jan. 6, 2021. He withstood senseless death threats from some constituents for the sensible act of voting this year for a bipartisan-crafted infrastructure bill worth more than $128 billion to New York. He fended off a GOP primary from his right to make this run.
On a topical crisis illustrated by the ransomware-related hack of Suffolk County government, the former Assembly member worked on a cybersecurity subcommittee to help craft a system of quick information-sharing among organizations affected by this high-tech crime to keep it from spreading in real time. Garbarino says he has developed great interest in this issue by serving on the Homeland Security Committee and is poised to take a leadership role on critically important cybersecurity work.
Garbarino has made it a goal in his second term to help start a “cyber academy” for training and certification of a workforce needed by both private and public sectors to wrestle with the shortage of skilled information technology workers. He’s also ready to take part in discussions of the pros and cons of barring affected parties from paying ransom to release information hijacked by hackers.
On immigration, Garbarino agrees with Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer that this is one area where a bipartisan Congress could reach important agreements long in coming. In an endorsement interview with the Newsday editorial board, Garbarino cited several possible ingredients of consensus and trade-offs: beefing up border security, citizenship for the so-called “Dreamers,” expanding visas for immigrants offering needed skills, and reducing processing times for visa applications.
Many Republicans would support changes “because of what we’ve heard from the business community,” he said, citing employers who say they need more hires, whether for the farming, travel, tech, aerospace or tourism industries.
Garbarino shows he’s developed a working knowledge of how to chase funds for sewer and road projects in the nexus of federal, state and local funding sources. In the infrastructure bill, for example, he said much of the money went to a state revolving fund rather than the direct grants he preferred, “but at the end of the day the bill is very good for New York, and it gives me something to fight for next time.” He’s also used the return of congressional earmarks to supplement support for environmental projects in his district.
No part of the local physical plant seems to escape Garbarino’s notice. He’s conversant in granular topics from planned grade-crossing eliminations to the Ronkonkoma Hub. In Washington, as a member of the so-called Problem Solvers Caucus, he understands in particular how blue-state Republicans must perform to achieve results whether they’ll be in the majority or minority. If he does succeed in his goal of getting a seat on the House Financial Services Committee, he will have a particular role to play regarding New York business.
As an incumbent, Garbarino expresses optimism that even in a party where support is dependent on so-called red states, he can deliver tangibly for Long Island constituents Hopefully, it isn’t just a nice pitch from Garbarino. He makes us recall times when his predecessor Peter King played a practical role in working with Democrats across the aisle — as with 9/11 aid, for which Garbarino assumed responsibility and continues to lead on getting necessary benefits for ailing first responders.
Newsday endorses Garbarino.