Decision 2020: Andrew Garbarino vs. Jackie Gordon (NY-02)

Vanessa Igras ’24

New York’s Second Congressional District is undergoing massive change this election cycle; from demographic changes to the impending departure of longtime incumbent, Peter King (R), this toss-up district is now looking for a candidate with the insight and sound reasoning to represent a new generation of Long Islanders.

Jackie Gordon. Via Ballotpedia.

This district is found along the south shore of Long Island, New York. It includes Suffolk County and a small portion of Nassau County. The make-up of this district strongly contributes to the unpredictable nature of this race. According to the New York Times, there were 360,000 registered Republicans in Nassau County in 1996, which was around 100,000 more than the Democrats had at the time. By 2019, the number of registered Democrats had grown to more than 400,000, while the number of Republicans had decreased by more than 30,000. There was a similar trend in Suffolk County; Republican registered voters increased by 18,000 people, while Democrats witnessed a more sizable increase of 160,000 new registered voters.

The shift in voter registration and the shift in support for incumbent Peter King are the direct results of Long Island’s rapid diversification. In the 2000 census, non-Hispanic whites made up more than 78 percent of Suffolk County; by 2010, that number was less than 72 percent and in 2017, 68.5 percent. This change in the demographic was felt when, in 2018, Democrats won three of the four overlapping state Senate seats and flipped two from red to blue. Together with this, during the 2018 midterm elections, King, although he won re-election over Democrat Liuba Grechen Shirley, only won by a 6 point margin, making it the closest race he had been in since 1992.

The discussion of inadequate representation is the exact platform Jackie Gordon, the Democratic candidate, is running on. The demographics have dramatically changed since 1992, and Gordon recognizes that. As a person of color herself, she believes that she is the representation this district needs. Beyond this, Gordon is a 29-year Army Reserve veteran and a former public school educator and guidance counselor. She served on the Babylon Town Council for 13 years, and she served as the chair of the Veterans Advisory Council. Gordon is running on a platform focusing on increasing educational resources for teachers, lowering classroom sizes, assisting veterans, and combating gun violence.

Andrew Garbarino. Via Ballotpedia.

Andrew Garbarino, the Republican candidate, is a lawyer, small business owner, and currently represents the 7th District of the New York State Assembly. Garbarino’s campaign platform is centered on combating the current opiod crisis, protecting the Great South Bay, and supporting veterans.

Both candidates take relatively moderate approaches to many issues as a means of getting those swing votes. For example, both candidates have expressed their support for the peaceful protests around racial injustice. However, they have made it clear that they do not support calls to defund the police. Together with this, both candidates heavily rely on portraying their willingness to work across the aisle.

According to Federal Election Commission data, Gordon’s campaign has raised $3.2 million when Garbarino has only raised $1.2 million. Both candidates have secured significant endorsements. Garbarino is backed by King, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Long Island officials. Gordon’s endorsements have ranged from Suffolk County legislators to those on the national stage such as President Barack Obama and Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris (Long Island Press, 2020).

In the end, there is no accurate prediction that could be made given the very tight race these candidates are in. Democrats believe they can flip the seat because of the changes in demographics of this very complex district. Ultimately, the outcome of this congressional race could make history and impact the trajectory of politics on Long Island.