Peter T. "Pete" King (born April 5, 1944) is the U.S. Representative for New York's 3rd congressional district, serving since 1993. He is a member of the Republican Party. King's central Long Island district includes parts of Nassau and Suffolk counties.
King serves as the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and drew attention in early 2011 for holding hearings on the extent of radicalization of Muslim Americans. He also sits on the Financial Services Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Early life, education, and career
King was born in Manhattan and raised in Sunnyside, Queens, New York.
His family has Irish roots that trace back to County Galway and County Limerick. His father, Peter King, was a New York City police officer.
King graduated from St. Francis College in Brooklyn in 1965 and earned his Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Notre Dame Law School in 1968. He then worked for the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office until 1974.
King served in the 69th Infantry Regiment of the New York National Guard from 1968 until he was honorably discharged in 1974.
Early political career
King first sought public office in 1977, running for an at-large seat on the Hempstead, New York Town Council and winning with the backing of the then-powerful Nassau County Republican Party machine led by Joseph Margiotta.
In 1981, he successfully ran for Nassau County Comptroller again with Margiotta's support. The next year, when several prominent Republican politicians, led by then Senator Alfonse D'Amato, sought to displace Margiotta, King joined them in this internal Republican dispute; at one point, he was the only Nassau politician to do so.
King was re-elected in 1985 and 1989. As Comptroller, he displayed independence, often criticizing the budget proposals of County Executives Francis Purcell and later County Executive Thomas Gulotta, both Republicans.
During the 1990's King enjoyed a close relationship with the Muslim community in his congressional district. King often gave speeches at the Westbury Islamic Center, held book signings in the prayer hall, took in Muslim interns, and was one of the few Republicans who supported U.S. intervention in the 1990s to help Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo. The Muslim community thanked King for his work by making him the guest of honor for the 1993 opening of a $3 million prayer hall.
For years, a picture of King cutting the ceremonial ribbon hung on the bulletin board by the mosque's entrance.
King voted for the 2008 Wall Street bailout He opposed the 2009 economic stimulus package and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. He supports congressional earmarks.
On May 27, 2010, the House of Representatives moved to vote to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell; King voted against the repeal of this policy.
King has been a vocal opponent of illegal immigration. He opposed John McCain's 2007 effort to enact a path to citizenship for current illegal immigrants.
Although he supported John McCain for president in 2000 and despite his earlier disagreements with George W. Bush, King later became a Bush supporter. He supported the Iraq War from 2002 on. The New York Times wrote in 2006 that King had been "the Patriot Act's most fervent fan." In 2008, he told the Times, "Look, we have not been attacked in seven years and it's not because of luck."
King also opposed McCain's calls for an end to torture methods used during terrorist suspect interrogations.
King has opposed President Barack Obama's executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Since 2009 King has argued against holding terrorist trials in New York City saying that enormous security risks and financial costs would accompany the public trials. In April 2011, he called for Attorney General Eric Holder to resign due to Holder's plans to transfer Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other alleged co-conspirators in the September 11, 2001 attacks from Guantanamo to New York City for trials in U.S. federal court.
King denounced Holder's plan "as the most irresponsible decision ever made by any attorney general." Holder had recently backed off, announcing that the trials would be held in a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.
King continued to challenge Holder in April 2011, demanding to know why the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), its co-founder Omar Ahmad, the Islamic Society of North America, the North American Islamic Trust. and other unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing trial, were not being prosecuted by the United States Department of Justice. In a letter to Holder, King wrote he had recently learned that the decision had been made by high-ranking Justice Department officials "over the vehement and stated objections of special agents and supervisors of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as the prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Dallas", adding that "there should be full transparency into the Department’s decision." Holder responded that the decision not to prosecute had been made during the Bush administration. The U.S. Attorney in Dallas said he alone had been responsible for the decision, which had been made based on an analysis of the law and the evidence, with no political pressure involved.
In December 2009, King commented on reports that accused attempted airline bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, had admitted to being trained and equipped in Yemen and on then pending plans to release several Guantanamo prisoners to Yemen: "I don't think Guantanamo should be closed, but if we're going to close it I don't believe we should be sending people to Yemen where prisoners have managed to escape in the past .... Obviously, if [Abdulmutallab] did get training and direction from Yemen, it just adds to what is already a dangerous situation", he said.
King criticized the activities of WikiLeaks and in December 2010 suggested that the group be designated a "terrorist organization" and treated as such by U.S. agencies.
King praised Obama's nominations of Leon Panetta for United States Secretary of Defense and General David Petraeus for Director of the Central Intelligence Agency saying, "Director Panetta has done an outstanding job at the CIA, and General Petraeus has distinguished himself as one of the great American military leaders. Both men ... will be instrumental as we continue to combat the terrorist threat.”
When Democratic Congressman Robert Mrazek announced his short-lived candidacy for Senate against Republican incumbent Alphonse D'Amato in 1992, King ran for the now vacant 3rd Congressional District seat. Despite being outspent 5-to-1, King won 50% to 47%. From 1993-2008, he sometimes faced only token opposition, while in other races, he ran against those who could self-finance their campaigns. Yet, while King would be outspent in those races, he would win by double-digit margins. In 2006, originally Nassau County Legislator David Denenberg was going to run against King but when he dropped out two days after his announcement, fellow legislator Dave Mejias ran instead. While many pundits and Long Island’s local newspaper, Newsday, believed this race would be close due to dissatisfaction with Bush, King defeated Mejias 56 to 44%. King again sought re-election to Congress in 2008. The Democrats fielded 25-year-old newcomer Graham Long in a long-shot bid to defeat King. King won the 2008 election with 64% of the vote.
In the 2008 presidential election, King encouraged candidate John McCain to bring up the subject of William Ayers and Ayers' association with Barack Obama.
After briefly contemplating running for Governor of New York in 2010, King announced that he was seriously thinking of running for the U.S. Senate in a special election for the last two years of the term won in 2006 by Hillary Clinton, who had since been appointed Secretary of State. King had contemplated running for Senate in 2000 against Hillary Clinton, and even created an exploratory committee in 2003 to challenge Chuck Schumer. Both times he ended up deciding against them. King said there would be no primary with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, as the latter would instead opt to throw his support behind King and possibly explore a gubernatorial bid.
When Kirsten Gillibrand, the Congresswoman representing New York's 20th congressional district in the House, was appointed to fill the seat until the special election by Governor David Paterson, King said he would consider holding off on making a run for the seat: "If he appointed Caroline Kennedy, I was ready to file papers right away because she’s a superstar and you can’t let her build a head of steam – and she was totally unqualified in my perspective. With Kirsten, she’s entitled to be given an opportunity to build a record for the state." However, two days after the Gillibrand pick, King demanded Paterson justify his selection of the congresswoman, saying there were more qualified candidates. In August 2009, King ruled out a senate run; however, in January 2010, he said he was reconsidering a run.
King resides in Seaford, New York with his wife, Rosemary King, with whom he has two adult children and one grandson. King has two siblings, Kevin and Barbara. He is an author of three novels that are loosely based on his years in Congress: Terrible Beauty, Deliver Us From Evil, and Vale of Tears.
December 23rd, 2011