Challenger Has Piled Up Campaign Cash In Congressional District That Tends To Be Unpredictable, But Incumbent Remains A Brand Name

AMITYVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Liuba Grechen Shirley gained national exposure when she won the right to spend federal campaign funds on childcare.

She’s now a Democratic candidate for Congress on Long Island.

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Her opponent is the entrenched and popular Republican, Rep. Peter King.

Some now predict surprises, and warn the battle is not entirely uphill, CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported Thursday.

Liuba Grechen Shirley

Liuba Grechen Shirley (Photo: CBS2)

She is a Democratic newcomer. Grechen Shirley, 37, is campaigning as a working mother and is trying to take down one of the country’s most visible and influential Republican congressmen. King has been in office for 25 years.

“I have strong views, but I also find ways to work across the aisle to get things done for Long Island and New York,” Rep. King said. “I would say I’m running on my record. I’m proud of my record.”

King, 74, has regularly trounced his opponents, but voters say nothing in politics is sacred.

Gretchen Shirley, a global economic development expert and progressive activist, says King’s views on abortion, immigration, the environment and Obamacare make him vulnerable.

“I am really excited. I mean, this is a game-changer. What we have done, we have out-raised Peter King in the last two quarters,” Gretchen Shirley said.

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She has raised more than $1.3 million from more than 5,000 donors over the past three months, while King raised $203,000. But he has 10 times as much to spend in the final days of campaign.

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The 2nd Congressional District on Long Island is unpredictable. It voted for Barack Obama by 4 points in 2012 and for Donald Trump by 9 points in 2016.

Democrats make up about 35 percent of registered voters, while Republicans make up 34 percent. “Other” makes up 29 percent.

King brought President Trump to Long Island twice to bring attention to the MS-13 gang problem. But could a swell of anti-Trump sentiment influence voters?

“A lot of the incumbent Republicans are now vulnerable to these non-traditional candidates,” resident Spencer Stanfield said.

“I happen to like Peter King,” another resident said.

“I think she is what Long Island needs,” one woman said.

Grechen Shirley said she knows what she is up against.

“I am taking on somebody who has been in office since I was 12 years old, and has consistently voted to hurt working people in our district,” she said.

King reiterated his willingness to meet people half way.

“In a time when the country is so divided, I think it is unusual to have a congressman who is so bipartisan,” King said.

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Some political observers say it does not appear King is in danger, but Grechen Shirley and her growing grassroots movement believe the time is right for a new face in Washington.