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Congressman Steve Israel speaks on the dangers of hoverboards at the Commack Fire Department on Dec. 15. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.

U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) said on Tuesday that he would not seek re-election in November so he could pursue other personal ventures, putting a period at the end of his 15-year reign as a congressman in New York. His announcement set the stage for what is likely to be a hotly contested race in the North Shore-based 3rd Congressional District, which hasn’t seen a new representative in almost two decades.“Nearly 16 years ago, I was honored to take the oath of office and stand on the House floor for the first time,” Israel said in a statement. “Now, I’ve decided to leave the House in 2017. I hope to continue to be involved in public service, but it is time for me to pursue new passions and develop new interests, mainly spend more time writing my second novel.”

Israel first won a seat in Congress in 2001, after serving as a Huntington Town Board councilmember from 1993 to 2000. He chose to fight for former U. S. Rep. Rick Lazio’s seat when Lazio ran for the U.S. Senate. Israel defeated Republican challenger Joan Johnson and has been re-elected six times since then.

He currently serves as chairman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee and was previously chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Congressman Steve Israel has served in office for eight consecutive terms. File photo.
Congressman Steve Israel has served in office for eight consecutive terms. File photo.

“It has been an incredible and humbling opportunity to serve my community,” Israel said. “I am grateful to my family, friends, staff, and most of all – the people of New York. While I will miss this place and the people I have had the privilege to serve, I am looking forward to spending more time home and frequenting my beloved New York diners. Simply put, it’s time to pass on the torch.”

Recently, Israel announced the Housing our Heroes Act, which creates a three-year federal pilot program that provides grants to purchase and renovate zombie homes for veterans use. He said it was one his most coveted moments in office.

“While there are many things I am proud of during my time in office, I am proudest of the work we’ve done to help New York’s veterans and military families, securing $8.3 million in back pay,” he said.

Israel is a Long Island native, growing up in Levittown, and has continually lent a hand to multiple local events including village hall openings, safety precautions and local legislation.