Israel Retirement Moves NY-03 to Toss-Up

Steve Israel's retirement from his very competitive North Shore Long Island district creates a prime takeover opportunity for Republicans.

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From national political handicappers, the Cook Political Report:

In both the 2012 and 2014 cycles, Rep. Steve Israel dutifully and shrewdly headed the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Today, he announced he will retire in 2016 in part to focus on writing a second novel. Israel's surprise decision isn't just a reflection of Democrats' dismal odds of taking back the House; it's also a testament to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's long tenure and the fatigue of up-and-comers waiting for leadership openings. 

Unlike the recent retirements of GOP Rep. Robert Hurt (VA-05) and Democratic Rep. Jim McDermott (WA-07) from safe seats, Israel's retirement from his very competitive North Shore Long Island district creates a prime takeover opportunity for Republicans. President Obama carried it with just 51 percent in 2012, and 2012 redistricting made it a point friendlier to the GOP. Nationally, it's one of just nine districts with an EVEN score in the Cook Partisan Voter Index

Israel's strong electoral showings, including taking 55 percent in the dismal year of 2014, were a testament to his popular suburban brand and Republicans' failure to recruit credible opponents. Always the party strategist, Israel noted in today's announcement that he was retiring in 2016 so that a Democratic successor could take advantage of presidential-level turnout. It's likely former New York Sen. Hillary Clinton will top the Democratic ticket. 

But Republicans are almost guaranteed to nominate a stronger candidate than they have in the last decade, and the Democratic nominee won't start out with Israel's $1 million in the bank. Already, the hometown paper Newsday has mentioned GOP state Sen. Jack Martins as a possibility. In 2014, Martins won reelection with 55 percent in a state senate district that is almost entirely within the 3rd CD, and Republicans had sought to recruit him against Israel. 

On the Democratic side, Suffolk County legislator Steve Stern and Hempstead Councilwoman Anna Kaplan are possible candidates. In the neighboring 1st CD, two well-funded Democrats are already battling for the party nomination, but some doubt whether either could be enticed to switch to the 3rd CD. The filing deadline isn't until April. Israel's seat moves from the Solid Democratic column to the Toss Up column.

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