Army vet going all-out in 2nd CD


J.D. Freda

The seat in New York’s 2nd Congressional District is up for grabs. For the first time in nearly 30 years, U.S. Rep. Peter King’s name will not be on the ballot. King made headlines last November when he announced that his current term would be his last. 

Earlier this year, Long Island Republican officials announced the party’s plan to back State Assemblyman Andrew R. Garbarino, of Sayville. But another Suffolk County politician, Copiague resident and Babylon Town Councilwoman Jackie Gordon, a Democrat, said last May that she would contest the seat. Gordon, 55, will have to win a primary in June to face off against Garbarino.

Her life experiences, Gordon says, will help her identify the needs of her potential constituents. “Look at my record of service throughout my entire life, and especially in the last three decades, at the community and national level,” she said. “I have a genuine concern for others, proven by this track record of service, which is why I will continue to be a great voice and servant for the people in this district.”

Gordon’s family emigrated from Jamaica, West Indies, to Hollis, Queens, when she was 7.

She lived in Queens until 1993, when

she moved to Amityville. Growing up, she said, “My parents always pushed me to be the best I could be.” 

She attended New York City public schools, and had a desire to teach, so she studied education at Hunter College in Manhattan. “They had an awesome teacher education program,” Gordon recalled of her time at Hunter, where she earned an undergraduate degree. “But when I was in college, I saw a commercial on TV. It was an Army commercial, and it said, ‘We do more before 9 a.m. than most people do all day.’” She was captivated by the idea of maximizing her potential to achieve more.

“I also liked the idea of working together with a team, so I went down to the recruiting station and joined,” Gordon said. That walk over to the recruiting station resulted in a 29-year career in the armed forces. “I really grew up in the military,” she said.

She served as a platoon leader in Germany during Operation Desert Storm in 1990, and was also an operations officer, stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during George W. Bush’s presidency. She was a battle captain in Baghdad during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and was a commander of the 310th Military Police Battalion. She retired from the Army Reserves in 2014, as a lieutenant colonel.

Throughout her military service, Gordon still found time to teach. She earned a second degree, in guidance, from Queens College. She held various jobs in New York City and Long Island schools over more than two decades, and is now a guidance counselor at the Farmingdale location of Wilson Tech, a trade and technical school for high school students and adults.

“When I work with young people, I want them to have the same opportunities as everyone else,” she said, “and I want them to know that opportunities in this world are available to them if they work hard. It’s important for our future. If we don’t help them find their direction, how will they be equipped to take over as the next generation?”

Helping to ensure a bright and fair future to the next generation — including her daughter Kerrianne, a captain in the U.S. Air Force, and son Augustus — is partly what drove her to politics, who is divorced. She has served on the Babylon Town Council since 2007.

“I am different,” Gordon said with gusto, noting she is an African-American woman who is an armed forces veteran, an educator, a mother and a politician. “The people I see in Congress are not like me,” she added.

Asked for details on how her personal experiences would translate into policies, she did not hesitate. “When my son was younger, he had asthma and we had to take him to the doctor,” she recounted. “The doctor gave us four prescriptions we needed to fill. Each prescription had a $10 co-pay, and I couldn’t cover that for my son.” She switched insurance plans, to one that did not require copayments for the asthma medications. She said she was unsure how many members of Congress have been faced with this kind of challenge.

“Right now, they’re dealing with a partisan issue, and they’re playing politics with it,” Gordon said, referring to the ongoing health care debate. “I don’t think Americans’ health insurance is something that should be played politics with.” She added that it was “the American people that we should be fighting for,” and not pharmaceutical corporations.

Gordon’s potential opponents in the June Democratic primary include 2014 congressional candidate Patricia Maher and three first-time candidates: pharmacist and author Johanna Ellerup; Kevin Gomez, of Levittown; and “political influencer” Mike Sax. Only Gordon and Sax announced their candidacies before King made his retirement public. 

“I think Congressman King has served the folks in the congressional district to the best of his abilities,” Gordon said, “. . . and I wish him well in retirement.”