The granddaughter of Russian immigrants and the daughter of a single mother who teaches in public schools, Ms. Grechen Shirley previously worked in global economic development and human rights for nonprofit groups, as well as at the United Nations Foundation and New York University.
After President Trump was elected, she formed a local group of Indivisible, the liberal grass-roots network, on Long Island, where she had settled with her husband in her hometown, Amityville.
She organized rallies and letter-writing campaigns, directing her anger at Representative King. She said she objected to his vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, as well as his views on everything from abortion (he is against it) to the administration’s polarizing travel ban (he was a vocal supporter).
Before she launched her campaign last October, she put together a PowerPoint presentation that laid out why she believed Mr. King was vulnerable, recapping past challengers and the relatively small sums they had raised. “I was waiting for the right person to run against him,” Ms. Grechen Shirley, 37, said in an interview, “and a few months later, I realized I was that person.”