Challenger Raises Ire In Sixth District
By ROSS BARKAN
|Assemblywoman Grace Meng (from left), Jeffrey Gottlieb and Assemblyman Rory Lancman at a United Federation of Teachers event in April 2011.
Tribune Photo by Ira Cohen.
Longtime civic leader and Democratic Party stalwart Jeffrey Gottlieb has been petitioning to appear on the ballot for the 6th Congressional District race, adding a fourth candidate to an already-crowded Democratic field and infuriating one of his opponents, Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest).
Gottlieb’s candidacy was made public over the weekend, lending further intrigue to what is a New York City rarity: a wide-open congressional seat. While congressional contenders Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) were relatively mum on Gottlieb’s entry, Lancman did not mince words, denouncing Gottlieb as a “party hack” whose entrance into the race is a blatant attempt by the Queens Democratic Party to take Jewish voters away from a voting bloc he will be depending upon. Both Lancman and Gottlieb are Jewish, and the Queens Democratic Party has endorsed Meng.
Gottlieb sent out a statement late Tuesday declaring his intentions to run for the 6th Congressional District seat.
“I live in the district, I have worked in the district and I have volunteered in the district. I am entering this race to be a true voice of the people,” Gottlieb’s statement read. “As an active member of the Jewish community, I strongly believe that the announced candidates do not represent the interest of many of the voters - especially the moderate voters.”
Gottlieb, 70, is an employee of the Board of Elections and has worked for a slew of Queens Democrats, including Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck), State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), Alan Hevesi and Brian McLaughlin. As an employee of the BOE, Gottlieb must take a leave of absence from his BOE duties to run for office or, if he does not wish to take a leave of absence, sign a sworn statement that says he promises not to raise, collect or receive more than $2,500 after he has filed his petitions.
Lancman lashed out at Gottlieb, Queens Democrats and the Meng campaign on Tuesday.
“It’s a complete sham candidacy, the county organization went shopping around for candidate with a Jewish last name, the first candidate turned them down, and they dug up this guy Jeff Gottlieb,” Lancman said. “It’s a completely cynical ploy to try to confuse and deceive Jewish voters.”
If the ploy Lancman alleges is true, it may work, said Andrew Beveridge, a redistricting consultant and Queens College sociology professor.
“If it’s a close election, that may be enough,” Beveridge said. “Gottlieb is such a definitively Jewish name. He could pull Jewish voters away.”
Queens Democratic Party Boss U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) denied the allegations.
“Lancman is misinformed,” Crowley said during an event Tuesday.
Eric Yun, spokesman for the councilwoman, said that anybody who wants to run for office should be allowed the opportunity. Meng spokesman Michael Tobman said Meng’s campaign has “nothing to do with any other candidate’s efforts. Assemblyman Lancman’s allegations to the contrary recklessly disparage the very people whose support he previously coveted.”
Steve Stites, spokesman for Republican congressional contender Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), echoed Lancman’s sentiments.
“If the reports out there are true, the Democrats have engaged in deplorable ethnic politics that should offend every New Yorker, especially our Jewish community,” he said.
Reach Reporter Ross Barkan at email@example.com or (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127.