The Queens Congressional Races Worth Following
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
The people of Queens have three Democratic Congressional Primaries taking place on June 26.
Running from eastern Queens all the way though the center of the borough to Maspeth, is the 6th Congressional District which has received a great deal of attention of late.
Who is in? Who is out? Who is who?
Subject to the challenge process and the absurd ballot access standards of New York which helps keep those in power in power, we’ll try to answer the question.
Assemblywoman Grace Meng, an attorney from Flushing, has received the endorsement of the Queens Democratic Party, the Independence Party, the four front-runner NYC 2013 Mayoral Candidates and several labor unions.
Assemblyman Rory Lancman, an attorney from Hillcrest, has received the endorsement of the Working Families Party, former Mayor Ed Koch and a considerable number of labor unions.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley from Glendale, has received the endorsement of several labor unions.
The three frontrunners were all born in Queens and had been involved in the public sector before being elected to office. Pundits view this as a likely race between Meng, who leads in fundraising and endorsements and Lancman who got an early start by declaring and running for a seat formerly held by Republican Bob Turner – Anthony Weiner before him – which vanished as part of the redistricting process. Crowley has so far run a credible campaign but trailing in institutional support makes her a likely third.
Also in the race are Dr. Robert Mittman and Juan “Ada” Sheng.
Mittman, who I first met many years ago, is an allergist living in Bayside with a practice on Bell Boulevard – to the best of my knowledge has had no previous political involvement. To date, he has not adequately engaged the public or the press for us to get a read on if he can be a factor in this election. Mittman, as an allergist, has on and off for years advertised in the Tribune — see page 9 of this paper.
Juan “Ada” Sheng, of Briarwood, according to her Facebook page, is a graduate of Brooklyn College in 2010 with a Masters in Television and Radio. I’ve never heard of her before she filed petitions for this office. Insiders say that her petitions are unlikely to withstand likely scrutiny.
The in again, out again adventure of civic activist Jeffrey Gottlieb and attorney Stephen Green, both from the JFK Democratic Club, appears to be over with no candidate seeking the ballot. The question remains whether the 40 year old disclosures and Lancman’s claim of being the real Jew in the race will have any impact on the outcome of this one.
While Republicans and third party candidates will appear on the November ballot in many of the races discussed on this page, the only one that can be considered to have even a long shot chance is Queens Councilman Dan Halloran the Republican and Libertarian candidate in the 6th District.
Clearly this is the race to watch.
The Other Races
As of this writing, in the 5th District, of southeast Queens and a bit of Nassau, former Councilman Allan Jennings, a man with many lives, is on the ballot against Congressman Greg Meeks, as are two other candidates, Michael Scala, a Rosedale native and Joseph Marthone. In a very small portion of Queens abutting Brooklyn is a Democratic Primary between Brooklyn Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries and Brooklyn Councilman Charles Barron to replace retiring Congressman Ed Towns in the 8th District Jeffries is the odds-on favorite against Charles Barron, who is known as an aggressive activist. The irony of a black man from Brooklyn serving as a Congressman from a portion of Queens that includes Howard Beech is not lost on this writer. Howard Beech will long be remembered as the Queens embodiment of racism as a result of a 1986 incident that began at New Park Pizza, where three black men were chased by a group of whites and ended with the death of a black man, Michael Griffith, on the Belt Parkway which was followed by a never ending series of protests on both sides and a trial which convicted a large group of white teenagers.
In New York’s 7th District, a District drawn through the Latino neighborhoods of Brooklyn, Manahattan and Queens, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez faces a challenge from Councilman Erik Dilan, Dan O’Connor and George Martinez. In any race, especially in New York, incumbents are favorites. Put an incumbent in a race in a field of four, even if several are hand-picked by a wily County Leader, the uneven playing field with name recognition, staff, resources and money is slanted greatly towards the incumbent. We have yet to follow the political gamesmanship of Brooklyn Democratic Leader Vito Lopez in this one, but would be surprised if he can overcome Velazquez’s likely win.
The rest of the Borough of Queens will see Democratic Candidates Congressman Steve Israel in the east running on Long Island’s north shore through Nassau to Suffolk, incumbent Congressman Joe Crowley in the north crossing the Throggs Neck Bridge into the Bronx and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney swimming the east river to her predominantly Manhattan District.
The Rich Become Reformers
By HENRY STERN
Now that Governor Cuomo is in midst of the second year of his first term, people are pointing to his success as a manager and executive. His popularity rating is 68 percent (Quinnipiac poll) and while there are certainly disputes over specific measures he proposes to eliminate the perennial state debt, one would have to say that he is well-poised to make the effort.
The next challenge Cuomo tackles should be campaign finance reform. A new coalition of business, civic and philanthropic leaders called New York Leadership for Accountable Government (NY Lead) has formed in response to a line uttered by Cuomo in his State of the State address this year expressing his desire to enact campaign finance reform on the statewide level. The group, whose members include David Rockefeller, restaurateur Danny Meyer, and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes. was described in last week’s Times.
In the article, Frederick A. O. Schwarz Jr., chief counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, says, “It’s a double victory. You have lower amounts of money that can be given, and No. 2, ordinary people become engaged in political campaigns and candidates change their approach to campaigning.”
While no bill has yet been submitted in Albany, it appears likely that the proposed statewide campaign finance system would be modeled on New York City’s Campaign Finance Board. While the CFB system has deficiencies, the advantage of mirroring the city’s approach is that it is well-tested and one that is already familiar to a large portion of the legislature.
Governor Cuomo’s strong words in favor of campaign finance reform are a comfort to the civic warriors who were so recently defeated on redistricting.
Like independent redistricting, campaign finance reform is a worthy effort. If the legislature blocks his proposals, it only shows how they belong to their donors. Cuomo is in a no-lose situation.
One of Andrew Cuomo’s gifts is his ability to achieve successful political results without the appearance of having degraded himself or incurring major obligations to other politicians in exchange for their support. The legislature largely has been forced so far to swallow this.
The next few months will give time for the reform proposals to be considered by the legislature. The Republicans in the State Senate are under no obligation to reform anything, at least until 2022 when redistricting will beckon again.
The Democrats, whose self-interests also lie in maintaining the status quo, deserve equal suspicion in regard to their sincerity in addressing this issue. It is in the interest of good government and fostering legitimate competition both between and within the political parties that incumbents be contested by credible candidates who will give voters the opportunity to make choices that they have so long been denied.
When Cuomo tries to influence the political hacks of both parties, he is clearly acting in the public interest. Of course, it is also true that Governor Cuomo did not follow through on his oft-repeated promise to veto the lines which he did not find satisfactory.
One fascinating aspect of Albany politics is the widespread practice of people publicly supporting policies which they personally believe are ruinous and unsupportable. We would compare it to trying to solve a crosswords puzzle in which the answer to each clue is an antonym.
One response is that they deserve it. Our response to that is that the legislature may deserve it, but do we?