You have to admire the style of Congressmember Gary Ackerman. The Democrat from Queens and Long Island wore a carnation on his lapel every day, because he said, “every day is a special day.” While he was in Washington, D.C., he lived on a boat called the “The Unsinkable II”, apparently because the first boat was sinkable. Ackerman was also known for his colorful comments. When Caroline Kennedy ran for U.S. Senate in 2008, he said, “I don’t know what (her) qualifications are. Except that she has name recognition, but so does J. Lo.”
But my favorite Ackerman zinger was aimed at the incompetents at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) during the Bernie Madoff scandal. “You couldn’t find your backside with two hands if the lights were on,” he exclaimed to SEC officials. “We thought the enemy was Mr. Madoff. I think it’s you.”
Ackerman did not always toe the party line. He was the top Democrat on the influential Middle East and South Asia subcommittee. He voted for the Iraq war, but later said he regretted that. And he wasn’t afraid to criticize the Obama administration’s relationship with Israel.
Ackerman believed he could get re-elected this year. But the deck has been shuffled by a federal judge. In the mess of redistricting, the Sixth Congressional is a whole new ballgame. And the field is already getting crowded. Queens Democrats have made their pick for party choice: Assemblymember Grace Meng. She is hoping to become the first Asian-American from New York to be elected to Congress.
And the makeup in the new district might favor her. Approximately 38 percent of its residents are of Asian descent. Meng insists that’s not what her campaign is about.
“Our campaign for Congress will resist any efforts to divide our community,” she said. “We will not tolerate any attempt, overt or coded, to play one community against the other.”
Regardless, though, the new mix in the 6th could have a crucial effect on the vote. Assemblymember Rory Lancman and City Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley have also thrown their hats into the ring.
Lancman pointed out that the district is not only made up of Chinese- and Korean-American populations. But he will also have to battle Crowley. Her cousin, Congressmember Joseph Crowley, was among the Queens County leaders who chose Meng over her.
Now Ackerman can pass on an election that he might not have been able to win.
“I’ve been truly privileged to have had the opportunity to fight for the beliefs of my neighbors in both the State Capital and in the halls of Congress,” Ackerman said. “I am most thankful for the opportunity I’ve had to serve my country and my community.”