Race not enough to win 2012 races

| dbrennan@queenscourier.com |

The new Congressional lines dictated by federal courts has set off races in which ethnic politics seem to be front and center. But now one candidate says he is the victim of political dirty tricks.

Assemblymember Rory Lancman claims there is a conspiracy to put another Jewish candidate, Jeffrey Gottlieb, on the Democratic primary ballot in the 6th Congressional District.

The Lancman theory is that the candidate backed by the Queens organization, Grace Meng, would do better if there was another Jewish candidate in the race.

Lancman has offered no proof of this charge, but calls Gottlieb “one of the hackiest hacks in all of hackdom… a guy who is a patronage employee of the Board of Elections…”

But the Gottlieb camp says their candidate has the credentials and respect to make the run. They insist he will have enough signatures to get on the ballot. And Gottlieb says Lancman is running scared.

“Why does he proclaim that he should be the only Jewish candidate seeking this office,” asked Gottlieb.

The Queens Democratic organization also says Lancman’s allegations are nonsense.

Given the month that Lancman had (getting the endorsements of the Working Families Party, former Mayor Ed Koch and others), its seems surprising that he would even give Gottlieb all this publicity.

In a demographic breakdown in the Wall Street Journal, the paper reports Jewish voters having the largest ethnic mix in the newly-drawn 6th Congressional, with 7,157 primary voters, followed by Chinese-Americans with 5,379 and Hispanics with 5,182. Its clear that the candidates cannot rely simply on an “ethnic base” to take them to victory.

That is also the case in the newly-drawn 13th Congressional District, where Congressmember Charlie Rangel is facing a stiff challenge from State Senator Adriano Espaillat. The district is now 55 percent Latino, and Espaillat is looking to become the first Dominican-American elected to the US House of Representatives.

Community banker Vince Morgan withdrew from the race and has thrown his support to Espaillat. “The 13th District reflects diverse communities in northern Manhattan and the Bronx and needs someone who can unite us and move our neighborhoods forward,” Morgan said in a statement.

Rangel in the meantime warned against divisiveness. “Before we get involved in who’s black and who’s white and who’s running for what,” he said, “let’s try to make certain that when this campaign is over, there is no permanent damage being done politically.”

On Long Island, GOP Congressmember Peter King is facing a newly-drawn district where he will have a Hispanic population more than twice as large than in his old district. But King says he doesn’t “plan on making an appeal to anyone by race or ethnic background.”

And of course, it wouldn’t work. Nobody in any of these races is going to be elected on strictly ethnic appeal. The voters are too sophisticated. And the candidates have to be too.

As for using ethnic politics to your advantage, perhaps the most famous case was perpetuated by an Irish-American from Massachusetts.

In 1946, a guy named Jack Kennedy was running for Congress. But running against him was somebody with the name Joseph Russo, who threatened to siphon Italian-American support from Kennedy. So like magic, another candidate named Joseph Russo decided to join the race, and the second “Russo” appeared on the ballot. Kennedy’s father had the ability to make that happen. And the rest is history.