An underdog in the 6th District Congressional race formally announced his candidacy — with the Democratic primary only one month away.
In front of a small group of supporters — each gripping a campaign poster and a bright, red apple that has grown to symbolize his run — Robert Mittman, a Bayside allergy doctor, said he was running to bring a “fresh, new” perspective to Congress.
“If you look at the other people running, they’re all the same thing — they’re all politicians. It’s three peas in a pod,” Mittman said. “For far too long, our elected officials have avoided the tough decisions in an effort to selfishly get re-elected. Now is the time to get the great borough of Queens back on track and get our political system working for us.”
Mittman, after taking a bite of an apple, compared the “beautiful, healthy piece of fruit” to his hopes for the economy. He compared his symbolic fruit to outgoing Congressmember Gary Ackerman’s signature carnation and said he had “the prescription for a healthy economy.”
His campaign kick-off was delayed, Mittman told The Courier a few weeks ago, because he had to defend his petitions both in Queens Supreme Court and the Board of Elections after primary opponent Assemblymember Rory Lancman challenged them. Mittman cleared the 938 signature hurdle with 1,220 valid petitions.
“The window of campaigning is very short in this election. He was able to remove 15 percent of my limited campaign time by tying me up in court. He accomplished what he wanted to,” Mittman said.
His wife, Susan — who cheered him on during the May 30 announcement — also represented him in court, saving the family as much as $25,000, Mittman said.
At his first press conference, held outside former St. John’s Queens Hospital in Elmhurst, Mittman stressed the importance of keeping health care facilities open in Queens and lambasted policy makers for “[overseeing] a substantial dismantling of our local health care system.”
Five of the borough’s hospitals have closed within eight years, including St. Joseph’s Hospital in Flushing, which shuttered in 2004; Parkway Hospital in Forest Hills, which flatlined in 2008; and St. John’s and Mary Immaculate Hospitals in Jamaica, which went under one year later. Peninsula Hospital in Far Rockaway shut its doors this April.
“I’m running because I believe we are at a critical time in our history,” Mittman said. “To me, the American Dream equals opportunity and without a good paying job or access to quality health care, that dream can only become a nightmare.”
Mittman outlined health care initiatives he said he would propose if elected. He said he hopes to eliminate the Medicare doughnut hole and provide full drug coverage for seniors, lower drug costs by extending patents, establish a federal work study program for aspiring doctors, establish strict guides on pharmaceutical companies and ensure no more hospitals in Queens will close.
The candidate garnered support from his 17-year-old son, mother and members of the Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps. In regards to accusations of his run for Congress being a plant, Mittman said he was “the real thing.”
“We’re marching ahead and people are going to be behind me,” he said.