Tag Archives: 6th district

Meng wins 6th District Congressional primary


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

Assemblymember Grace Meng claimed victory by large margins in the hotly-contested 6th District Congressional primary race, according to Associated Press results.

“This is an important victory for Queens,” Meng said during her victory party at Plum Restaurant in Bayside. “This victory is about we. We made this together.”

Meng beat our her three rivals – Assemblymember Rory Lancman, Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley and Bayside allergist Dr. Robert Mittman – by winning 51 percent of the vote, according to AP reports as of 1 a.m. on June 27 when 89 percent of precincts were reporting.

Lancman who was largely seen as Meng’s top competitor — raked in the second highest amount of votes, taking in 28 percent, while Crowley garnered 16 percent and Mittman 5 percent.

“We are celebrating this evening because of you [voters]. We are here for each other and all look out for each other,” Meng said. “Let’s go win this thing in November.”

The candidates each threw their hats in the ring to replace U.S. Congressmember Gary Ackerman after the 15-term elected official announced in March he would not seek re-election this year.

Ackerman threw his support behind Meng on May 29, saying she was “head and shoulders above the rest” in the race. Meng went into the race already backed by the Queens County Democratic Party and gained a huge endorsement at the 11th hour from Governor Andrew Cuomo. She bagged several key endorsements along the way, including a last minute boost from the New York Times.

Lancman, who saw his “almost dream of a lifetime” come to an end, said in his concession speech he would support his Assembly colleague in the general election against Republican runner Councilmember Dan Halloran.

He also praised Crowley, saying she showed “extraordinary personal courage and hard work” in her try for the seat, and thanked his campaign team and supporters.

“What we built here as a campaign — I think starting from scratch and really starting without the infrastructure that comes with the support of the county organization — is something we can be extraordinarily proud of,” he said.

Before his speech, Lancman told a supporter he thinks Mittman may have taken the difference in votes between him and Meng.

The assemblymember, who pledged not to seek re-election for his current seat, did not specify his next plans. However, there are speculations he may seek a City Council or borough president position.

The race to replace him has already begun, with two Democratic and two Republican hopefuls announcing their candidacy.

It was also unclear after her concession whether Crowley intends to seek re-election to her Council seat, but she did confirm she would help get Meng elected.

While Crowley unofficially came in third in the race, she in her speech that her efforts three months ago showed how people choose the candidates, not an organization – alluding to her lack of support from both the County and possibly the party’s chair, who is also her cousin.

“This has been a rollercoaster ride of a campaign, and we really put up a good fight,” she said. “We showed that organized labor still has a voice in New York City.”

Meanwhile, a handful of hopefuls have already been eyeing Meng’s seat, while the assemblymember prepares for the November 6 general election against Halloran and Green Party candidate Evergreen Chou.

“Let’s run this campaign based on issues,” she said to Halloran. “Let’s not discuss race or religion or partake in scare tactics.”

With additional reporting by Alexa Altman and Billy Rennison

Primary Guide: 6th Congressional District


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

The 6th Congressional District includes parts or all of: Bayside, Flushing, Middle Village, Maspeth, Ridgewood, Glendale, Fresh Meadows, Auburndale, Briarwood, Jamaica Hills, Hillcrest, Forrest Hills, Oakland Gardens, Elmurst, Rego Park and Kew Gardens.

 

Name: Elizabeth Crowley

Party: Democrat

Current Position: New York City Councilmember

Personal Info: Born the 14th of 15 children, Democrat Elizabeth Crowley understands the struggles of middle class families. After college, she joined the painters’ union and worked as a decorative painter on some of the city’s most historic sites, including Radio City Music Hall, Central Synagogue and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. She later helped administer a federal grant that assisted small businesses and workers recover after September 11.

Crowley currently represents western Queens as a member of the New York City Council. She lives in Glendale with her two children Dennis and Owen.

Issues: The biggest issue, both locally and nationally, is getting our economy back on track. I will be a strong advocate for job creation that helps Queens residents. This includes securing funding to hire more police officers and firefighters to keep our city safe, investing in transportation projects to provide more options for mass transit in the borough, helping small businesses grow and securing funds for education to keep teachers at work and keep class sizes small.

Platform: With unemployment still above eight percent, our first priority has to be getting our economy back on track and putting people back to work. It is time to bring our troops home and use the billions spent in Afghanistan on investing in our infrastructure here at home. I will also be a strong defender of Social Security and Medicare from cuts or attempts to privatize. Finally, we need to begin rewarding small businesses, which are a backbone of this city’s economy, and start giving small business owners tax breaks and credits to promote hiring — not to big corporations that ship jobs overseas.

 

Name: Rory Lancman

Party: Democrat

Current Position: New York State Assemblymember for District 25. First elected in 2006, Lancman currently chairs the Assembly Subcommittee on Workplace Safety and is a member of the following committees: Majority Steering; Judiciary; Codes; Labor; Banks; Housing; and Cities. Lancman still teaches local government law at St. John’s University, just down the road from his home in Hillcrest.

Personal Info: Lancman is a graduate of the New York City public school system, Queens College of the City University of New York and Columbia Law School. He lives in the Hillcrest neighborhood with his wife Morgan, whose family emigrated from Iran after the Islamic revolution, and their three children.

Issues: The biggest issue facing Queens, and the one that drives many of the other issues, is that the economic deck is stacked against middle-class New Yorkers, and this Congress isn’t doing anything about it. Whether it’s fixing a tax code that favors wealth over work, making sure that we help small businesses create jobs instead of protecting corporate profits, keeping college affordable for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers or fighting back against efforts to privatize Social Security and turn Medicare into a voucher system, Lancman will be a tireless advocate for the middle-class and for their priorities. Lancman has also been a leader on issues of national security, an issue of paramount importance in New York City, still the number one target for terrorism in the world.

Platform: No matter his role in public life, Lancman has been a fighter for New Yorkers who work for a living and struggle to build a better life for their families. A lifelong resident of Queens, he learned the values of hard work and persistence from his mother Betty, who raised him on her own while working as a waitress. As a young man, Lancman served his country as a platoon leader in New York’s own 42nd Infantry Division, and continued his service as a community board member and the chair of his local hospital advisory board.

In just five-and-a-half years in the state Assembly, Lancman passed 19 bills into law. His legislative tenure is hallmarked by his commitment to promoting homeland security and public safety, keeping our workplaces safe and leveling the playing field for ordinary New Yorkers looking to achieve the American Dream.

On the campaign trail, Lancman has distinguished himself as the “issues candidate” who can hit the ground running when he gets to Washington. Lancman’s expertise on the issues – whether on national issues like saving Social Security and keeping college affordable, or local issues like overdevelopment and saving post offices from closure — has set him apart from the field and has been the basis of much of his support.

 

Name: Grace Meng

Party: Democrat

Current Position: New York State Assemblymember representing Flushing

Personal Info: Before I was elected in 2008, I served my community as a public interest lawyer. I currently live with my husband Wayne, our two sons, Tyler and Brandon, and our dog, Bounce.

Issues: Creating jobs for hardworking families will be my top priority when I get to Congress. While we avoided plunging into a second Great Depression following the 2008 financial crisis, economic growth is still too slow and our unemployment rate is still too high. I have a clear vision and four-point plan for bringing jobs back to Queens:

1. Immediate federal aid to local and state governments to hire more public sector workers, including teachers, police officers and firefighters.

2. Federal transportation dollars – and transportation-related jobs – for Queens. I will seek appointment to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in order to achieve this objective.

3. Tax credits for small businesses that hire new workers.

4. Investment in technological advancement and initiatives that will help Queens thrive as a technology corridor.

If we pursue these objectives, we will create much-needed jobs right now, and lay the foundation for greater success in the long term. I have a clear vision and a specific plan, and when I get to Washington I will hit the ground running in pursuit of these objectives.

Tax reform is another important issue of concern for the middle-class families that are at the heart of my district. Republicans in Washington insist on cutting spending for vital programs that provide relief to society’s most vulnerable citizens and residents throughout Queens, while refusing to increase revenue by requiring wealthy individuals and corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. We must recapture lost revenue by ending subsidies to oil companies and corporations that ship jobs overseas, and implement tax reforms like the Buffett Rule so that those who have benefited most from society do their part to help improve it.

Platform: I will continue to fight to protect the interests of seniors when I get to Washington. As a member of Congress, I will oppose the right-wing assault on the health care and senior citizen programs that are so crucial to the fabric of our society. I believe that every citizen should have access to quality, affordable health care; that individuals with pre-existing conditions should not be denied coverage; and that young people should continue to be able to stay on their parents’ insurance until they are 26.

I will also fight tirelessly to protect Medicare and Social Security and ensure retirement security for our country’s senior citizens. It is essential that we make prescription medication more affordable by allowing Medicare to use its purchasing power to bargain for better drug prices. On Social Security, we should protect the program’s long-term solvency by raising the FICA limit in the next three years, once the economy improves.

 

Name: Robert Mittman

Party: Democrat

Current Position: Owns allergy practice on Bell Boulevard

Personal Info: Married with two kids

Issues: Increase jobs for store owners on Bell Boulevard

Platform: Economy, economy, economy. We have to do something about bringing back jobs, helping the middle class; we have to bring back the mom-and-pop shops. There’s no manufacturing going on in this country. We also need to improve education.

There are not enough millionaires to cover the debt. Pharmaceuticals are too expensive. We are subsidizing the world’s health care system.

 

 

Check out the primary guide for all the races:

5th Congressional District

7th Congressional District

8th Congressional District

U.S. Senate

 

Low voter turnout expected in 6th District primary


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Candidates in a hotly contested Queens congressional contest expect few of the more than 180,000 registered Democrats to head to the polls for the upcoming primary.

The estimates of the 6th District’s candidates align with a recently released study that found less than a third of registered voters cast a ballot in New York City.

“Voter Turnout in New York City,” a report by the city’s Campaign Finance Board, found that New York City falls well below the state and nation in the percentage of voters that head to the polls.

Only 28 percent of registered voters cast a ballot during 2010’s midterm election, compared to 53 percent in the rest of New York, and 46 percent nationally. A major city race in 2009 did little to boost that number, as just 29 percent of people voted in that year’s mayoral election.

Candidates in the upcoming 6th District Democratic primary do not expect to approach even those numbers.

The campaigns for Assemblymembers Grace Meng and Rory Lancman both expect about 32,000 voters — which equals just 17 percent of the 183,000 registered Democrats.

Candidate Dr. Robert Mittman said he would be surprised to see even 30,000 people at the polls.

Most of the district had between 11 and 25 percent voter turnout in the 2009 elections, the finance board’s report found.

“It’s difficult to predict turnout for such an unprecedented primary election date,” said Austin Finan, Meng’s spokesperson.

Prior to this year, federal primaries were held in September, but were moved in January to comply with the federal MOVE Act, which was enacted to aid voting for those serving in the military overseas.

“It’s going to be a low turnout election,” Lancman’s spokesperson Eric Walker said. “Ask any political professional what’s the most important thing in a low turnout election — and it’s your field operation and your ‘get out the vote’ operation.”

Lancman’s field operation includes going door to door and identifying voters.

With low numbers expected, every vote takes on greater importance.

“We are trying to get as many people out to vote as possible,” said Eric Yun, Crowley’s spokesperson. “We are targeting every vote we could possibly get.”

The campaigning will go down to the very last minute, said Finan.

“We’ve run the strongest, grassroots field operation throughout the course of the campaign, and we are extremely well prepared to get out the vote in the final days of the campaign,” Finan said.

The primary is set for June 26.

- Additional reporting by Melissa Chan

6th District candidates reveal war chests


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Assemblymember Grace Meng has a fundraising edge over her three rivals in the congressional mad dash to the primary finish line, according to the latest figures released by the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Meng’s war chest going into the 6th District Democratic primary holds more than $750,000, her camp said, including $390,000 contributions from a combined 663 individuals since April 1.

Assemblymember Rory Lancman has raked in over $500,000 since the beginning of his campaign, including $150,000 of his own funds.

“We’ve got money coming in every day,” said Lancman’s spokesperson Eric Walker.

Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley currently ranks third in fundraising totals, with $280,916 and $19,500 in contributions.

Dr. Robert Mittman – a Bayside allergist and the only non-politician candidate in the race – who generated significantly lower totals so far than his rival elected officials. He had roughly $150,000 to advance his run in the home stretch, but of that amount, $100,000 came from his own pockets, his camp said.

“There’s a big difference here,” said Susan Silverman, Mittman’s spokesperson and wife. “[The other candidates] have big money coming in. We don’t have unions. This is a grassroots campaign. We’re going from the bottom up, not the top down.”

The campaign kickoff and fundraising efforts were delayed, Mittman said, and 15 percent of his limited campaign time was knocked off when he had to spend weeks defending petitions both in Queens Supreme Court and the Board of Elections after Lancman challenged them. Mittman cleared the 938 minimum with 1,220 valid signatures.

Now, Silverman said the team is taking a financial hit, especially with the pricey cost of mailers.

“We’re doing the best we can. It’s very, very expensive to send these mailers out. You can’t even believe how much — tens of thousands of dollars. You’re printing up 40,000 pieces or more, plus postage. It’s enormous,” she said. “We started late, but we hope we get the message out. We hope he’s going to be the horse that’ll run them out.”

Meanwhile, Mittman questioned the money-making matters of Meng and Lancman, pointing to reports that say the pair has missed over 75 percent of Assembly votes since they announced their congressional candidacies.

“The taxpayers are footing the bill for their electioneering. This is typical politics as usual. We elected them to do a job. We elected them to represent our area,” Mittman said.

Lancman was not slacking in Albany, Walker said, but instead was engaging in important conversations with voters on major issues.

A spokesperson for Meng said she is “extremely proud” of her recent record — which includes voting to raise the minimum wage and voting to pass DREAM Fund legislation — and has “worked hard to maintain a practical balance between her responsibilities in Albany and her commitment to the voters.”

Meng recently received huge endorsements from the New York Times, New York Post, El Diario, Queens Gazette, Queens Times, the Sierra Club, the New York League of Conservation Voters and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Leadership PAC. But Lancman will walk into the primary touting new boosts from the New York Daily News, Queens Chronicle, Grand Council of Hispanic Societies in Public Service and LaborPress, and Crowley with the Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics and Fire Inspectors FDNY Local 2507 and Uniformed EMS Officers Union Local 3621.

 

6th District candidates debate issues in Middle Village


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Hundreds of Maspeth and Middle Village residents packed the auditorium of Our Lady of Hope to ask questions and take in a debate between the four 6th District Democratic hopefuls.

Assemblymembers Grace Meng and Rory Lancman, Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley and Dr. Robert Mittman took the stage at the Middle Village school to discuss both local concerns — stop and frisk and hospital closings — and national issues — Social Security and immigration reform.

Candidates answered questions from the audience, each other and a panel consisting of local reporters.

The areas of Maspeth and Middle Village will be in the newly-formed 6th District due to redistricting.

The four-round debate featured its share of contentious moments and an at-times restless audience.

Lancman and Crowley traded barbs throughout the night, with Lancman correcting the councilmember that the MTA is not a state agency, but an independent authority.

Crowley said her plan to fix the economy would not raise taxes on middle class families and businesses,

Meng largely avoided confrontations during the debate.

Citing the “career politicians” and “politics as usual” of the other candidates, Mittman at first drew cheers from the crowd.

The attendees gradually grew restless at the rhetoric, shouting “Answer the question” when they felt he avoided what was asked.

Lawrence Pliska, who attended the debate, said the anti-career politician rants were foolish.

“You do need somebody who understands what’s going on,” he said, before adding he believed Crowley won the debate.

Jeff Kaufman, a lifelong resident of Maspeth and Glendale, felt Lancman was the most polished debater of the candidates, though he was upset some of the more polarizing topics were avoided.

“[Lancman] was able to explain some of the more nuanced issues that either the other candidates didn’t understand or couldn’t explain.”

Social Security at center of 6th District contention


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Rory Lancman

A congressional candidate — who dubbed himself the sole fighter for the Millionaire’s Tax last week — set himself apart from his Democratic primary opponents once more by saying he is “the only candidate” in the race with a real plan to save Social Security.

“Social Security is in crisis,” said Assemblymember Rory Lancman, who is vying for the heavily-contested and newly-redrawn 6th District seat. “There are other candidates in the race who don’t seem to believe so. They think it’s something that we don’t need to address right away. They don’t see the imminence of the problem.”

According to Lancman, Social Security will run out of money in 2033 and will only be able to make about three-fourths of obligated payments at that time.

He said his proposal to lift the exemption on Social Security taxes for individuals with incomes over $110,600 would force “high-income earners to pay their fair share” into the Social Security fund. Scrapping the cap, Lancman said, would guarantee the program’s solvency for the next 75 years.

“That is what is bankrupting Social Security,” he said before taking swipes at his two major primary challengers, Assemblymember Grace Meng and Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley. “The challenge facing Social Security is immediate and severe, and so far I’m the only candidate in this race that has offered a real plan to save Social Security without reducing benefits, raising the retirement age or privatizing Social Security altogether.”

Meng said her plans were geared towards reaching a long-term solution. She said while the fund would definitely be able to pay benefits until 2033, she agreed Congress needs to take action before that.

“The most important thing right now is to ensure that we do whatever we can to stimulate job and economic growth so that in the long run there will be more people paying into the fund,” Meng said. “My point is not that we’re not taking action — it’s that we have to do whatever we can to increase the funds right now.”

Crowley also fired back at her challenger, saying the cap lift would increase taxes on the middle class and small businesses — not high-income earners. She said her plan is to put people back to work and “keep Republicans from cutting Social Security.”

“Raising taxes on the middle class and on small businesses is exactly what we don’t need to help Social Security. I’m sorry that Mr. Lancman thinks that it is a good idea,” Crowley said.

Lancman received a blow of his own from a local religious leader who sent out a “special clarification” last week, saying he was not endorsing the candidate’s policies or run for Congress after his photo was published without permission or notice in Lancman’s recent legislative mailer.

Reverend Thomas Pettei, a pastor at St. Nicholas of Tolentine R.C. Church in Jamaica, declined to comment, but said the letter speaks for itself.

“What upset me was that this mailing included a picture of me with Assemblyman Lancman, standing in front of our church,” Pettei wrote in the letter. “I simply want to make it clear that in no way should this be interpreted as any kind of endorsement of the Assemblyman’s policies or of his current campaign for Congress.”

The mailer was titled “Keeping our Houses of Worship Safe” and referred to legislation Lancman has proposed. Pettei also pointed to disagreements the Catholic Church and Lancman have on several issues as a reason for his concerns.

Meng recently received the endorsement of the New York League of Conservation Voters and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Leadership PAC, while Crowley gained boosts from the Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics and Fire Inspectors FDNY Local 2507 and Uniformed EMS Officers Union Local 3621.

Mittman’s first presser focuses on health care


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Robert Mittman

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.

[UPDATE] Congressmember Gary Ackerman endorses Assemblymember Grace Meng in 6th District


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Grace Meng

Assemblymember Grace Meng — one of six congressional hopefuls vying for the newly-drawn 6th District seat — bagged the key endorsement of retiring Representative Gary Ackerman, who said Meng was “head and shoulders above the rest” in the race.

“Grace is without question the most qualified candidate,” Ackerman said. “This is a district I’ve represented all or parts of over the past 35 years in government, and Grace is a unique, highly qualified individual who I would be most comfortable with knowing she is representing the district I represented. She is going to fight for the things that I fought for during my political career, and I know she will do it the most effectively.”

Ackerman, a 15-term congressmember since 1983, announced in March that he would not seek re-election and will be retiring at the end of the year. He said the other candidates were “all good and decent people,” but he said it was “not a close call” in deciding who to endorse, touting Meng’s “personal attitude, accomplishments, character and determination” as reasons for his decision.

“So many people were asking me who I think would be best. People wanted to know. I thought maybe I had an obligation or responsibility,” Ackerman said, adding that while he always had an opinion, he did not originally plan on publicly endorsing a candidate.

The endorsement has raised some concerns, since the consulting firm Meng’s campaign hired is part of the Queens Tribune company, which is partially owned by Ackerman. Ackerman, according to several reports, said that had nothing to do with his decision. Meng told The Courier she knew Ackerman as only her congressmember.

Ackerman cited similarities between Meng and himself, saying they were both raised in Queens by “hardworking, middle class” families. He said she represents the “voice of the quiet people, the everyday people and the hardworking people.”

“They need somebody who isn’t audacious and loud but effective. She believes in the things my district believes in at the greatest extent possible,” Ackerman said.

The “game changing” endorsement from Ackerman, according to the Meng campaign, was the icing on top of the cake after the assemblymember — who is also the choice of the Queens County Democratic Organization — rolled out a major boost from the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) late last week.

“It’s been a good week as we’re leading up to the home stretch,” Meng said. “It’s a great boost for our campaign, but the most important endorsements are from the voters.”

Meng said she met up with Ackerman in early April to tell him she was interested in running for his seat and to ask him for his advice and support. Once every week since then, she said she would personally call and update him on the campaign. Meng said he decided last week to officially endorse her.

“He’s been our congressman for over 30 years. He’s worked very hard. He has great name recognition and people really respect him,” Meng said of Ackerman. “I’m very excited.”

Ackerman formally announced his support on Tuesday, May 29 at the Pomonok Senior Center in the South Flushing, where Meng vowed to “carry on his extraordinary legacy and commitment to the working, middle-class as a member of the House of Representatives.”

Meng will face off against Assemblymember Rory Lancman, Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley and Bayside allergist Dr. Robert Mittman in the June 26 Democratic primary. The winner will go up against Republican runner Councilmember Dan Halloran and Green Party candidate Evergreen Chou in the November election.

Lancman also landed the support of a major public figure during the home stretch of the Democratic primary race. Mark Green, former city Consumer Affairs commissioner who is also a former elected city public advocate, endorsed Lancman at a press conference held one hour after Ackerman’s announcement. Lancman and Green called for comprehensive campaign finance reform laws at the federal level, pointing to political contributions from “Big Oil” companies as an example of the “corrosive influence” of corporate money on democracy.

“Because Rory Lancman has been a leader to take the ‘for sale’ sign off our state government, I’m endorsing him today because he’ll continue to lead that charge when he gets to Washington,” Green said. “We need a smart, strong progressive voice in Washington — Rory’s it.”

The 6th District candidates will be participating in a handful of upcoming debates hosted by local civic groups on May 31 at 7:30 p.m. at Christ Lutheran Church, located at 188th Street and 73rd Avenue; on June 5 at 7:30 p.m. at Young Israel of Queens Valley, located at 155-55 77th Avenue; on June 6 at 8 p.m. at 210-10 Union Turnpike; and on June 7 at 7:30 p.m. at I.S. 93, located at Forest Avenue and Madison Street in Ridgewood.

6th District candidates debate hot-button issues


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The six 6th District congressional candidates mildly duked it out for the first time during a forum in Flushing — addressing hot-button city, state and national issues, like plans to fix the flailing economy and stances on immigration reform.

The hopefuls — Green Party’s Evergreen Chou, Democratic primary runners Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, Assemblymember Rory Lancman, Assemblymember Grace Meng and Dr. Robert Mittman, and Republican contender Councilmember Dan Halloran — split the roughly two-hour meeting, held at Flushing Library on May 21, to introduce themselves and explain the platforms for which they are running.

Each lauded his or her experience, with the elected officials pointing to their plans on advocating for the middle class and improving education, Social Security and the job market, while the two citizen candidates — Chou and Mittman — respectively pushed for peace and change.

The forum was hosted by the MinKwon Center for Community Action. The congressional contenders remained civil, with minor disagreements stemming mostly from the differences between Republican and Democratic philosophies on the economy.

Halloran said the key to reviving the economy and creating jobs is making sure the government “stays out of the way of businesses.” Citing that 98 percent of small businesses in New York have disappeared between 1840 and 2011, he said government should decrease the number of agencies businesses are held accountable to, re-evaluate its tax roles to make sure businesses that are job creators aren’t overtaxed and give incentives to businesses to hire more employees.

Lancman respectfully disagreed, saying deregulating government led to the Wall Street meltdown. He said Wall Street first needs to be reformed — “making it an engine of economic growth, not a potential minefield that could blow up the economy once again” — and small businesses should be provided support and access to credit.

Meng took a different approach and said she believes improving mass transit, highways, roads and bridges would help increase jobs for Queens residents. She also said maintaining “better and closer” partnerships with universities and hospitals would help make Queens a “technology hub” and would stem job growth.

Chou said building more hospitals and engaging in government programs would revive the economy, while Crowley said pulling government spending on Afghanistan would give the country more money to use. Mittman backed Halloran, saying government should be limited and small business should not be overtaxed.

Questions on immigration reform and enforcement directly tied into talks about racial discrimination, when candidates addressed the efficiency of Secure Communities — a federal program that prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens and repeat immigration violators — and the recent controversial stop and frisk policy.

Crowley — who said she believes in comprehensive immigration reform — said there is a fine line drawn if the illegal immigrant questioned is not a threat. She said she supported a local law passed in the City Council that prevented the Department of Corrections from imposing immigration detainers “on those that were not convicted of any crime and were not doing anything that was considered a serious crime.”

However, Halloran said “being in the country illegally is a crime” itself.

“You cannot reward someone who came here illegally with citizenship, but you can give them a path to permanent residency,” he said.

According to Halloran, illegal immigrants should fill out paperwork, pay the fees and be checked up on 10 years after they are granted permanent status to see that they are paying their taxes and not engaged in criminal activity. In regards to the stop and frisk policy and concerns of racial profiling, he said there is more of a correlation between economics and socio status than race.

While Lancman agreed people who commit serious crimes should not be welcomed in the country and said he is for comprehensive immigration reform, he said Secure Communities became “a mechanism for detaining and deporting” mostly law-abiding citizens and “created an atmosphere of fear and mistrust in immigrant communities.”

All six candidates opposed using local law enforcement to deal with immigration issues and said the role should lie in the federal government. They each also expressed support for pulling U.S. troops from overseas — however Halloran and Lancman raised serious concerns over whether or not doing so would gravely impact national security.

Crowley was recently endorsed by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3 and New York City Building and Construction Trades Council, while Meng picked up support from ATU Local No. 1056 and Lancman from the New York State Public Employees Federation.

6th District candidates start making the rounds


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Three major democratic primary hopefuls — Assemblymember Grace Meng, Assemblymember Rory Lancman and Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley — recently spoke at the North East Flushing Civic Association's forum. Dr. Robert Mittman fights to remain on the ballot.

A dark horse candidate in the 6th District Congressional race was a long way from succumbing to the political slaughterhouse, but soon-to-be revealed results could mean a one-way ticket to the glue factory.

According to Dr. Robert Mittman — who is considered a longshot out of four democratic primary runners — the State Supreme Court has sent his signatures back to the Board of Elections (BOE) for a recount. A BOE representative said the board has not yet received word from the court and could not confirm.

A hearing  held by the board on May 1 determined Mittman had enough valid signatures to remain on the ballot, but the Bayside allergy specialist was taken to court by opponent Assemblymember Rory Lancman late last week.

According to Mittman, the two attorneys have been in the BOE for two days straight since May 8 going over his 1,200 signatures. Mittman said the two parties would hear results from the court on May 10, after The Courier went to press.

“It’s obvious they’re winning that war because this is a delay tactic,” Mittman said. “The purpose of this is to knock me off. This is a typical political maneuver, which is something I’m not used to. I’m a citizen who has the ideals of the community. But I accept it as it is. I don’t hold it against anybody.”

Mittman encouraged other citizens and non-career politicians to not be intimidated and consider running for office in the future.

“I think it’s very important,” he said. “I think a lot of politicians have lost touch with what is really going on in the community.”

Meanwhile, the three other democratic primary hopefuls — Assemblymember Grace Meng, Assemblymember Rory Lancman and Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley — have been speaking at a series of civic meetings this week to introduce themselves and discuss local and national issues.

At a May 3 forum hosted by the North East Flushing Civic Association, Meng said she was running to address issues surrounding education and zoning, to fight for Social Security and Medicare for seniors, and to improve infrastructure.

Lancman emphasized his mission to “level the playing field for ordinary people” and said, if elected, he would be a “tough critic” on United Nations spending and would work to raise the minimum wage.

Crowley also said she would fight for Social Security and support seniors. She remained adamant on her stance on bringing U.S. troops home, even when an audience member said that ideal clashed with her views on protecting the city from terrorism threats.

A former democratic underdog, Ada Juan Sheng, was bumped off the ballot last week due to a lack of sufficient signatures and was taken to State Supreme Court by Meng. But the Briarwood television producer said she is now seeking sanctions against Meng, who she said has “dragged her reputation through the mud.”

The China Press, Sheng said, relied on court papers and reported that she was accused of fraud. Sheng said because she can’t sue Meng for defamation for allegations made in court papers, she is asking State Supreme Court Justice Jeremy Weinstein to impose sanctions, costs and attorney fees pursuant to court rules.

“[Meng] obviously felt the need to make outrageously false allegations of criminal wrongdoing against me. Many of these allegations constitute misdemeanors and possibly felonies,” Sheng said. “Had she merely alleged that my petition did not have enough valid signatures, I would have gracefully withdrawn.”

Meng’s campaign has garnered $500,000 in just a month-and-a-half. She was recently endorsed by Akhon Samoy, a Queens weekly Bengali language newspaper, while Lancman rolled in boosts from the New American Voters Association, DC 37, DC 1707 and CSEA.

6th District Update: Sheng Out; Lancman, Meng Sue; Mittman Stays


| mchan@queenscourier.com

The Courier/Photos

A democratic underdog in the 6th District Congressional primary race will not see her big dreams fulfilled this year.

Ada Juan Sheng is off the ballot and out of the race due to an insufficient number of signatures, said a Board of Elections (BOE) representative. Both candidates on the Independent bid — Grace Meng and Joseph Tiraco — also got the boot due to lack of valid petitions.

“I have a big dream for everyone to live a better life. This is what I think about,” she told The Courier days before a BOE hearing upheld objections filed against her. “I have a good heart.”

According to court records, opponent Grace Meng — the Queens County Democratic Organization’s bid — will take Sheng to state Supreme Court to dispute the validity of her filed petitions on May 7. Each hopeful had until April 16 by midnight to submit at least 938 required signatures to the city in order to appear on the ballot for the June 26 primary.

Sheng said her campaign collected at least 1,477 signatures after going door to door. She condemned Meng and her backing from the Queens County Democratic Party for attacking her in court and causing her to “needlessly expend legal and financial resources to fend off challenges.”

“I did not make up these signatures. I’m not a liar,” said Sheng, 53, a television producer from Briarwood. “Shame on her for doing this.”

Meng said she did not single out Sheng simply because she is also Asian-American. She said general objections were filed against every candidates’ petitions.

“If they don’t seem to be sufficient, according to legal standards, that’s how we decide to challenge them,” Meng said. “I know there’s been discussion about these racial politics. I think our voters are smarter than that. I don’t think they choose who they’re going to vote for simply because of ethnicity. It hasn’t really worked in the past when people tried to play those games.”

According to the BOE, only two objectors — Jeffrey Wang and Sheryl Fetik — filed challenges against Sheng. Court records show Wang listed as the objector on the suit and Meng as the aggrieved candidate.

A similar tactic was conducted by Assemblymember Rory Lancman against Robert Mittman, a Bayside allergy specialist, as confirmed by Lancman’s camp.

While Mittman will still have to defend his case in Supreme Court against his opponent later this week, he was cleared during a BOE hearing on May 1.

“I’m very pleased that the BOE found that I had enough valid petitions to remain as a candidate,” Mittman said. “I’m ready, willing and able to fight to keep myself as a candidate in front of the Supreme Court.”

According to a BOE representative, candidates typically file general, then specific objections first before a hearing is held, where both parties may state their cases to a board of BOE commissioners. The representative said if candidates follow the BOE process, they usually take the case to court after the ruling. However, they are not restricted to the process and may file suit at a time of their own choosing.

Jeffrey Gottlieb bows out of 6th District Congressional race


| brennison@queenscourier.com

JEFF GOTTLIEB PHOTOw

The hotly-contested 6th Congressional District race that has featured allegations and pot shots has its first casualty.

Jeffrey Gottlieb denied the nomination on Wednesday, April 18 and transferred the signatures he received to Stephen Green, a Rosedale resident, the Board of Elections said.

The announcement comes just days after the candidates submitted their petitions to the Board of Elections, with Gottlieb being among six Democratic candidates who collected the necessary signatures.

From the get-go, Gottlieb’s run set-off a firestorm of accusations.

Assemblymember Rory Lancman accused the Board of Elections employee of being a “sham” candidate whose entrance into the race was solely to divide the Jewish vote.

At the time Gottlieb said he was prepared to run a spirited campaign despite the attacks, but a New York Post report regarding a prior charge of arson led to him bowing out.

The Post reported last week that Gottlieb was arrested on charges of arson in 1971 for setting fire to his apartment.  The charge was plea-bargained down to fourth-degree criminal mischief, the paper reported.

A source close to Gottlieb told the New York Times that the personal strain for the public disclosure caused the candidate to quit the campaign.

Gottlieb could not be reached for comment.

The primary election will be held on June 26.

6th District candidates pick up endorsements


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Candidates in the buzzing 6th Congressional District race have rolled out more boosts to their campaigns. Councilmember Dan Halloran picked up support from the Uniformed Fire Marshals Association, while Assemblymember Rory Lancman got the backing of the Communications Workers of America, District 1.

Contending for the same seat, Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley got a leg up from the Captains Endowment Association — which represents the NYPD’s captains, deputy inspectors,inspectors and deputy chiefs — along with the Mason Tenders District Council of Greater New York and Long Island.

Assemblymember Grace Meng — the Queens County Democratic Organization’s bid — received endorsements from Latino community leaders, including former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, Congressmember Nydia Velazquez, Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, Senator Jose Peralta and Assemblymember Francisco Moya. She also received shared endorsements by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Comptroller John Liu, former Comptroller Bill Thompson and public advocate Bill de Blasio.

Jeff Gottlieb — who Lancman accused of being a “sham candidate” — did not receive any endorsements as of April 18, said Jay Golub, Gottlieb’s campaign spokesperson.

 

Crowded field set for 6th District Congressional race


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Democratic contenders “Ada” Juan Sheng (left) and Robert Mittman (right) have collected enough signatures to appear on the ballot for the June 26 primary.

An already crowded Queens Congressional race now has two more runners vying for the hotly-contested 6th District seat.

According to the city’s Board of Elections, Democratic contenders Robert Mittman and “Ada” Juan Sheng have collected enough signatures to appear on the ballot for the June 26 primary, as did Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, Assemblymember Rory Lancman, Assemblymember Grace Meng, Jeff Gottlieb, Republican candidate Councilmember Dan Halloran and Green Party runner Evergreen Chou.

Each hopeful had until Monday, April 16 by midnight to file their petitions with the city. At least 938 signatures were required, officials said.

While Board of Elections representatives could not disclose how many signatures each candidate collected, Halloran’s camp said he submitted “well over two and a half times” the statutory minimum, while Mittman said he garnered 3,000 petitions.

Mittman, an asthma and allergy specialist in Bayside, told The Courier he threw his hat in the ring over frustrations with health care in Congress.

“I consider it an honor to seek elected office in the community that I was born in, raised in, lived in, volunteered and worked in for over 40 years,” Mittman said. “I look forward to the opportunity to compete in the upcoming Democratic Primary and to debate and discuss the issues that are important to our neighborhood. In particular, as an internist and family doctor, I am eager to discuss the current crisis in our health care system which desperately needs reform.”

Sheng, said to be a producer at “The Chinese New Yorker with Ada Sheng” television program, could not be reached for comment.

All six Democratic runners will face off in the primary to fight for the seat recently vacated by retiring U.S. Congressmember Gary Ackerman. The winner is expected to go up against Halloran, the sole Republican runner, and Chou, the Green Party candidate, during the November 6 general election.

Check back with www.queenscourier.com later today for updates on this story.

Halloran is Republican Party pick for Ackerman’s seat


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Councilmember Dan Halloran has officially joined the race to vie for the newly-redrawn 6th Congressional District seat.

The Republican runner announced his intent to run on March 26 at Flushing’s Bowne Park.

“I am running for Congress because the president and the Democrats’ policies have failed, and New Yorkers need a new voice,” Halloran said. “Democrats in Washington, led by President Obama, have spent us into financial ruin. They have failed to grow our economy and have led us deep into a harrowing recession.”

Halloran — who was elected to the City Council in 2009 — said he would make reinforcing support for Israel and creating jobs and energy alternatives to reduce gas prices his top priorities.

“These three issues are at the heart of the problems that this country needs to solve,” he said. “I know we have a chance now to make a change. It’s time to send citizen politicians to Washington, not career ones. It’s time to talk about our values in our community. We need to start moving in the right direction on those issues.”

Halloran was nominated to run by the Queens Republican Party two days before his formal campaign kick-off. He was also nominated as the candidate of the Conservative Party.

He is expected to run unopposed in the June 26 primary, said officials at the Queens Republican Party. Without a current primary challenger, he will likely be pitted against one of the three Democratic primary runners, Assemblymember Rory Lancman, Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley and Assemblymember Grace Meng — who received the Queens Democratic Party bid.

All four candidates entered the race after the announcement that 15-term Congressmember Gary Ackerman would not seek re-election.

“The Sixth Congressional District deserves to have a fighter like Dan Halloran representing them in Washington,” said former Congressmember Rick Lazio, who endorsed the councilmember and publicly vowed to campaign door to door to ensure the win. “This is a gentleman that knows how to forge solutions. He has principles. He’s hard working. He’s got guts, and he’s doing this for the right reasons.”

Halloran already began receiving flak from Democratic opponents, not even 24 hours after the campaign launch.

Lancman lashed out saying the policies of former Republican leaders “brought our country to the brink of ruin.”

“We’re not going back to the failed Bush/Cheney policies which helped crash our economy, strain our military, threaten social security and put a woman’s health at the mercy of others,” he said.

However, Halloran said the race would “not be distracted by non-issues at any time.”

“We will stick to the message,” Halloran said. “We will stick to the things the people want addressed in Washington, and we will not lose focus.”