Tag Archives: grace meng

Medicare, money at center of 6th Congressional District mudslinging


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Traditional Medicare could be endangered if the power to decide the fate of the major, federal insurance program falls into the wrong party’s hands, according to a Democratic congressional hopeful.

“Republican plans for Medicare would end guaranteed benefits for our seniors and destroy the traditional Medicare option,” said Assemblymember Grace Meng, who hopes to secure a House seat in November.

The candidate was joined by former Congressmember Liz Holtzman to outline the “stark differences” between the two parties over handling Medicare, during an October 9 press conference outside the Bayside Senior Center.

“Seniors are rightly worried these days about important programs like Medicare being harmed by the misguided policies of the Tea Party Republicans in Washington, D.C.,” said Holtzman, who served in Congress from 1973 to 1981.

Meanwhile, Meng is being taken to task by her Republican rival, Councilmember Dan Halloran, for “ducking” two forums in the last week after having agreed earlier this year to face off with him in a series of five debates. In three out of four candidate nights, Halloran’s camp said the councilmember debated against “an empty chair.”

Halloran said he was “eager to publicly discuss” a recently published New York Post report, which said the councilmember is allegedly being investigated by the Albany district attorney for being over two years behind in filing campaign finance reports for his 2009 City Council run.

According to the Post, Halloran has missed five filing deadlines and owes the state $3,243 in fines and growing interest.

But Halloran’s camp said a State Board of Elections spokesperson was misquoted in the story, having never said the agency was contacted by the district attorney regarding Halloran’s filings.

Halloran had previously condemned Meng for failing to file her personal financial disclosures in May.

Mayor Bloomberg endorses Grace Meng for Congress


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Grace Meng

Assemblymember Grace Meng secured a major boost to her campaign this week, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg touted her as the “independent voice” in Congress for middle-class families and a “bridge-builder in Albany.”

“New Yorkers demand representation in Washington that puts the needs of the taxpayers ahead of partisan politics,” said Bloomberg, who endorsed the Democrat’s run for the 6th District seat on Monday, October 1.

“Whether it’s her outspoken support for sensible gun legislation to help make our streets safer or her advocacy for common sense immigration reform, Grace embodies the values that Queens residents care about most,” the mayor said.

Meng — who also secured boosts from the Uniformed Fire Officers Association and the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association earlier this month — returned the praises, saying the mayor’s leadership helped make the city and nation stronger.

“Like the mayor, I have made the tough, but necessary choices to deliver for my constituents as an assemblymember — a habit I plan to continue as a member of Congress,” she said.

But Meng’s rival, Republican Councilmember Dan Halloran, disagreed on both counts, arguing the mayor disregarded the will of the voters while depicting Meng as a “go-along Democrat,” whose majority of votes lie in tandem with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in Albany.

“I have vocally fought the mayor‘s social engineering pet projects and spending excesses,” Halloran said, “and despite the mayor’s billions, I will continue to speak truth to power. [Meng] certainly isn’t rocking the boat here in New York, and we can’t expect her to in Congress.”

Halloran’s camp minimalized Meng’s mayoral endorsement by dumping it alongside other “feel good” and often widely unpopular measures Bloomberg championed for this year, including the ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks from certain venues.

The soda ban, bike lanes and the endorsement of Meng top the pile of the mayor’s “bad ideas,” the councilmember’s team said.

“Bloomberg’s latest suggestion for the [city], voting for Grace Meng, is just as detrimental to New Yorkers’ freedom and prosperity as the rest of the mayor’s ill-conceived ideas,” said Halloran’s spokesperson, Kevin Ryan. “Our voters need Meng in Congress like they needed the soda ban.”

Bloomberg — now an independent, but who was a Democrat before seeking elective office, later switching his registration in 2001 and running for mayor as a Republican — gave $1 million to State Senate Republicans last week.

Meng also received the endorsement of former mayor Ed Koch in August, but another former mayor, Rudy Giuliani, is slated to be the special guest at an October 9 fundraiser for Halloran.

Racial slurs mar Flushing site


| mchan@queenscourier.com

DSC_0519w

A $500 reward is on the table for anyone with information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perp responsible for spray-painting anti-Asian racial slurs on sites in downtown Flushing, said three of the area’s elected officials.

The word “gook” — a derogatory slang term used to describe Asian people — was branded on the glass window of an empty storefront on Union Street and on the side of a nearby van owned by a Chinese media company on Sunday afternoon, September 9, according to State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky.

The 31-32 Union Street site, Stavisky said, is the future home of the Queens Public Library Mitchell-Linden branch and the van belongs to the World Journal, one of the largest Chinese-language newspapers in North America.

“This kind of disgusting display of bigotry has no place in our community,” the senator said. “An attack on an Asian-American is an attack on everybody in this community.”

Stavisky, who called Flushing “the birthplace of religious freedom,” said the reward would be given on behalf of Assemblymember Grace Meng, Councilmember Peter Koo and herself.

“It’s a shame that these things still happen in our neighborhoods. We must tell people that we have to live together. We have to abolish some of these old racial sentiments some of us still have,” Koo said.

The NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force is currently investigating the incidents, which are believed to be related, Stavisky said. Anyone with information is asked to call the 109th Precinct at 718-321-2250.

Meanwhile, a Korean-American couple — who were described as “chinx” on their Hooters takeout receipt in Fresh Meadows on July 1 — have filed a lawsuit against the restaurant chain in Brooklyn Federal Court, according to court documents.

Stavisky said the separate incident “shows an attitude that has to change.”

“That is not the way we behave here in New York City,” she said.

Ed Koch endorses Grace Meng for Congress


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Grace Meng

After backing one of her opponents in the primary, former Mayor Ed Koch endorsed Assemblymember Grace Meng for the newly drawn 6th Congressional District.

“Grace Meng is unequivocally the strongest candidate to maintain strong U.S. relations with the State of Israel,” Koch said on the steps of City Hall on Monday, August 13. “Grace has demonstrated a deep understanding of the nature of Israel’s struggle in its corner of the world and why it’s so important for Israeli and American interests and global security that the United States stands in support of her.”

During the lead up to the Democratic primary, Koch endorsed Assemblymember Rory Lancman, who Meng defeated.

“Mayor Koch has long stood as a pillar of strong U.S.-Israeli relations and a champion of middle class families everywhere, which is why I am so honored and thankful to have his endorsement during this critical moment in our nation’s history,” Meng said of the endorsement.

Koch served in Congress for eight years prior to his 12 years as mayor of New York City.

Meng will face off against Councilmember Dan Halloran in the November 6 general election.

 

Halloran demands campaign cash disclosure


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Councilmember Dan Halloran, who initially clammed up after the federal arrest of his opponent’s father, broke his silence last week and demanded his rival open up about her campaign coffers.

Assemblymember Grace Meng — who stands between Halloran and his eyed seat in the House — was dealt what could be a major blow to her campaign when her father Jimmy Meng, a former Queens assemblymember, was arrested on June 24 on a federal wire fraud charge for allegedly attempting to scam $80,000 in cash from a state court defendant.

Halloran, who has frequently criticized how his opponent handles major district and national issues, originally declined to comment on the arrest. But the congressional hopeful reportedly addressed the issue during an endorsement speech the day after, according to the website Politicker.

“In my race, my opponent had her father arrested and indicted in federal court yesterday for scamming $80,000 out of a Chinese businessman, on tape, by FBI,” Halloran said in a video posted by the New York Observer political blog. “And he bundled one quarter of her money for her race, but they don’t even mention her. Don’t even mention her. If that had been me, it would have been as if I committed the crime. Why? Because I’m a Republican.”

Halloran’s camp released a statement on August 6, urging his opponent to disclose her “flush with special interest” finances and have a campaign based on transparency.

According to Federal Election Commission (FEC) disclosure reports, Jimmy Meng contributed at least $5,000 to his daughter’s congressional campaign. Grace Meng’s spokesperson, Austin Finan, did not openly disclose their campaign’s bundlers but fired back by calling Halloran a “whining politician” with “reckless, unfounded nastiness.”

“Recklessly implicating and attacking an independent woman with a sterling reputation in an attempt to score cheap political points is distasteful and sad,” Finan said, adding that the campaign followed stringent protocols to comply with FEC guidelines. “Simply saying something doesn’t make it so — an important lesson most elementary school students learn, but one Councilman Halloran cannot seem to grasp.”

[UPDATE] Jimmy Meng arrested on a federal wire fraud charge


| mchan@queenscourier.com

File photo

Former Queens Assemblymember Jimmy Meng, the father of congressional hopeful and current Assemblymember Grace Meng, has been arrested on a federal wire fraud charge for allegedly attempting to scam $80,000 in cash from a state court defendant, federal officials said.

Meng allegedly promised the defendant — who sought the former elected official’s help after being charged with state tax crimes — that his sentence would be reduced to one year if he paid prosecutors $20,000 each in bribes, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

Federal prosecutors said Meng offered to be the middle man, instructing the individual to conceal and deliver the $80,000 payout in a fruit basket. The government investigation, however, uncovered no evidence the past politician even contacted prosecutors, and officials said Meng planned to keep the bribe money for himself.

“Give it to me and I will give it to them,” Meng allegedly told the defendant during a July 17 recorded telephone call, the criminal complaint shows.

Meng was caught red-handed on July 24 at his Flushing lumber yard accepting the fruit basket which held thousands of dollars in cash from the defendant, who was cooperating with FBI special agents, authorities said. He was immediately placed under arrest and was released the following day on a $1 million bond secured by his two homes in Bayside and Flushing, said Bob Nardoza, spokesperson for U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch.

The ex-legislator was admonished a few minutes after his hearing by Magistrate Judge Cheryl Pollak for calling the defendant on his cell phone, Nardoza said. Contacting the witness, Nardoza said, violates bail restrictions, and Meng was warned further tampering could land him immediately in jail, the U.S. attorney spokesperson said.

“Jimmy Meng sought to be a power broker in the halls of justice. But the influence he sought to peddle was corrupt and his power was illusory,”  Lynch said in a statement. “This arrest confirms that justice is not for sale.”

Lynch said he faces a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted.

“This type of conduct discredits the trust we place in our public officials,” said FBI assistant director in charge Janice Fedarcyk.

Last month, Grace Meng won the 6th District Congressional primary, beating three opponents and securing her seat in the general election against Republican Councilmember Dan Halloran.

She thanked her parents during the June 26 victory speech, calling them her “moral compass.” But the congressional candidate is now distancing herself from her father, saying in a statement she is “independent” of him and “always have been, always will be.”

“I am shocked and deeply saddened by these allegations,” Grace Meng said, adding she had no knowledge of his actions or the investigation. “Until more facts emerge and we have a better understanding of the situation, the only thing further I’ll say is that I urge my father to fully cooperate with all authorities.”

Jimmy Meng contributed $5,000 to his daughter’s congressional campaign, Federal Election Commission (FEC) disclosure reports show. He gave her $2,500 for her primary run and another $2,500 for the general election, according to filings.

The former assemblymember was elected to office in 2004, but only served for one year. Grace Meng has been holding his old seat since 2008.

Halloran, who has issued several statements this month criticizing how his opponent handles major district and national issues, declined to comment.

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.”

[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.

Raising the Minimum Wage in New York: What Government Could and Should Do.


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

By Assemblywoman Grace Meng

On Tuesday, I joined with my colleagues in the State Assembly in voting to raise New York State’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50.  I voted for and co-sponsored this bill because it will have a tremendous positive impact on the lives of working families here in Queens and throughout New York.

In these difficult times, with our economy still recovering from the excesses of Wall Street and unaccountable banks, this was a chance to vote to help working families, build our economy, create jobs and stand up for the people who make our city, state, and nation work.

First and foremost, raising the minimum wage helps working people and working families make ends meet. Across the nation, but especially here in Queens, the cost of everything has gone up while wages remain stagnant. Rent, utilities, subways and buses, higher education, and groceries have all gotten more expensive while take-home pay has shrunk and jobs have become fewer and further between.

Arguments against raising the minimum wage, from conservative politicians and right-wing think tanks – which generally center around the claim that increasing take home pay for low wage workers leads to fewer workers being hired – have been proven false time and time again.  And when paired with appropriate support for small businesses, such as tax credits and assistance in winning government contracts, boosting the minimum wage has actually been show to be an economic stimulus.  How does increasing the minimum wage grow our economy and create jobs? More money in the pockets of working people means more money spent in our communities. Minimum wage workers aren’t parking their money in overseas bank accounts or investing in risky hedge funds. They’re spending in their neighborhood by shopping at local supermarkets or local clothing stores, fixing their apartments or homes, and improving their quality of life.

Every dollar added to the local economy generates at least two to three more dollars in increased economic activity. When supermarkets and groceries get busier, they hire to keep up or give more shifts to the workers they have. Restaurants and coffee shops near busier stores get busier too, and then they also need to hire. More activity on local streets benefits public safety. Inside homes, more money means less food insecurity, less stress, more focus, and more opportunities for our children, who are the ultimate and most important beneficiaries of all this positive activity.

The NYS Senate Republican Majority has not yet indicated their support of this vital measure. Negotiations there continue.

Raising the minimum wage is about our shared priorities and the best way for our government to grow out of this recession. Too often, politicians discuss fixing the economy solely by focusing on our wealthiest citizens and corporations – how much to tax them, how much to regulate them, how much to expect from them.  While we certainly need to discuss whether or not the wealthiest among us are doing their fair share, we also need to discuss the direct ways in which we can raise up middle and working families.

Above all, government’s job is to maintain an even playing field and define not just what we could do, but also what we should do.

Wealthy people and large corporations could move their money overseas to shield their themselves from taxes, but should they? Investment banks could, and have, bet their own money against their client’s investments and somehow get away with not calling that a massive conflict of interest, but should they? Global retailers can bribe foreign officials and defend massive employment discrimination suits while also lobbying to open stores in New York City, but should they?

New York could raise the minimum wage, and should be on the side of all the working and middle income families who are one unexpected medical bill away from being poor. New York could support businesses as they invest in our communities, and should be in the business of encouraging safe homes and healthy families.  New York could and should be a national leader in showing how government, business, and working families can emerge from despondent times, not just through top-down policies that privilege a few, but from grassroots community development driven by a realistic and practical increase in our minimum wage.

In the end, increasing the minimum wage is about making sure we are doing those things we should do -  making New York a better place to live, work and create jobs.  It’s about doing not only the right thing, but the smart and responsible thing.  By any measure, raising the minimum wage passes these tests. I hope State Senate Republicans come to agree with this common-sense conclusion.

 

 

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.