The basement of St. Pancras School was abuzz last Thursday night with dozens of people, a majority of whom were members of the Glendale Property Owners Association, to hear two candidates in the contentious 6th Congressional District Democratic Primary and the Republican opponent.
The incumbent, Democrat Gary Ackerman (D-Queens, Nassau), recently announced he will not run for re-election after 15 terms in office.
The Democratic primary for the newly redrawn district will be held June 26.
With political pamphlets passed out to attendees, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) kicked off the “Meet the Candidates” night at the civic group’s 8 p.m. meeting.
She quickly reaffirmed her stance to fight for middle-class families if elected to Congress, repeating her desire to advocate for what’s important to Queens residents because she can relate to their needs.
Crowley added her promise to fight for Glendale to have their own zip-code, a hot button issue to neighborhood residents in attendance.
“I promise that will be at the top of the agenda,” Crowley said, chalking the failure to achieve this in the past to scandal-plagued Democrat Anthony Weiner and his unfavorable relationship with Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe.
Crowley outlined her plan to protect Social Security benefits and Medicare, discussing her firsthand experience when her father passed away when she was a young girl. Her mother relied on this safety net of benefits to provide money for food and housing for her and her many siblings.
The councilwoman followed up by pledging to make college more affordable for the middle class, referencing her ability to receive the Pell Grant as a prospective college student.
“We need to make sure to protect student loans so all kids have the option to go for college and higher education,” Crowley said.
Crowley also discussed her concern about jobs, agreeing with President Obama to pull troops out of Afghanistan — to use those financial resources at home.
“We need to make sure we build our own country before another country,” she added.
Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), the Republican party nominee with no primary challenger, was the next to speak.
Halloran jumped right in, touting his-real world experience and stating he’s “not a creature of politics.” He said he decided to run for office three years ago when he saw others moving into his district to do so.
The councilman then discussed what he called the unemployment rate in America. “This president has accomplished nothing in rearing job creation in the country,” Halloran said.
“The government can’t create jobs, that’s the reality we should know,” he added.
Halloran, in detail, outlined the issue of energy in America, referencing the Keystone Pipeline. It would bring oil in from Canada to refineries in Illinois, Oklahoma and along the Gulf Coast of Texas.
In 2010, the U.S. Department of State extended a deadline for federal agencies to decide if the pipeline system would be in the national interest. The decision was subsequently delayed by President Obama until 2013.
“We’re suppose to be dependent on foreign oil for the rest of our existence?” Halloran asked.
“To create it alone, would be tens of thousands of jobs. To open up our offshore oil rigs again, people in Louisiana, people in Texas, people in Florida out of work — thousands of Americans would be back on the rolls,” Halloran said.
The councilman further discussed his “no” vote on the so-called living-wage bill, which was passed April 30, citing his position on the hotly contested legislation.
“I think in Washington, we should set-up a higher federal minimum wage and it should be regionally adjusted,” Halloran stated.
“How about we keep more of what we earn in our paychecks instead of giving it to our government?” he added.
Finally, Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) took to the floor, arriving a little after 9 p.m. Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing), the primaries third major candidate, did not attend.
Lancman discussed his desire to be an advocate and leader for “ordinary” working residents of Queens and fight for the borough’s fair share of services.
“The deck is stacked against working people but you can do something about it,” Lancman said, citing his experience as a teenager in successfully fighting against a rent increase on his mother’s rent-stabilized apartment, by forming a tenants’ association with fellow residents.
Lancman went on to discuss his contributions to homeland security.
“I passed the law, ‘if you see something, and say something,’ you can’t get sued for doing your civic duty,” Lancman said.
The assemblyman additionally spoke about what he did for military personnel when they are called upon for duty.
“I passed the law that requires New York City to do the right thing by its employees who are called for military service in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Lancman said.
“It requires the city to pay the difference between their military pay and their civilian pay — so families can take care of themselves when their loved ones are overseas protecting us and protecting our liberty,” he added.
Lancman went on to outline his work trying to fix the state’s “fiscal mess.”
“I was the leader for the fight in Albany, with Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, in making sure that New York’s wealthiest citizens, people making $1 million a year or more, pay a little bit more in their income tax,” Lancman said, so it wouldn’t just fall on the middle-class.
Lancman reiterated his efforts to fight to level the playing field for working-class Queens residents, pointing out his concerns over pensions and debt obtained by college students upon graduation.
“Sixty percent of Americans have no pension whatsoever, except for Social Security, which was never meant to be your primary pension,” Lancman said, adding, “[college debt] is like having a mortgage and no house to show for it,” for those who have a degree but incredibly expensive loans to pay off.
Lancman was the only candidate at the event to ask to take questions from the audience.
The only issue posed to the assemblyman was the notion of Congress members leasing expensive cars that are not American-made, and would he, if elected, condone leasing luxury vehicles by foreign automakers.
“There’s a tremendous disconnect between the folks in Congress and folks back home, Lanceman said, adding, “One thing I’ve tried to do as a member of the Assembly is not get caught up in the pomp and circumstance of being an Assembly member.”
“I drive a Chevy,” he said to applause.