State Senate candidate John Messer got the idea for his campaign slogan —“It’s Time for a Change”— from residents of the district.
As an elected official, “You have to serve the people,” Messer said. “They feel she hasn’t.”
The “she” is incumbent Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone), whom he is opposing in the Sept. 13 Democratic Primary for the newly created 16th District. The wide-ranging district includes Elmhurst, Woodside, Flushing, Oakland Gardens and parts of Bayside, Fresh Meadows, Rego Park and Forest Hills.
Messer, 41, of Oakland Gardens, is an attorney who ran against Stavisky, 74, two years ago in a three-way Democratic race, taking 20 percent of the vote. Isaac Sasson took 35 percent and Stavisky 45 percent.
“I learned a lot from the previous race,” Messer said. “I learned the hard way that three people means the incumbent wins.”
This time, he is working with the Russian and Korean communities and running a grassroots operation, focusing on who will vote.
“I don’t have all the answers, but my experience in business and government gives me the right to sit at the table to make the district better,” Messer said.
He believes it’s important that government and elected officials are transparent in their dealings. “We need change by sending different people to the Legislature,” Messer added.
He also favors term limits in Albany. “Eight years would be good with elections every three to four years,” Messer said. “It would solve a lot of problems.”
The candidate is concerned about the number of doctors lost due to high insurance rates and the 2 1/2 million New Yorkers who have moved out of state in the last decade. “It’s the middle class who are moving and they’re the ones we need to keep,” Messer said.
Also a business owner, he is a strong proponent of small companies and believes the number of fines issued in New York City to them are outrageous. “It’s up over 500 percent in the city,” Messer said. “They can’t take it.”
Regarding gambling, Messer said he grew up near an Indian casino in Michigan that ruined the community. “But it’s a potential source of revenue,” he allowed, but “I wouldn’t want it in a residential neighborhood in New York.”
Looking at the issue of hydrofracking to extract natural gas from rocks in the upstate area, Messer said there are other ways to proceed with the contentious proposal. “I look into every issue. If it’s bad, I look for alternatives,” he said.
The candidate explained that there is another extraction method that might be more costly initially, but cheaper overall. “It would create 50,000 jobs in the state,” Messer noted, “and although they wouldn’t be in the New York City area, it’s one big pot.”
He is a proponent of charter schools, saying they provide an opportunity to alleviate overcrowding, adding that mayoral control of the public schools needs to be looked at again. “We need to benefit the kids and it’s crazy to ship 50 percent of teachers elsewhere from failing schools. Are we really fixing the problem?” he asked.
Messer is a native of Michigan and graduated from Aquinas College. He received a master’s degree from St. John’s University and a law degree from Brooklyn Law School.
He worked in the Dinkins Administration for what is now the Economic Development Corp. and served in the National Guard and later as a JAG officer in the Army Reserve at Fort Totten in Bayside.
The candidate also owns a security company that deals with underground infrastructure, which is in the process of being sold, and Mamajuana restaurant in Woodside.
Among those endorsing him are the Queens County Progressive Democratic Club, NYC Grocers Association, Korean American Small Business Service Center and the Dominican American Business Network.