Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) regularly hosts community, religious and party leaders at a buffet breakfast to help them keep tabs on what is going on in Washington, and to keep tabs on his district.
But at York College on Monday, he was up front with the fact that this one was going to be different, with mayoral candidate Bill Thompson and comptroller candidate Scott Stringer — both of whom Meeks has endorsed — invited to speak.
“This one is political,” Meeks said. “It’s being paid for by Friends of Greg Meeks, so I can say what I want.”
Meeks offered a brief but blunt civics lesson, tying in Mayor David Dinkins’ election in 1989 with Thompson’s narrow loss to Bloomberg four years ago as a means of rallying community leaders and by extension, the voters to support Thompson in the Sept. 10 primary.
He also indirectly addressed recent polls that show Thompson running disappointingly low among African-American voters.
Thompson, in the most recent Quinnipiac poll, is trailing Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and in a statistical tie with Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan).
Meeks said if Southeast Queens wants Thompson to be elected, Southeast Queens must act and act decisively.
“We fell 35,000 votes short last time when he was outspent by what — $100 million?” Meeks said with accurate recall.
“When we had the opportunity for the first African American mayor, there was a lot of excitement,” he said. “Maybe there wasn’t as much excitement for the second.”
The congressman said Thompson would be an inclusive leader, bringing an end to what critics have called Bloomberg’s Manhattan-centric practices.
He also cited Thompson’s qualifications, including his term as head of the old Board of Education and eight years as comptroller.
“It’s been 20 years since we have had a Democrat in City Hall,” Meeks said in regard to Thompson. “This is an important election ... We want to make sure people have the opportunity to have their voices heard.”
Thompson discussed his family history and his life growing up in the city. He called for reform of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices, and said his administration would not wait until 2018 to begin pumping out old wells that have contributed to flooding in the region. And he said he is not looking for just enough support on Sept. 10 to get into a runoff with Quinn or de Blasio.
“We’re working for 40 percent,” he said, citing the figure that would give him the nomination outright.
Stringer spoke only briefly while asking for the crowd’s support in his battle with former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, whom Meeks accused of not respecting the public and the process, entering the race days before the deadline and using his wealth for petitions and advertising blitzes. He said Stringer’s record in the Legislature and as Manhattan borough president speak for themselves.
“This is about someone who has earned the right to seek the office of comptroller,” Meeks said. “Not someone who is trying to buy it with his personal fortune.”