Six years after Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Glendale) first launched his political career in Albany’s corridors, the 43-year-old has set his eyes on City Hall.
“I think I can make a very significant difference,” he said in an interview, pointing to the prospect of fresh blood flooding the council, as nearly half of the legislature’s members will be term-limited out of office.
Lancman had originally set his sights on the 6th Congressional seat in the newly drawn district being vacated by longtime incumbent Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside). But after a primary loss to Assembly colleague and eventual general election winner Grace Meng, Lancman said he recalibrated his thinking.
“I very much wanted to be a member of Congress but the voters wanted another choice,” he said. “I gave up my Assembly seat because I felt that at this point in time I did everything I could do there.”
Setting his sights on the council seat currently occupied by Jim Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) felt like a logical next step.
“As someone who is blessed with choices, whether it be going back to being a successful full-time lawyer, working at a nonprofit, the best thing I can do is to be in the City Council. I’m enthusiastic in running for the City Council. If I didn’t think so, there are lots of other things I could be doing with my time.”
Lancman’s Congressional run was hampered by a lack of support from the Queens Democratic Party, which threw its sizable weight behind Meng. That appears to be a singular occurrence, as the borough’s Democratic leader, Rep. Joe Crowley, (D-Queens) will help Lancman launch his campaign on Dec. 18.
To date, Lancman’s only opponent in a Democratic primary reportedly is District Leader Martha Taylor. Should he go on to win, Lancman is looking forward to a new brand of lawmaking.
The legislator said the gulf between the state and city legislature is vast. The potential to serve at the local level has him anticipating a greater impact.
“Most of the government that we have in our lives in the city happens to be New York City government,” he said. “When constituents come to us with problems that are small or profound, usually it’s a problem that can be fixed by the city government. Being on the City Council is going to be a more direct opportunity to shape the city policies that nine times out of 10 are the policies that directly affect my constituents.”
Though he did not kiss off Albany, despite its scandal-scarred reputation, he does anticipate an easier time getting work done at the council level should he win.
“It’s definitely harder to get things done in Albany than it is in the City Council,” he said. “In Albany, you have two houses in the Legislature. Seniority is a factor. Nearly half the council members are going to be brand-new next year. There’s going to be a heavy premium on people who know the legislative process. The fact that I navigated the Albany process and passed legislation can only help me in serving my constituents.”
Lancman’s priorities are already emerging, though he’s slightly less than a full year away from Election Day. He characterized the council’s performance as mixed under the leadership of Speaker Christie Quinn (D-Manhattan), with Mayor Mike Bloomberg serving as a foil.
“I think the goal is the effective oversight of the city’s finances and making the council even more of a driving force behind progressive policies that try to make living in the city more affordable,” he said. “I think that the current council has sometimes asserted its independence, and sometimes not been as independent as it could have been.”
During his tenure in the assembly, Lancman developed a knack for appearing on cable news programs. He defended his characteristically progressive principles, usually on Fox News. He laughed when asked if the council will afford him the same platform and heightened presence in the media.
“If you want to get things done, at some level you have to make your case to the public and develop public support for the policies you believe in,” he said. “I’ve never been shy about going into the lion’s den that is Fox News.”
Lancman was quick to note he is assuming nothing in a race that has yet to even truly materialize.
“I don’t want to get ahead of myself,” he said. “It’s a long road between here and there.”