It is often said that an election is a marathon and not a sprint.
But Democrats seeking their party’s nomination for the 6th Congressional District took part in a full-fledged marathon in one night on May 3.
Prior to candidate forums in Kew Gardens and Glendale, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) and Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) made presentations to and fielded questions from more than 70 people at a meeting of the North East Flushing Civic Association, held at Holy Cross High School in Flushing.
“We have the three serious Democratic candidates,” said NEFCA President Peter Brancazio. They will face off in a primary on June 26.
“And we’ll all be friends again on June 27,” said Meng, who has the Queens County Democrats’ formal endorsement.
City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) will face the winning Democrat in the fall election.
All three began their presentations with stories of humble beginnings: Meng, speaking of her Chinese immigrant father who started out as a dishwasher; Lancman, whose introduction to community service consisted of helping to form a tenants organization as a teenager when his mother and neighbors were facing huge rent increases; and Crowley, one of 15 children who lost her father when she was 7, and whose mother was greatly dependent on Social Security and other government services.
The three candidates all largely support most, if not all, of the National Affordable Healthcare Act, also known as Obamacare, and universally panned the two recent Congressional budgets produced by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.).
“That would privatize Medicare,” Meng said. “Seniors would wind up paying more.”
When asked how they would make the transition to Congress, particularly with its current partisan climate, Meng, with 10, and Lancman, with 19, pointed to the bills they have written that have become law on subjects ranging from education to transportation to homeland security-related issues.
All, they said, required Republican support at some point.
“We can pass anything we want in the Assembly,” Lancman said. “It still has to pass through a Republican-controlled Senate.”
Crowley said her time on the council has exposed her to budgets, social services and the funding and provision of education. She also said her post as chairwoman of the Fire and Criminal Justice Committee has given her insight into homeland security issues that are the concern of the city’s entire Washington, DC delegation.
“New York City still is primary on terrorists’ target list,” Crowley said. Yet on Afghanistan, where the 9/11 attacks were hatched, Crowley supports a faster and more complete pullout schedule than even President Obama.
One audience member questioned whether this ran counterintuitive to her stated desire to protect the city from future attacks. But Crowley said there are some practical domestic concerns at play as well.
“We are spending billions of dollars in Afghanistan,” she said. “Would you rather spend it there or here?”
Lancman, with domestic and fiscal views that would be attractive to the party’s liberal base, touted his service in the National Guard as just another extension of public service. He was more of a hawk, particularly in terms of the Middle East and support of Israel.
“I want the United States to have a robust military,” he said, including the caveat that money must be spent more wisely on things like weapon systems.
On energy independence, all favored more green technology.
“Fracking isn’t the answer,” Meng said, referring to attempts to license drilling upstate for natural gas in shale rock deposits, a sentiment echoed by Lancman.
Crowley would favor the practice in areas where it could be proven safe to the environment and water supplies.
Lancman said the country should keep all energy options in play, including the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring oil supplies from Canada and has been at least temporarily halted by the president.
But he also said renewable technology must have government investment.
“We can’t be gun shy because of Solyndra,” he said, referring to the solar panel manufacturer that is in bankruptcy with more than $500 million in government-guaranteed loans.
Lancman reiterated his support for elimination of the capital gains tax credit, which would allow the government to tax things like stock and dividend income at the same 30 percent level as salaried income over $1 million.
The view did not sit well with a member of the audience who said he collects substantial dividend income.
“I’ve already paid my 30 percent on that money,” he said.
In regard to runaway public employee pension costs, Crowley said the key is not to cut back. “Get more people jobs and you will have more people paying into those systems,” Crowley said.
Lancman said reviving the U.S. manufacturing base is key.
“And those manufacturing jobs may not be in textiles anymore,” Lancman said, calling again for investment in high-tech job growth, with more protection that would foster a more unionized workforce.
Meng, the mother of a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old, spoke of her incentive to continue support for education, while Crowley, with two teenage sons in high school, said her focus now also includes keeping college education affordable.