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Queens Chronicle

Candidate drops out over arson revelation

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Posted: Thursday, April 26, 2012 12:00 pm

Distraught over a dark secret from his past being revealed by the media, longtime political functionary and retired teacher Jeff Gottlieb of Flushing quit the race for the 6th Congressional seat on April 19.

Gottlieb, 70, had been one of six candidates for the Democratic nomination for the newly redrawn district, which will represent a broad swath of Queens running from Ridgewood in the southwest through areas including Kew Gardens and Fresh Meadows to Oakland Gardens in the northeast.

He handed his candidacy over to Stephen Green, an attorney from Rosedale and member of the JFK Democratic Club. The move was made under a process by which a candidate can turn over the signatures gathered for his nominating petitions to someone else, according to a source close to the campaign.

Gottlieb dropped out of the race, through the “declination” of the petitions gathered for him, because of the revelation that he had purposely set fire to his own apartment in 1971, said the source, a longtime political consultant. He characterized the incident — in which Gottlieb used gasoline as fuel, destroyed the apartment and damaged others in the same building, but apparently injured no one — as a “breakdown.” Then a teacher living in Flushing, Gottlieb was initially charged with arson, a felony, but pleaded guilty to criminal mischief, a misdemeanor. He took a leave from his job, received psychiatric treatment and returned to work for the beginning of the 1972-73 school year.

“That story that came out about the arson really shook Jeffrey, really shook his family,” the political source close to him said. He added that Gottlieb’s political enemies were behind the revelation.

Aside from replacement candidate Green, five people are in the running for the Democratic nomination for the 6th CD, a redrawn version of the district now held by Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Queens, Nassau), who will not run for re-election in November.

They are Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing), the party’s choice; Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows); Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village); Dr. Robert Mittman, a Bayside allergist; and “Ada” Juan Sheng of Flushing, a public access director and producer.

The primary is June 26. The winner will face Republican Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) in November.

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