Tuesday’s press conference on a St. Albans Street corner was intended to cement support at all levels of government for Leroy Comrie.
But the longest shadow at the Farmers Boulevard meeting may have been cast by a man who was not there, and whose name was not mentioned by speakers until they were confronted with it.
Whether it was Gregory Meeks (D-Queens, Nassau) from Congress, Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) and Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) from the City Council, or a number of supporters from the state Senate and Assembly, all spoke of Comrie’s considerable legislative skill, political acumen, gift for building consensus and the key role he will be counted on to play as often-divided Democrats attempt to wrest control of the state Senate from Republicans in November.
“For over 30 years as a community leader, Council member and deputy borough president, Leroy Comrie has championed to make our communities better, safer places for working people and their families, our youth and seniors to live in,” Meeks said.
Lancman, the former assemblyman, said the state control over much of what the city does would increase Comrie’s value to the city.
“I know I’ll have an ally in the Senate,” Lancman said, a sentiment repeated by speaker after speaker.
Comrie is running against seven-term incumbent Malcolm Smith in the Sept. 9 primary for the 14th District.
He and several speakers said they do not want voters taking the primary as a given. He said turnout could suffer without serious challenges for governor, state attorney general and state comptroller.
“There’s only four weeks left,” Comrie said.
Smith has elected to continue his campaign though he is under federal indictment on corruption charges, had a mistrial declared in June and will go on trial again in January.
Campaign finance reports, filed with the state last week, indicate that Smith’s donations have all but dried up completely. Comrie’s war chest continues to swell as he has been locking up a parade of endorsements from elected officials, labor unions and civic leaders.
And while Comrie’s campaign from the start regularly sent out press releases and endorsements making prominent use terms like “integrity” and “character,” most speakers on Tuesday used neither term.
Then when it came time for questions, Meeks was asked right off why he chose to walk away from his long-time association with Smith by backing the senator’s rival.
“This is about who is best qualified for the Senate in the 14th District,” Meeks said. “That is Leroy Comrie. It’s not personal.”
Meeks had his own time under the spotlight, having been investigated and cleared by the House Ethics Committee in 2012 regarding his failure to report a substantial loan on his financial disclosure reports.
Comrie did not directly address a question as the why he chose to run this year, given Smith’s heavily criticized record since attaining public office.
Smith did enrage party leaders when he jumped to the Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference, which effectively gave control of the Senate to the GOP.
“I’ve never raised the issue of Malcolm Smith’s personal integrity,” he said. “The media has been doing that.”
Comrie, who was serving as deputy borough President after being term-limited out of the City Council, was eagerly recruited by Queens Democratic leaders to challenge Smith.
And the recent campaign finance reports show him pulling away from the senator.
Comrie, who only began campaigning in late spring, has raised more than $48,000 in just over four weeks since the July 15 reports.
With one month to go as of Tuesday, he had $81,331.64 remaining in the bank.
By contrast Smith, according to a document on the website for the New York State Board of Elections, last week filed a “no Activity Statement” for the same time period.
That comes on the heels of the mid-July filings in which he reported $2,843.82 cash on hand.