Sixth Congressional District candidate Grace Meng says the American public doesn’t want to hear excuses from politicians, it wants action, and she believes she can deliver.
During an extensive interview at the Queens Chronicle’s Rego Park office on Friday, Meng laid out her plans if elected. She faces a Democratic primary against Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows), Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and Dr. Robert Mittman of Bayside on June 26. The winner will face Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) in the fall general election.
Meng, 36, is serving her second term as an assemblywoman from Flushing. An attorney, she has the endorsement of the Queens Democratic Party.
The candidate said she had not planned to run for Congress, but when veteran Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-Queens, Nassau) announced he would not seek re-election, she saw a golden opportunity to continue her work. “It’s a great way to accomplish more for the district,” she said.
Meng added that there is tremendous gridlock in Washington and the voters don’t care about Democratic or Republican affiliation. “They don’t want to hear about bickering,” she said. “I have a track record of building bridges with colleagues.”
Meng, who is known for her strong constituent service, said she sees about 40 walk-ins a day. “I love my state job, but I feel I can do so much more on a federal platform,” she said.
If elected, she would like to follow Ackerman’s legacy and serve on the Foreign Relations and Financial Services committees. She is also interested in the judiciary, education or a women-related committee.
The battle over balancing the budget should focus on job creation, the candidate said, and not capping Social Security. “Social Security is the savings account for the American people. They earned it and deserve it,” she said.
She believes the Social Security structure is fine and that a cap put on now wouldn’t solve the problem. “There is no immediate danger of money running out in 2033,” Meng said. “We need a long-term solution.”
To help reduce the federal deficit, Meng said she would cut tax breaks for huge corporations that do work overseas. She also thinks subsidies can be cut for agriculture programs and oil and that tax loopholes should be eliminated.
Her primary focuses in Washington would be education, Social Security, affordable housing for seniors and the economy.
“Education is at the top of the list,” she said, “because parents are frustrated by the federal Title I cuts to schools, after-school programs and the laying off of teachers. Schools need more resources and we need more private-public partnerships.”
The assemblywoman suggested that large Queens businesses help support public schools. “We must be creative and think out of the box,” Meng said.
She also believes there’s “room for improvement” in the federal No Child Left Behind program, which has led to an emphasis on standardized testing and to a degree, teacher evaluation. “There needs to be a way to be more flexible in analyzing teachers,” Meng said.
She would consider supporting private school vouchers because “families with serious religious beliefs can’t afford to pay the tuition.”
A strong supporter of Israel, Meng said “we need to fiercely defend Israel and peace in that region.” She believes the country is defending democracy in the area and that Israel “needs advocates who are not Jewish,” like herself.
During the campaign, Meng has been criticized over her hiring of Multi-Media, operating out of the same offices as the Queens Tribune and run by the associate publisher, Michael Nussbaum. She says Nussbaum is just one of her advisors, and she only uses the politican consulting firm for her campaign printing.
Meng, who advocates for women’s rights and deplores sex trafficking, says she does not like the “adult services” ads in the Tribune and recently spoke to Publisher Michael Schenkler about it. “Some of the ads are fronts for prostitution,” she said. “I respect freedom of speech, but he may not change his mind” about continuing to accept the ads.
She said she would introduce a bill to compel masseuses to give their state license number in ads as other professionals do. “I believe it will control such ads,” Meng added.
The candidate is optimistic about her chances in the race. “We have great momentum and I feel great,” she said. “We’ve collected $500,000, had the most number of petition signatures and I think there will be a positive result on June 26.”
She said she has an independent voice and perspective and downplayed the importance of high-profile endorsements, although she has many. “The most important endorsements are from the voters,” Meng added.
The new 6th District extends from Flushing, Fresh Meadows and Bayside to Maspeth, Middle Village and Glendale.