Assemblywoman Grace Meng of Flushing handily defeated three Democratic opponents Tuesday in the 6th Congressional District primary.
The unofficial count was 51 percent for Meng, 28 percent for Assemblyman Rory Lancman of Fresh Meadows, 16 percent for City Councilwoman Liz Crowley of Middle Village and 5 percent for Dr. Robert Mittman of Bayside.
The surprise announcement in March that veteran Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-Queens, Nassau) would not seek re-election caused a scramble in the Queens Democratic Party to support a replacement in the newly created 6th District. Meng was the choice.
The new district extends from Flushing, Fresh Meadows and Bayside to Maspeth, Middle Village and Glendale.
Ending a spirited campaign to win the Democratic nomination, Meng, 36, said at her victory party Tuesday night at Plum restaurant in Bayside that she will continue to fight hard to win the election in November. She will face Republican City Councilman Dan Halloran of Whitestone.
Contacted Wednesday, Halloran offered the following statement: “Congratulations to Assemblywoman Meng for her hard-fought victory last night. Assemblywoman Meng will be a worthy opponent and I look forward to a spirited campaign in the fall. I look forward to discussing our different visions for Queens.
“Assemblywoman Meng wants to raise taxes and spend into oblivion. I want to lower taxes and fees and balance the budget. Assemblywoman Meng wants another failed government stimulus. I want to help the private sector create jobs and grow”
Speaking to Democratic elected officials, campaign volunteers and other supporters, Meng challenged Halloran to join her in running a campaign based on issues. “There will be no race or religion or scare tactics,” she said.
The candidate told fellow Democrats that what they had in common is “hard work, family, faith and the belief that government is for the good” and went on to say: “We must do more to protect these values.”
Meng thanked Ackerman for his support, saying “he’s a tough act to follow with a 30-year Broadway run.”
She called her parents “a moral compass” when she was growing up and thanked her husband, Wayne Kye and sons, Tyler, 4 and a half, and Brandon, 3, for their love “which keeps me grounded.”
Kye, a dentist at New York University, said he didn’t mind being “bachelor daddy” during the campaign. “I’m just ecstatic,” Kye said. “We are both hands-on and both help with the kids, but she prepares dinners for a week because I’m a terrible cook and love to eat.”
But he’s taking the campaign, “one step at a time. For now, we’ll recoup and prepare for the fight,” Kye said.
Congressman Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx), who heads the county Democratic organization, said that Meng had made history. “Our nominee is the first Asian American we will send to Congress,” Crowley said, “and the first woman since Geraldine Ferraro was first elected in 1978 to represent Queens.”
Ackerman, wearing his traditional carnation boutonniere, told Meng: “You have made us proud. Now, you will make us well.”
The new 6th District is 37 percent Asian, which was a boost to Meng’s win. Lancman was expected to score heavily with the Jewish community, but that did not appear to happen.
Lancman’s long road to Congress ended Tuesday night in defeat, but the three-term state legislator, who has eyed a run for Congress for nearly two years, took his loss gracefully.
Appearing at his victory party at the Queens Jewish Center in Forest Hills with his wife and three children, Lancman praised both the victor, Meng, and his other main opponent, Crowley. Noting their close friendship, Lancman said he congratulated Meng via text message and endorsed her in the November general election, even though he, as of now, still has the ballot line of the Working Families Party in that election.
“Grace and I were friends before this race began, Grace and I were friends during the race” he said. “And Grace and I will be friends when she hopefully becomes our next Congresswoman,”
Lancman put his name forward as a candidate for the open 9th Congressional seat after the resignation of former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner last summer, but was passed over by the Queens Democratic Party for Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck), who was later defeated by Republican Bob Turner. Lancman was passed over again in favor of Meng.
“What we built here as a campaign that started from scratch, really starting without the infrastructure of the county organization, is something we can be really proud of,” he said.
Though he announced he would not make another run for his now redrawn open State Assembly seat, Lancman said his political career was not over. One supporter at his victory party suggested he should run for mayor in 2013, but Lancman denied he had ambitions for that office.
It is more likely that he will seek the seat of Councilman Jim Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) when he is term-limited out of office next year.
The pro-Crowley crowd at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union hall in Flushing was upbeat as early returns placed her ahead of, then neck-and-neck with Meng.
But the crowd quickly turned silent as Meng appeared on the large screen television to declare victory at 10:23 p.m. Crowley came out about a half hour later after calling Meng to congratulate her.
She thanked her family, staff and supporters for their help over the previous weeks.
“It may not have come out the way I would have liked, but this is a great day,” Crowley said. “It’s been a roller coaster. And we proved one thing — that parties and leaders do not pick candidates. The people do, and the people have chosen Grace Meng.”
Crowley was not encouraged by her cousin, Joe Crowley, to run for the seat and he endorsed Meng. Shortly afterward, Liz Crowley announced she planned to run for the same seat. On Tuesday night, his presence was apparent at Meng’s victory party.
Liz Crowley vowed to do whatever she can to help Meng and other Democrats get elected in the fall.
She also said she would be getting back to some of her regular routines both in the City Council and at home.
“Do you know how much Chinese food and pizza my boys have been eating in recent weeks?” Crowley said in reference to her teenage sons, Dennis and Owen. “We have to do some barbecuing.”
Domenick Rafter and Michael Gannon contributed to this story.
Turner loses Senate bid
It’s official — Rep. Bob Turner (R-Queens, Brooklyn) will have to find another line of work in January, or go back to retirement.
Turner, who won the 9th District congressional seat in a special election after former Rep. Anthony Weiner resigned, lost his bid to be the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate on Tuesday. He wanted to challenge Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in November, but was easily defeated by Wendy Long, an attorney in Manhattan.
Long took 66 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results from the city Board of Elections, while Turner won 26 percent. George Maragos, the Nassau County comptroller, got 8 percent.
Turner’s district is being eliminated at the end of his term, one of two to suffer that fate in New York State because of a relative decline in population growth compared to other states. District lines were redrawn this year by state officials, based upon the results of the 2010 U.S. Census.
Before beating Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck) for Weiner’s seat, Turner was a retired TV executive.