Three Queens elected officials are looking to replace Congressman Gary Ackerman, who announced last week he will not seek re-election.
Running in the June 26 primary will be the Queens Democratic Party’s choice, Assemblywoman Grace Meng of Flushing. She will be challenged by Assemblyman Rory Lancman of Fresh Meadows and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley of Middle Village.
Meng, 36, a lawyer, was selected Monday by the county party, headed by Congressman Joe Crowley. Later that day, his cousin, Elizabeth Crowley, 34, declared her candidacy via her press spokesman, Eric Yun: “Born and raised in Queens, Elizabeth Crowley is running for Congress as an independent advocate for our neighborhoods and our communities. She has been a staunch advocate for women and children, for working families and for our seniors. While the county organization as a whole may not want to endorse a family member of its chairman, Elizabeth Crowley’s campaign will demonstrate that she is the best candidate to represent all of the communities in the new congressional district.”
Meng, who has been in the Assembly since 2008, thanked the party for selecting her, adding: “Our campaign for Congress to continue Gary Ackerman’s legacy will be run the same way we tackle these problems, how leaders like Congressman Crowley tackle problems — together.”
She said her campaign “will resist any efforts to divide our communities. We will not tolerate any attempt, overt or coded, to play one community off another.”
In a later interview with the Chronicle, Meng said if elected, she will be proud to be the first Asian American in Congress from New York. “I believe in building bridges between different communities,” Meng said, “and we need more women in Congress.”
Regarding her primary opponents, Meng said she respects both of them a lot and that they are good friends. “I am focusing on my stronger position and reaching out to all the communities,” she said.
Meng wants to take care of the concerns of her constituents. “‘Everyone wants a good quality of life,” she said. “I hope to bring home federal resources to help people who are struggling.”
Meanwhile, Lancman met with supporters at Plaut Park in Flushing on Monday afternoon, where he stressed the importance of building a strong economy. “New Yorkers are tired of an economic deck that is stacked against them and tired of a Congress that isn’t doing anything about it,” he said. “I’m running for Congress because middle-class and working people in Queens need someone who will fight for them.”
He noted that a child born today to middle-class parents is more likely to move down the economic ladder as an adult: “That’s not the America I grew up in and that’s not the America we want our kids to grow up in.”
Like Meng, Lancman is an attorney. He has served as an assemblyman since 2006.
Crowley, 34, was elected to the City Council in 2008. She previously worked for the Consortium for Worker Education, an arm of the NYC Central Labor Council.
During a telephone interview on Tuesday, Crowley said she is moving ahead to get petitions signed to be put on the primary ballot. “They are due in three weeks and we need 900-plus names, but I’ll have 10 times as many as I need. I’m used to that,” she said. “The same goes for fundraising; I have plenty of experience.”
The councilwoman says she represents more constituents in the congressional district than her rivals, and that people know her. “They know I work hard,” she added.
Crowley’s main issues are the same ones she is fighting for locally: education, safety, healthcare and jobs. “I’ve been a union member my entire working career and it’s so important that Congress understands about jobs and working with small businesses,” she added.
As to the lack of support from her cousin, Crowley said she can handle it. “I respect Joe and it’s mutual,” she said. “I’m independent and I’m running for it. If someone wants to run, they should have the right.”
The newly drawn 6th District extends from Flushing, Fresh Meadows and Bayside to Maspeth, Middle Village and Glendale.
The district is 37 percent Asian and there is a large Jewish population as well. Meng is seen to have an edge in fundraising as well as the party’s support, while Lancman has the Jewish vote. The two candidates come from adjoining geographic areas, while Crowley represents a somewhat different location.
The Queens Republican Party has not endorsed a candidate yet, but Councilman Dan Halloran of Whitestone and attorney Juan Reyes of Forest Hills have indicated interest.