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Queens Chronicle

Dirty tricks trump democracy

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

The Queens Democratic leadership appears to be pulling out all the stops to ensure that Flushing Assemblywoman Grace Meng will be the party’s nominee for the newly redrawn 6th Congressional District this fall.

But the latest maneuver is infuriating to many of the rank and file and, above all, one lawmaker faithful to the party who’s been in office for nearly six years, Assemblyman Rory Lancman of Fresh Meadows.

Here’s what’s happened so far in this intraparty battle of the blue staters:

Rep. Gary Ackerman of Bayside announced that he will not seek re-election in November. The party quickly picked rising star Meng as its nominee to succeed him. But then Lancman, as well as City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley of Middle Village, announced plans to run a primary challenge against Meng for the nomination.

Then this week Jeff Gottlieb, a party functionary who has never served in elective office but has worked for seemingly half the Democrats in Queens at one time or another, announced that he too will run in the primary. That’s what made Lancman flip his lid and cry conspiracy.

The problem is that both Lancman and Gottlieb are Jewish, and the assemblyman says — correctly — that his new opponent is not really serious about winning the primary. He was put up to launching his run at the leadership’s behest just to divide the Jewish vote, making it easier for Meng to win.

There had already been concern that Crowley, a first cousin of Rep. Joe Crowley, the party leader, entered the race to divide the white vote, also to benefit Meng. Others say the congressman was not happy to see the councilwoman try to upset his plan for victory. But cynics might think that’s another canard, and that she also did it to make people think she’s more independent of her cousin than her critics say.

The idea that Gottlieb is running as a spoiler is bolstered by a report in City & State that says Matthew Silverstein, an active Democrat from Bayside, was asked by party insider Michael Nussbaum to run but said no, just before Gottlieb announced. Silverstein too is Jewish.

Republican Councilman Dan Halloran, the likely GOP nominee, must be enjoying all this. Halloran has no primary opponent. Of course, his party has its own problems, like the ongoing legal battle over who’s in charge of it, and the probe into a party official who allegedly sought money from a company looking to do business with the city.

It’s a shame that ethnicity plays such a role in city politics, but it does. It’s a disgrace, however, that a party can’t just let its choice for office run on her own strengths, but insists on manipulating the system in such a manner. Not to mention the voters.

Welcome to the discussion.