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Political Action: Ackerman faces biggest GOP challenge yet for seat

In the Fifth Congressional District in northeast Queens and northwest Nassau County, there are intense political activities developing to challenge U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside). This year started out with a Tea Party affiliate demonstrating twice in front of Ackerman’s Bayside district office on Northern Boulevard. Its main grievance was the national medical insurance plan Ackerman supports.

There have been few candidates who have emerged from Republican ranks to challenge Ackerman in past years, but this year no less than six candidates indicated a desire to run against him. All of them sought Republican endorsement and the support of the Tea Party.

After a lengthy screening process, Dr. James Milano of Nassau County received the endorsement of the Queens Republican Party and the Conservative parties of Queens and Nassau. The local Tea Party affiliate seems to be supporting Milano as well. Milano has spoken out against the new national health care plan. He has also called for greater border control to stop the influx of illegal immigrants.

Before Milano faces Ackerman in the fall general election, one of the other five Republican candidates, attorney Elizabeth Berney, has indicated she is running a primary against Milano. Berney ran unsuccessfully two years ago against Ackerman. This year, she has the support of Republican Nassau County Chairman Joe Mondello and the Nassau Republican Executive Committee.

Most of the registered voters in the congressional district live in the Queens section, which would seem to favor Milano, but Berney has been preparing for a run since she lost last time. Primary elections can be more difficult to predict than general elections, although like all elections it will depend on which candidate is better organized and raises the most money. It also depends on which candidate can get his or her supporters out on Election Day since most primary elections usually have light turnouts.

This year, the primary election is being held Sept. 14, so we will have a long primary campaign. In the meantime, Ackerman, who has both the Democratic and Independence parties’ endorsements, will not have to worry about a 100 percent effort against him until after the primary — unless there are successful petition challenges that eliminate one of the two Republican candidates. Ackerman has been successful in winning all of his congressional campaigns up to this point. This year brings on different circumstances, as there seems to be a strong anti-incumbency attitude among the electorate.

In the New York gubernatorial race, state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is strongly entrenched as the Democratic candidate with Independence Party endorsement. A primary, however, might result between the Republican-designated candidate, Rick Lazio, and upstate businessman Carl Paladino, who needs to obtain at least 15,000 valid petition signatures to get on the ballot statewide.

At the Republican convention several weeks ago, the main confrontation was between Lazio and Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy. Lazio started his quest for the Republican gubernatorial nomination last year and obtained significant support from Republican State Committee members early on before Levy got into the race this year. During the three-day convention — especially on the second day, when the governor’s nomination was decided — the delegates supporting Levy were enthusiastic, but the Lazio delegates and supporters seemed well-organized.

Just as the voting for the gubernatorial candidate was about to begin, a motion was made to have all four candidates address the convention. This motion was supported by the Levy forces and was also supported by two other candidates: Paladino and businessman Myers Mermel. The Lazio forces opposed it. State Chairman Ed Cox called for a voice vote on this motion. It was defeated by the Lazio supporters.

This procedural vote indicated the Lazio delegates would control the governor’s nominating vote, which they did by a decisive margin. Soon we will see if that convention has led to a Republican primary for governor between Lazio and Paladino.

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