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Democrats across the borough were left scratching their heads over the whirlwind of political activity centered around U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman’s (D-Bayside) retirement announcement last week and the ensuing political clamor that ended in the announcement of at least three campaigns.
Ackerman shocked the entire political establishment at 7:30 p.m. last Thursday when he sent out a news release that he would not seek re-election after 34 years in office.
On Tuesday afternoon, Ackerman said he had gone back and forth before making the final decision, but that he held out to make sure exited on his own terms.
Ackerman’s retirement left the Queens Democrats stunned, according to insiders, who said that even the party’s leader, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), was not aware of the veteran politician’s plans.
Crowley had planned to endorse Ackerman Friday morning.
The announcement also set Republicans searching for a candidate of their own. According to a source in the party, the shortlist includes City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone); Juan Reyes, president of Forest Hills Republican club; and J.D. Kim, a lawyer with a practice in Long Island.
On the Democrat side, several names were bandied about over the weekend as to who Crowley would anoint as the party’s candidate, and by Sunday night word had leaked out that state Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) would be chosen.
By Monday morning, Meng had snagged the endorsement of the party, along with that of state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens), two lawmakers who were on the shortlist of being endorsed themselves.
Meng has a substantial war chest and could court the vote of the Asian population in the district, which makes up 37 percent of the 6th Congressional seat, which might have factored into Crowley’s decision, according to party insiders.
But Meng’s nod from Queens Democrats does not mean she will run opposed.
Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) declared his candidacy hours after Meng’s endorsement.
Or rather he re-declared his candidacy.
In February, Lancman said he would run for Congress against Rep. Bob Turner (R-Middle Village), but Turner’s district was one of two in New York state to be eliminated as part of the redistricting process, which adjusts political representation according to population shifts after every census.
Turner subsequently got on the ballot for a U.S. Senate race, which caused Lancman to rethink plans for a run. After visiting Ackerman’s Roslyn Heights, L.I., home Thursday, he announced he would not run for Congress against him.
Hours later, a spokesman for Lancman was in disbelief when told by TimesLedger Newspapers that Ackerman announced his retirement via an e-mail blast after the end of the workday.
By Monday morning, Lancman had again announced his candidacy.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) also threw her hat into the ring Monday, making an announcement via a spokesman.
“Born and raised in Queens, Elizabeth Crowley is running for Congress as an independent advocate for our neighborhoods and our communities,” said campaign spokesman Eric Yun. “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.”
The petitioning time for Democrats is shorter than ever after the primary was moved from September to June 26 to comply with federal voting laws.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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