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Lancman calls Gottlieb ‘hack’ in primary run

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After word spread that Jeff Gottlieb, a 70-year-old employee of the state Board of Elections, was seeking a spot in the Democratic primary for a Queens congressional seat, state Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) said it was a ploy to siphon votes away from him.

And then the finger pointing began.

Lancman accused the Queens County Democrats and state Assemblywoman Grace Meng’s campaign of propping up Gottlieb, who he called a “longtime party hack,” as a sham candidate.

“Today, the Meng campaign has been caught red-handed in one of the most malicious schemes any of us have ever seen: an outrageous ploy to deceive Jewish voters with a fraudulent candidate designed to manipulate the electoral process in her favor,” said Lancman’s campaign manager, Mark Benoit.

Lancman contends that Jewish voters will pull the lever for Gottlieb just because of his Jewish last name, taking away votes the assemblyman believes would otherwise go to him.

Gottlieb has never held public office, but worked for several borough lawmakers and was the vice president of the John F. Kennedy Democratic Club, where, according to Lancman, he was gathering signatures for Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) just last week.

The heated comments from Lancman’s camp were just the latest in an outburst of mudslinging that began Monday morning.

After Lancman initially denounced Gottlieb’s campaign, the Queens Democrats were quick to respond to the accusations.

“Rory lied. He has no proof,” said Queens County Democratic Organization Executive Secretary Michael Reich. “I have not spoken to Jeff Gottlieb. I don’t think I’ve had a conversation or seen him since sometime last year.”

Any candidate can get on the ticket if he or she gathers enough signatures, Reich said.

At a news conference Monday, Lancman went further and specifically implicated Meng’s campaign, saying he had proof that a high-ranking member had approached Democratic State Committeeman Mike Silverstein to run, and when Silverstein declined, Gottlieb was tapped by the county organization.

Lancman confirmed that Michael Nussbaum, Meng’s top consultant, had a conversation with Silverstein, but a spokesman from Meng’s campaign said it was not a serious chat.

“As for the conversation that did happen, if Michael Nussbaum had casually suggested mayor being an easier campaign for Mr. Silverstein - a prominent LGBT community activist with an ethnic last name- than the local race he was considering, would Assemblyman Lancman be alleging a conspiracy to siphon votes from Scott Stringer or Christine Quinn?” said Michael Tobman, Meng’s campaign spokesman, in an e-mail. “The Lancman campaign’s selective outrage is itself outrageous, as just a few weeks ago he was hoping for the Queens County Democratic Party endorsement, the same group he now attacks and disparages.”

Meng got the Queens Dems’ endorsement.

And after days of media silence, Gottlieb himself got into the fray, denouncing Lancman’s accusations in a mass-distributed statement.

“I am saddened that Assemblyman Lancman has decided to issue vicious political attacks upon learning of my candidacy. Is Rory really that afraid that his record on issues will be challenged here in the community? I think so and his actions clearly show his fear,” Gottlieb said.

But Lancman called for the resignation of Nussbaum, who not only runs the political consulting company Multi-Media hired by Meng, but is also a publisher of the Queens Tribune.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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