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Rosedale man runs for seat held by Meeks

Rosedale resident Mike Scala has his eyes set on Gregory Meeks' congressional seat. Photo by Rich Bockmann
TimesLedger Newspapers

Before U.S. Rep. Bob Turner (R-Middle Village) decided to make a run at a U.S. Senate seat, he briefly flirted with the idea of challenging Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) on his home turf for the new 6th Congressional District.

But months before redistricting essentially made Turner’s decision for him, Mike Scala had made his bid for the southeast Queens seat official. In November, the 29-year-old lifelong resident of Rosedale registered a campaign committee and since then he has been strategizing for the June 26 Democratic primary.

Scala and his campaign manager, Jaylon Carter, sat down at the USA Diner on Merrick Boulevard one day last week to discuss his platform and where he differs from Meeks, a seven-term incumbent.

“He was the only New York City lawmaker to vote for the Budget Control Act, which eliminated subsidized loans for post-graduate education,” Scala said. “And he didn’t vote on the House GOP budget, which means he didn’t vote against it.”

Scala added he was concerned that Meeks’ call for smaller government could result in the loss of many government jobs and possibly lead to another foreclosure crisis in southeast Queens.

Meeks said he missed the budget vote for personal reasons, but if he had been present, he would have voted against it.

“I am unalterably opposed to attempts to address our nation’s debt by only trying to balance the budge on the backs of the middle class and the most vulnerable Americans,” he said, adding he would have preferred a plan that required the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes.

If elected, Scala said he would work to raise the tax rate on the richest Americans and disagreed with Meeks for voting to extend the Bush tax cuts.

It was the disenfranchisement Scala experienced during the Bush presidency that motivated him to get into politics, and he got his start organizing for candidate Barack Obama in Virginia in 2007.

From there, Scala said he worked to advocate for end-of-life care with the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and went on to receive his law degree from Brooklyn Law School.

The congressional campaign is not the first collaboration between Scala and Carter: The two are hip-hop artists who have recorded an album as part of the group The Fam.

Scala acquired a taste for hip-hop as a teenager, when he would ride the dollar-vans from his home to attend Cardozo High School in Bayside. He said that because he had to travel so far to attend a quality high school, he knows how much southeast Queens needs one, and he criticized federal education policies that give money to school districts to close failing schools.

“We shouldn’t be incentivizing local districts to close schools,” he said. “We should be opening more.”

The new 6th District contains western parts of the Rockaway Peninsula and Broad Channel, as well as parts of Nassau County that were not included before redistricting.

Scala said he did not think race would be an issue for his campaign.

“I like to joke that with my hip-hop background, when I run in a white neighborhood I’ll be painted as a black candidate, and when I run in a black neighborhood I’ll be painted as a white candidate,” he said. “I was born and raised in Rosedale. No matter what color you are, we’re in the same boat.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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