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For me, civic involvement is about accountability, transparency, honesty and integrity in the political process. Elected officials are not royalty and need not be revered. They are paid handsomely for their services, have the best medical insurance available and receive generous pensions — all provided by taxpayers.
Their job is to run a fiscally sound government and work for the communities they represent. Grandstanding, political opportunism and disingenuous outrage are telltale signs to me of buyer’s remorse.
The public persona of most elected officials have been crafted by taxpayer-funded handlers, letter writers, newsletter mailings and paid staffers that do their bidding. Take a little time to look beyond the surface and the well-orchestrated press conferences and something different emerges.
We can get a clue into this by examining the recent announcement by state Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) that he is a congressional candidate in the primary race for U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman’s (D-Bayside) seat.
Lancman blasted the Queens Democratic organization for “injecting a fraudulent candidate into the race” and “cynically fleecing Jewish voters with a sham candidacy.” After Jeffrey Gottlieb announced he would run, Lancman alleged that local Democrats were attempting to deceive Jewish voters in the district and siphon votes away from him.
Patronizing statements about Jewish voters are insulting. Lancman’s campaign manager went so far as to call Gottlieb’s candidacy a “malicious” scheme “designed to manipulate the electoral process.”
Is Lancman seriously suggesting that Jewish voters are incapable of differentiating between candidates and automatically voting for the one with the Jewish name? Does Lancman believe that only he can represent people of his faith and that he is justified in excoriating a candidate because he has a Jewish-sounding name and has chosen to challenge him in a primary?
Such pejorative statements by Lancman unmask a carefully polished public persona and belie a contorted view of his constituents.
Continuing the unrelenting assault on Gottlieb, Team Lancman called him a “hack” and dug up unsavory news media accounts of Gottlieb that occurred more than 40 years ago. Gottlieb has now decided to pull out of the race. There is a limit to how much mudslinging someone can take.
According to the local press, Gottlieb was installed in a taxpayer-funded patronage job at the Board of Elections by the Queens Democratic organization. Lancman has given numerous interviews and press conferences criticizing the county organization’s attempt to split the Jewish vote so its anointed candidate, Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) wins. He has called this “particularly appalling.”
What is appalling is Lancman’s apparent lack of concern about these taxpayer-funded patronage jobs about which he has never uttered a word. His professed shock that the Queens Democratic organization would participate in such a scheme to help guarantee a win for their preferred candidate is disingenuous.
Lancman’s mock outrage rings hollow, as he himself has been an obsequious and unquestioning insider and loyal field marshal for the same county organization he now criticizes. He knows this is nothing more than politics-as-usual, being the product of the same organization in which he has served the role of spoiler for other candidates in the past.
Suddenly he is critical of this practice because he may not be the beneficiary this time.
Bob Friedrich is a civic leader and president of the Glen Oaks Village co-op.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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