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Three candidates seek SE Queens congressional seat

U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (l.) faces challengers in Allan Jennings and Catherine Wark. Photo (r.) courtesy Catherine Wark
TimesLedger Newspapers

Three candidates are vying for southeast Queens’ congressional seat in the Nov. 6 general election.

U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) will face challenges from Republican candidate Allan Jennings and Libertarian Catherine Wark.

Meeks has represented southeast Queens for seven terms in what was prior to redistricting earlier this year the 6th Congressional District. The candidates are running for the new 5th District, which was expanded to include the entire Rockaway Peninsula and several communities in Nassau County.

Meeks is a strong supporter of President Barack Obama and plans to spend a good portion of his time leading up the election campaigning for the president in several swing states.

Jennings was defeated by Meeks in the September Democratic primary and was unopposed in the Republican primary. He served one term in the City Council as a Democrat from 2001-2005 representing Jamaica, South Jamaica, South Ozone Park and Richmond Hill.

Following his ouster from the Council in 2005, Jennings unsuccessfully challenged state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) in 2008.

Jennings said he has been spending his time building a grass-roots campaign in both counties, “particularly on the Nassau County side because no one in Nassau County is really familiar with either one of us.”

Wark is a mother and a professional dancer from Kew Gardens who has been involved in campaigns to downsize government and reform the child welfare system.

She said she believed the National Defense Authorization Act — which allows for the indefinite detention of terror suspects — is the biggest threat to the nation. The law received bipartisan support, including that of Meeks.

“I really believe people need to vote independent,” she said. “‘Getting the job done’ is a euphemism for dismantling the Constitution, power grabbing and reducing our liberty.”

Meeks has a considerable fund-raising advantage, having banked more than $600,000. Jennings has raised about $16,000 and Wark has not raised enough to warrant a filing with the Federal Elections Commission.

Both Jennings and Wark criticized Meeks’ support of Obama’s healthcare plan, explaining they felt the mandate requiring individuals to purchase insurance was went to far, but Meeks stood by the president.

“There’s no question that I am proud to be one of the strong supporters of Obamacare, because obama does care,” he said.

Meeks said an eighth term would be spent supporting an Obama presidency on issues such as infrastructure improvement and job growth.

He said the last two years have been the most frustrating during his tenure, with Republicans unilaterally opposing Obama’s initiatives.

When asked if he could work with Mitt Romney if the former Massachusetts governor were elected president, Meeks replied, “Romney’s not going to get elected.”

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

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