Rory Lancman on Shakeup in Congressional Race: 'It's Political Musical Chairs'
Rory Lancman in Queens today.
Congressional candidate Rory Lancman said today he's staying focused on the issues -- but didn't miss an opportunity to slam his opponents in the increasingly crowded -- and reliably colorful -- race to replace longtime Congressman Gary Ackerman.
Today, the Daily News reported that Jeffrey Gottlieb, a Board of Elections employee who recently entered the Queens Congressional race, is dropping out. Gottlieb, a Jewish candidate, was rumored to be a plant in the race to siphon Jewish votes away from Lancman in support of Assemblywoman Grace Meng, who is the candidate of choice of the Queens Democratic Party. Gottlieb is apparently being replaced by a new candidate, Stephen Green, a Rosedale attorney.
The news gave fuel to Lancman's criticisms that Gottlieb was only in the race to hurt Lancman and help Meng -- who Gottlieb had collected signatures for before he entered the race.
At a news conference in Bayside, Queens this afternoon on construction jobs and infrastructure (a bit more on that later -- we don't want to totally ignore the "issues"), a reporter asked Lancman if he had a comment on Gottlieb dropping out.
"Was he in the race?" Lancman said. "The truth is he never really was in the race. Now he's out of the race in favor of someone else who had never been in the race, and we'll see at the end of petitioning what the race looks like."
The Voice followed up, asking Lancman, who is currently an Assemblyman from Queens, if this news said anything about the Queens Democrats who he alleges planted Gottlieb in the first place (Joe Crowley, chair of the Queens Dems, repeatedly told the Voice that Lancman is misinformed).
"It's not a surprise to me in the least. It's just a game of political musical chairs among people who really ought to be focusing on the issues," he said, smiling at the Voice and several local Queens reporters in attendance.
(Somehow the "issues" just aren't as interesting to us. But in answering our question, he rattled off a whole host of them. So if you're interested, here you go. He said that candidates should be focused on the interests "like infrastructure development, and a fair tax code, which we talked about earlier this week, or giving small businesses more favorable tax treatment, which we talked about the week before, or solving the railroad problem that people in Glendale and Middle Village are having, which we talked about two weeks ago, or getting the State Department to recognize that Jerusalem is a part of Israel, which is an issue we talked about at the beginning of this campaign.")
Gottlieb's candidacy was never legitimate, he said, adding, "I don't expect that whoever is picked to stand in his place will be much more than that. But we are out here to talk to you about the issues. I think that says everything that you need to know."
He paused, before reemphasizing the same point, a bit more strongly: "Here you go: Everything that you need to know you could infer from the fact that we're standing here talking about infrastructure...and the other campaign is playing political musical chairs with scam candidates."
In more confusing news in this race, reports came out recently that there other unknown candidates also interested in this seat, including Robert Mittman, an allergist from Bayside, and Juan Sheng, an Asian-American video producer.
A reporter asked Lancman whether he thought Sheng could take votes away from Meng -- who would be the first Asian-American member of Congress from New York -- and whether people might think that Sheng was a plant the same way Lancman alleged that Gottlieb was a plant. Lancman said the two cases are completely different.
"I think in order for someone to draw the conclusion that someone in the race is a plant, there needs to be substantial and overwhelming evidence as there was in the Gottlieb case where the Meng campaign consultant was caught red-handed fishing around for Jewish candidates," he said.
Pausing over her name which he wasn't totally sure about, he continued, "I don't know Ms... Sheng? I don't know her at all. I have no opinion on the legitimacy of her candidacy. I will say that running for Congress is not supposed to be a top secret stealth operation...If one wants to be elected by the voters, one needs to communicate their candidacy to the voters. To date, I have not heard, Ms. Sheng or this new gentleman...for that matter, Mr...what is it?"
"Mittman," a few local reporters chimed in.
"Mr. Mitman, announce their candidacies," Lancman said. "The voters can conclude what they want from people who say they're running for office and keep it to themselves."
A reporter then asked if the Sheng case was all that different than Gottlieb, given that there was no direct evidence that Meng or the Queens Dems planted Gottlieb (only that they were looking into a different Jewish candidate).
"There's direct evidence. Jeff Gottlieb is probably the most indiscreet person in Queens politics, and that's saying something," he said (Gottlieb was reportedly not happy with this article over the weekend). "He told numerous people that he had been solicited to run, and the fact that he had been collecting signatures for Grace Meng prior to his entry into the race..."
The switcheroo from Gottlieb to the new guy, Green, the attorney, apparently came as an unpleasant surprise to the Democratic club in Queens where both are members.
Anyway, in an effort to not completely ignore the "issues," here we go:
Lancman stood this afternoon with the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers to call for more federal infrastructure jobs funding. He called on Congress to pass the president's infrastructure bank proposal, which would use $10 bullion in federal money to encourage private investment in road projects, and also said there needs to be more Project Labor Agreements, which can save taxpayers in New York City millions of dollars.
"The sixth district is a middle class district and it's filled with people who work with their hands and literally help build this city, whether they're bricklayers, craftworkers, carpenters...you name it. Here's an opportunity to put people of Queens to work in good, well-paying jobs and at the same time rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure," Lancman said.
There you have it. Issues.
Go to Runnin' Scared for all our latest news coverage.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.