Challenging the validity of an opponent’s ballot petitions might be a time-tested ritual of New York City politics, but folks still take umbrage when a rival tries to knock them off the ballot. Such is the case in the 25th assembly district in Queens, where a slate of South Asian candidates is accusing their Queens organization-backed opponents of racism for objecting to their signatures. What’s more, the insurgents are alleging that the organization slate welched on a deal.
The assembly seat in the district is currently held by Brian McLaughlin, the longtime labor leader who’s stepping down from his Albany post and his district leader position because he faces prosecution in an alleged bid-rigging scheme. The Queens organization is backing lawyer Rory Lancman for the assembly post and Joe Dorsa for McLaughlin’s male district leader seat in the “A” part of the district. Dorsa’s mother Mary Ann Dorsa is running for the female “A” seat. Lancman and Uma Sengupta are the male and female district leaders in the “B” part, and are seeking re-election to those posts.
Morshed Alam, a chemist of Bangladeshi origin, is challenging Lancman for the assembly seat. Three South Asian allies of Alam (Harjinder Duggal, Leela Maret, and failed 2005 City Council candidate Dilip Nath) are challenging Joe Dorsa, Lancman, and Sengupta for their district leaderships.
This Saturday the Alam slate held a protest outside Lancman’s offices slamming their “racist opponents” for their “ruthless use of the corrupt Queens County Organization election system in order to harass and intimidate South Asian Americans off the ballot in the September elections.” (Chuck Mohan, chairperson of the Immigrant Coalition for
Democracy, says no one was at Lancman’s office at the time but that a woman in the store next door told the crowd, “There is only one god in this country and you should bow to him,” but that none of the candidates have actually heard their rivals utter any slurs.)
“Lancman feels because he was anointed by the outgoing assemblyman, that this is his territory and no one should be running against him,” says Mohan, Alam’s campaign manager, who feels that the “corrupt Queens organization” will prevent their slate from getting a “fair hearing” when the matter is adjudicated in coming days. The hearings will seek to determine if each candidate obtained the required 500 signatures of registered Democrats living in the district. Mohan also claims that Nath and Lancman had a gentlemen’s agreement not to challenge each other’s slate’s petitions—a deal that Lancman broke.
“No, no, no. Never. Never. Never,” Lancman says when asked if there was a deal. He claims Nath called up after signatures were filed to ask if Joe Dorsa would consider getting out of the race; Lancman said that he thought not. (John Dorsa, brother of Joe and son of Mary Ann and the current Democratic State Committeeman for the district, considered running against Lancman this year, but opted out.) Lancman’s campaign called the Saturday event a “hate rally” and countered with a statement from a group of civic leaders and South Asian pols who dismissed the Alam slate’s “unsubstantiated charges of racism and bigotry.”
“The first challenge in the race was to me and my South Asian co-leader,” Lancman insists, and Board of Elections records support him: The challenges to Lancman, Sengupta and Joe Dorsa were filed on July 13, while the objections to Alam and company are logged on July 17.