A crowded race in Queens to replace longtime Congressman Gary Ackerman reached a new level of political drama today — but the head of the Queens Democratic Party, who decided not to endorse his own cousin, is brushing aside the latest attacks, saying they come from a “misinformed” candidate.
It’s election season!
Let’s review the central characters here: Assemblywoman Grace Meng, the candidate of choice of the Queens Democratic Party, is up against Assemblyman Rory Lancman and City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (who is the cousin of Congressman Joe Crowley, the chairman of the Queens Dems who endorsed Meng).
Enter Jeff Gottlieb, the 70-year old Board of Elections employee who just jumped into the NY-6 race, first reported yesterday by a blog called True News.
The district in question includes Maspeth, Middle Village, and Glendale in the western part of the borough, Fresh Meadows, Bayside, and Oakdale Gardens in the eastern part of Queens, and also Flushing, which Meng currently represents.
Rory Lancman’s team was on the offensive yesterday accusing the Queens Democratic Party of planting Gottlieb in order to split the Jewish vote, which could help Meng’s campaign and hurt Lancman.
Today, the Voice, alongside a reporter from The Politicker, stopped Joseph Crowley after a press conference in Queens this afternoon to get his take on the drama.
Crowley, who had just spoken about a new effort to boost tourism in Queens through a Visa Waiver Program, didn’t have much to say about NY-6 — except that Lancman is “misinformed” about his accusations that Gottlieb was running just to split the Jewish vote. After our repeated questions, we got Crowley to call Lancman “misinformed” four separate times. But that’s about it — he declined to offer any additional information.
The Politicker then asked Crowley about a report this morning from City & State that a main campaign consultant for Meng urged a Jewish state committeeman in Queens to run for the same seat as Meng — possibly with the intention of splitting the Jewish vote in a four-way primary. (The consultant allegedly urged Matthew Silverstein — a different potential Jewish candidate from Gottlieb who is actually running).
Crowley said, “I have absolutely no information on that at all — nothing.”
Since that report, Lancman’s team sent out a very strongly-worded statement attacking Meng. Sent to the Voice this afternoon, it said:
Today, the Meng campaign has been caught red-handed in one of the most malicious schemes any of us have ever seen: an outrageous ploy to deceive Jewish voters with a fraudulent candidate designed to manipulate the electoral process in her favor. Based on today’s revelations, Grace Meng owes the voters an apology for concocting this sham, and Grace Meng should fire her main campaign operative Michael Nussbaum for his role in perpetrating this fraud.
The Voice asked Crowley how he thought Gottlieb’s entrance into the race might affect Meng. He deflected the question, saying, “I think in the end, I’ve endorsed Grace Meng because I think she will be the best person to defend women’s rights in Washington, to protect social security, to protect Medicare, to protect the middle class, and in the end when the primary’s over — and I have no doubt this will be a spirited primary — but that we all should be mindful in the end that we’re going to have to come together and support, I hope, it’s Grace Meng. I believe it will be Grace Meng.”
When we asked him again what he thought about Lancman’s accusations, he again said, “I think he’s misinformed,” continuing on saying, “I don’t think it’s unusual that in an open seat you have many people running when you see an opportunity that’s never been there before. So someone who’s been involved with politics a long time, I’m not surprised that he may be running, but as I said before I think Rory is misinformed.”
After bothering him with essentially the same question, Crowley added, “I think Grace Meng’s campaign is a strong campaign. I think she’s already demonstrated her ability to raise money, she’s gonna continue to do that…I think she has a…base of support in the borough…in this district, and she’ll be victorious in the end.”
Meanwhile, Gottlieb has apparently responded to Lancman’s accusations in a lengthy statement criticizing his opponent for launching vicious attacks.