A fourth candidate has jumped in the NY-6 Democratic primary in northeast Queens – and the move is already prompting questions about whether the Queens Democratic Party is attempting to siphon away Jewish votes from a rival candidate, Assemblyman Rory Lancman.
Jeffrey Gottlieb, 70, a veteran figure in northeast Queens civic and political circles, began petitioning to get on the ballot six days ago, according to political consultant Jay Golub, who was hired to lead Gottlieb’s signature gathering efforts.
“He’s been involved in the community for 30 years,” Golub said. “He may not be the sexiest candidate, but there’s no one more qualified to run for Congress than this guy.”
Rumors of Gottlieb’s candidacy were first reported last night by the blog True News, which speculated that Gottlieb’s candidacy was actually being pushed by the Queens Democratic Party in order to help its favored candidate, Assemblywoman Grace Meng.
Gottlieb, who is Jewish and is heavily involved in Jewish causes in Queens, would likely be able to siphon off votes from Lancman, who is also Jewish, and is relying on NY-6′s heavy Jewish electorate as a base for a primary win. Lancman’s campaign gained some momentum last week after landing the Working Families Party endorsement. Meng and Lancman are seen as locked in a tight race.
Gottlieb has deep connections within the Queens Democratic Party, having worked in the offices of Queens Democrats David Weprin, Joe Addabbo, Alan Hevesi and Brian McLaughlin. He is currently an employee at the Board of Elections in a patronage position. But the Flushing resident has come out of nowhere to run for Congress: He has no federal campaign account, no campaign website and waited several weeks before beginning to gather petitions.
In addition, Queens Democratic sources said that before Gottlieb entered the race, Meng backers attempted to recruit Matthew Silverstein, a Democratic state committeeman who is also Jewish, to run for the congressional seat in order to split the Jewish vote.
Reached by phone last evening, Silverstein did not deny that he had been approached about running, but declined to comment, other than to say that he was “definitely not running for Congress.”
I’m hearing that at least some of the other NY-6 campaigns are likely to make a big deal Gottlieb’s entry into the race in the coming days. The issue is a natural one for Lancman, who could use it to tie Meng to the Queens Democratic machine and try to galvanize the Jewish vote. Councilwoman Liz Crowley (who, as the cousin of Queens Democratic Leader Joe Crowley, has also faced speculation about the motivations behind her run) is the fourth person in the Democratic primary, while Republican Councilman Dan Halloran will be waiting in the general election.
But Golub – who says he was contacted last Monday about leading Gottlieb’s signature gathering efforts – said he does not believe Gottlieb is running at the behest of the Queens Democratic Party. Gottlieb could not be reached for comment last night, while a spokesman for Meng’s campaign, Michael Tobman, said he was unfamiliar with Gottlieb’s entry.
Before Gottlieb can figure into the Democratic primary, he will have to make it onto the ballot. And Gottlieb’s late entry has left little time: he must gather more than 900 valid signatures by April 16.
This is not the only congressional race where questions have arisen about lower-tier candidates being used to siphon away votes from a front-runner’s base. As City & State reported on Friday, a prominent leader in Brooklyn, Buddy Scotto, has admitted to helping congressional candidate Dan O’Connor in an effort to siphon away votes from Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez. That would help the candidacy of a Scotto ally, Brooklyn Councilman Erik Martin Dilan.
Lancman’s campaign released the following statement this morning after our story was published:
Lancman Denounces Sham Candidacy Of Long-Time Party Hack Orchestrated by Queens Democratic Machine To Deceive Jewish Voters in NY-06
Assemblyman Rory Lancman blasted the Queens County Democratic Party for injecting a fraudulent candidate into the race for NY-06 designed solely to deceive Jewish voters and siphon votes away from Lancman, as reported by the “City & State” news blog, whose campaign has scored a string of critical endorsements and momentum since the race began three weeks ago. (See “CANDIDATE’S LATE NY-6 BID BRINGS TALK OF A QUEENS DEMOCRATIC ‘PLANT’”)
As reported, over the Passover weekend Jeffrey Gottlieb, a county patronage employee at the Board of Elections who has enjoyed a long string of patronage jobs with party politicians in Queens, was discovered to be recruiting petitioners to collect signatures for a Congressional run in a cynical ploy to confuse Jewish voters. Before he was approached to be a plant in the NY-06 race to siphon votes from Lancman, Gottlieb had previously been collecting signatures for Assemblywoman Grace Meng, the organization’s preferred candidate.
The sham nature of Gottlieb’s candidacy for the U.S. Congress is made obvious by the fact that he has not opened an FEC account, does not have a website, does not have any endorsements, is not a sitting public official, waited until the last moment to begin collecting signatures and until last week was collecting petition signatures for Meng. As reported, Gottlieb was chosen to run as the plant only after another Democratic party official was asked to run but declined to be associated with the county organization’s attempt to disenfranchise Jewish voters.
“The County organization is panicked by the strength of my candidacy,” Lancman said, “but cynically fleecing Jewish voters with a sham candidacy by a longtime party hack is particularly appalling. Voters will rightfully see through this charade, and the party insiders responsible for this hatchet job should be ashamed of their attempt to deny the Jewish community a fair and legitimate election.”
Lancman said the blatant attempt to deceive Jewish voters would backfire not only with the Jewish community, but with all voters in Queens who will reject this effort to exploit racial, ethnic and religious differences for electoral gain.
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