With Rep. Gary Ackerman abruptly stepping aside last night, other Queens Democrats are now scrambling to get into the race for the new 6th Congressional District and have until Monday morning to secure the county Democratic committee’s backing.
Assemblyman Rory Lancman, who initially expressed interest in the Northeast Queens seat only to back out to avoid a primary fight with Ackerman, said after the meeting at party headquarters that he is back in the running now that there is no Congressional Democrat in the race.
“So we’re back to where we were before Gary announced that he was going to be running in the 6th,” Lancman said. “So I’m going to be running, and I think six months of groundwork and preparation that we’ve done is going to put me in an excellent position.”
One key figure who is not planning to run in the district is Rep. Joe Crowley, the Queens County Democratic chairman, who was endorsed this morning by the county’s executive committee for the new 14th Congressional District, which includes most of the area he currently represents.
“On behalf of myself, I say thank you very much,” Crowley said after the committee voted to endorse him in that district, which straddles Queens and the Bronx.
Several other elected officials at this morning’s meeting said they would not rule out a run, including Assemblywoman Grace Meng, Assemblyman David Weprin and his brother, City Councilman Mark Weprin.
And there is also a new name emerging: S.J. Jung, a Korean-American district leader who ran a close race for Council in 2009. Still, party insiders say Jung, who has reached out to party officials about a run, would likely be a long shot to land the party nod.
Last night, State Sen. Tony Avella also expressed interest in the seat.
The county committee had planned to endorse Ackerman this morning, but delayed the decision until Monday at 8:30 a.m. after he announced he would not seek re-election.
The redistricting maps, which were drawn by a federal magistrate, created a new 6th district without an incumbent. Petitioning begins on Tuesday.
“Because I want to have an opportunity to meet with leaders certainly within the confines of what to be believed the 6th Congressional District, I’m going to make a motion to table the 6th Congressional District for caucusing to next Monday at 8:30 a.m.,” Crowley said.
Assemblyman David Weprin, Crowley’s choice to run in a special election which Republican Bob Turner won last year, would not rule out another shot at running for Congress.
“There are a number of people that would make good members of Congress, a good elected official, but I think it’s probably going to be a decision led by our chairman, Joe Crowley,” Weprin said. “I’m sure he’s going to recommend, and my guess is, I’m one of the leaders in the district, that I’ll follow the guidance of my chairman.”
Weprin’s brother, City Councilman Mark Weprin, seemed more openly excited about a potential run, calling Congress “a special place.”
“These are not opportunities that come along very often,” Weprin said. “It’s something I have to look at seriously.”
Assemblywoman Grace Meng, who is Asian American, noted that the new district would be 38 percent Asian American and that she may “step up to the plate” to represent the fast-growing minority group.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for a candidate who can and is able to represent the community,” she said. “It’s a conversation I need to have with Joe Crowley and the district leaders.”
With reporting from Chris Bragg
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