A source with strong ties in Queens Democratic politics tells me there are a few names being bandied about as possibilities for Rep. Gary Ackerman’s seat, now that the longtime congressman has abruptly retired.
Keep in mind that Queens Democratic district leaders are meeting tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. at party headquarters, and were scheduled to endorse Ackerman — leaving little time to line up a consensus new candidate.
Of course, that decision could always be moved back, though not for long, since petitioning starts Mar. 20. Overall, people involved with Queens Democratic Party seem to be totally shocked, and I’m told by two sources that Ackerman was making courtesy calls lining up votes from Queens district leaders as late as last night.
Some potential candidates:
– State Sen. Tony Avella: The freshman senator just confirmed his interest in a phone interview:
“I’m honored that people are considering me, and I have always wanted to go to Congress,” he said. “It would be a dream come true.”
Avella added that even before Ackerman’s retirement, unions and civic groups had told him he would be a good fit in Congress. And the lines of his Senate district match up well with the congressional district.
Avella running would also potentially go a long way towards solving the problem of him being placed in the same Senate district as Democratic State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky under lines drawn by the Senate Republicans. That has led to talk of a primary.
“That hasn’t been anything worked out yet there,” Avella said, “but obviously this presents a new dynamic to the situation.”
On the other hand, the congressional primary is in June, and the legislative primary is in September, so Avella could technically lose the congressional race, but then run for the Senate seat.
– Assemblyman Rory Lancman: Given that Lancman was already running for this congressional seat — and only dropped out a couple of hours ago — he’s obviously near the top of the list. However, given the fact that the Queens Democratic Party now gets to pick who gets the nod, anything could happen.
– Councilman Mark Weprin: This one may or may not be legitimate, since Weprin aspires to be New York City Council speaker. Then again, he’s always been interested in being a member of Congress. And his district covers a lot of the congressional seat. He did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
– Assemblywoman Grace Meng: She said in a statement praising Ackerman tonight, “This new congressional district is heavily Asian, and I will be sitting down with our Queens Democratic Organization Chairman, Congressman Joseph Crowley, our community leaders and activists to discuss how the coming months may shape out.” But she’s also been eying running for Queens borough president.
– Congressman Joe Crowley: This district sets up very well demographically for the Queens Democrats leader. Now that it’s open, maybe he’d rather run here than his heavily Latino district that includes a piece of the Bronx.
– Assemblyman David Weprin: Mark’s brother would surely love to have another crack at running for Congress, but would the Queens Democrats really trust him after last time?
– Councilman Jim Gennaro: He’s also thought to be interested in being a member of Congress, though some suspect he wouldn’t want to go to Washington, D.C anymore for personal reasons.
– On the Republican side, even before the seat opened up, three Republican sources had told me that Councilman Dan Halloran was strongly looking at running for the seat. Today’s developments, creating an open seat, would only help spur that interest, I assume. A Halloran spokesman has not returned a request for comment.
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