A spokesman for Assemblywoman Grace Meng’s congressional campaign confirmed this morning that its main campaign consultant, Michael Nussbaum, urged a Jewish state committeeman in Queens to run for the same congressional seat as Meng.
The Meng spokesman, Michael Tobman, confirmed that Nussbaum had suggested to Matthew Silverstein that he join the then three-way Democratic primary in northeast Queens, but insisted that the suggestion was not serious. Silverstein ultimately passed on running for the seat.
The revelation comes as a new candidate, 70-year old Board of Elections employee Jeff Gottlieb, has jumped into the NY-6 race. Lancman’s campaign issued a statement yesterday condemning Gottlieb’s candidacy as a ploy by the Queens Democratic Party to split the Jewish vote in the district. Lancman, who is Jewish, asserts that Gottlieb, who is also Jewish, was only tapped to run for Congress after Silverstein decided to take a pass.
The Meng campaign’s admission came after three sources had told City & State of the conversation between Nussbaum and Silverstein. The sources characterized the meeting as an effort by Nussbaum, who runs the Queens political consulting firm Multi-Media, to place a Jewish candidate in the congressional race in order to split the Jewish vote in the four-way primary.
Silverstein told Lancman himself about the conversation with Nussbaum in some detail at a Community Board 7 meeting last evening, two sources said.
But Tobman insists that Nussbaum’s intention was not to siphon off votes from Lancman.
“Matt Silverstein had a conversation with Mike [Nussbaum], after Matt explained he was considering running for a different seat against an incumbent,” said Tobman, declining to elaborate on Silverstein’s political ambitions. “Mike Nussbaum replied that that [Silverstein] would have an easier time running for Congress than he would against an entrenched incumbent.”
“It was tongue-in-cheek,” Tobman added.
Both Silverstein and Nussbaum declined to comment.
Nussbaum doubles as associate publisher of the Queens Tribune, a weekly that courted controversy in 2009 by running an over-the-top front page about Councilman Dan Halloran’s pagan religious beliefs, even as Nussbaum was serving as the main consultant for the campaign of Halloran’s Council opponent, Kevin Kim. In 1987, Nussbaum, a one-time aide to Queens Borough President Donald Manes, was convicted on charges of accepting a $250,000 bribe from a cable television executive. (UPDATE: A reader called in to say that Nussbaum’s conviction was actually overturned on appeal.)
Councilwoman Liz Crowley is also running in the Democratic primary, and Halloran will face the winner of the four-way Democratic race.
Lancman’s campaign released a statement in response to this article calling for Nussbaum’s firing:
“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.”
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