nuggets of wisdom
Retiring Congressman Gary Ackerman made headlines across the country when, in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, he described the public as getting dumber. As he was campaigning for Assemblywoman Grace Meng’s bid to replace him in Congress, we caught up with Mr. Ackerman to ask him what he made of the media hyping his “dumber” comment. Needless to say, he promptly dismissed the coverage of a “sound bite.”
“The contextual part of that in the interview is that basically people believe anything that they see or hear, no matter how wacky it is,” he explained. “These are intelligent people that I’m speaking of, if you can get my gist. The ability to convince people of the wackiest notions — and both parties can do it — it’s part of the dumbing down of America that’s really highly problematic.”
“And part of it, a major contribution to that happenstance, is the media,” he continued, addressing The Politicker and WNYC’s Colby Hamilton. “The media’s gotten lazy. They don’t check anything out. You report what he reports.”
Robert Mittman, an allergist and long-shot candidate for Tuesday’s Democratic primary in New York’s 6th Congressional District in Queens, doesn’t seem to mind using very misleading advertising that implies the retiring incumbent, Congressman Gary Ackerman, has endorsed him when he has actually backed a rival candidate.
“Bob’s dedication to his profession and to his community is emblematic of the commitment and energy he has exhibited during the many years I have had the pleasure to know him,” the ad declares next to a large image of Mr. Ackerman. “Bob answered the summons of a call for help and responded with the professionalism that should be the standard. For this, I pay tribute to him.”
Yesterday, most of New York’s delegation in the House of Representatives backed a measure that would have rebuked the New York Police Department for their Muslim surveillance program by blocking federal spending on police programs that violate the Constitution.
The measure brought howls of protest from conservatives and from Long Island Rep. Peter King, and it ultimately went down to defeat.
This morning, Liz Crowley, a City Councilwoman from Queens who is running for the Congressional seat formerly held by Gary Ackerman sent out a statement saying that she opposed her would-be Democratic colleagues’ efforts.
“Withholding federal funding from our police department because our cops have done their jobs is wrong,” Ms. Crowley said. “The NYPD has acted lawfully to protect New Yorkers from very real terrorist threats. Voting for this measure frustrates the NYPD’s efforts to keep us safe. We need to work on expanding funding for the NYPD in a dangerous world, not cutting it off.”
The Queens Tribune had some fun with Congressman Gary Ackerman this week.
“Gary Ackerman started the Tribune, has been my business partner since the late 70s and a close friend for 50 years, since 1962 – he was much older then; he’s much older now,” Michael Schenkler wrote. “As a result of our relationship, I am able to share with you the truth about the season’s biggest political surprise; Gary’s retirement.”
The real reason for Mr. Ackerman’s bizarrely sudden retirement, according to Mr. Schenkler, was that he was about to take a management position at his beloved New York Mets.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley is planning to run for a seat in the House of Representatives. Ms. Crowley, who informed The Politicker of her plans at the McManus Democratic Association’s annual St. Patrick’s Day breakfast Saturday, joins an already crowded field that emerged once veteran Congressman Gary Ackerman abruptly announced his decision not to run for the seat. Congressman Joe Crowley, chairman of the Queens Democratic Party, is Ms. Crowley’s cousin, but he’s backing one of her rivals in the race, Assemblywoman Grace Meng.
“I love my cousin very much. I hope she realizes this is in the best interests of the district,” Mr. Crowley told The Politicker at a meeting where he announced the Queens Democrats’ support for Ms.
According to multiple reports, as well as The Politicker‘s own sources, Assemblywoman Grace Meng has received the support of Queens Democratic Chairman Joe Crowley in her bid for the new 6th Congressional District this evening. Establishment backing is a big boost in low-turnout primaries where little else is on the ballot. Congressman Gary Ackerman was initially expected to run for the seat but suddenly exited the race last week, creating a vacancy for aspiring politicians in eastern Queens.
Assemblyman Rory Lancman, who was running against Mr. Ackerman before bowing out, had already made his plan to campaign for the seat again clear. This evening, he even more directly stated his intentions by tweeting, ”Congrats to my friend Grace, looking forward to a spirited campaign on the issues.”
This afternoon, President Barack Obama issued a statement to commemorate Congressman Gary Ackerman’s many terms in office. Mr. Ackerman, of course, gave a surprise announcement yesterday evening that he was not going to seek reelection for another term in Washington D.C.
“For over thirty years, Gary Ackerman has represented the people of Queens and Long Island, first as a New York State Senator, and then as a Member of Congress,” Mr. Obama said in his statement. “Gary’s bipartisan efforts helped our nation confront significant challenges at home and abroad.”
Only hours after Congressman Gary Ackerman indicated he was no longer seeking reelection, possible new candidates have already started showing interest in the Queens district he was previously running in.
In a statement sent out tonight, Assemblywoman Grace Meng, who is the only Asian-American elected official in Albany, made sure to note the new district where Mr. Ackerman was campaigning is plurality Asian and indirectly suggested she would be inclined to run if she received the Democratic establishment’s backing.
“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,” she said, while praising Mr. Ackerman.
exiting stage right
Less than two hours after Assemblyman Rory Lancman dropped his Congressional campaign to avoid challenging incumbent Representative Gary Ackerman in the Democratic primary, Mr. Ackerman himself pulled out of the race by releasing the following statement:
U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Queens/L.I.) today announced that he will not seek re-election to the United States Congress.
On the eve of the Federal Circuit Court’s approval of Congressional district lines that were seen to be extraordinarily favorable to Ackerman, and with the primary-free backing of the Democratic Party virtually assured, Ackerman has informed his family, staff, friends and party leaders that he will not seek a 16th term of office.
After aggressively campaigning against GOP Congressman Bob Turner only to see his district emerge as one of the two eliminated by the court’s congressional map, Assemblyman Rory Lancman turned his attention to a new Asian-plurality district contained entirely in Queens, which would have set him up against incumbent Congressman Gary Ackerman, who has a long history in the district despite living outside of it.
However, this evening his campaign announced he would forgo a Congressional run this cycle and would be seeking reelection in the State Assembly instead.
“My enthusiasm for running against Republican Bob Turner on a platform of leveling the economic playing field for working people doesn’t extend to running against fellow Democrat Gary Ackerman,” he said in a statement. “Gary Ackerman is a solid progressive … I have enjoyed a great relationship with Gary over the years, from interning in his office when I was a high school student to having his support in all of my campaigns for public office, and I’ll be supporting Gary this year in the new Sixth congressional district.”