2011-07-08 / Top Stories

Congress, Assembly Special Elections Set For Sept. 13

Off And Running For Weiner’s Seat
By Howard Schwach

Among those running for Weiner’s seat are (L to R, top to bottom) Dov Hikind, Rory Lancman, Liz Holtzman, David Weprin, Melinda Katz and Asher Taub. Among those running for Weiner’s seat are (L to R, top to bottom) Dov Hikind, Rory Lancman, Liz Holtzman, David Weprin, Melinda Katz and Asher Taub. The names, they are a-fallin’.

It did not take long after Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a vacancy in the Congressional seat once held by Anthony Weiner for party leaders to begin jockeying for position for their favorites to fill the seat, at least for a year before the district is deleted by the coming redistricting process.

Bowing to political pressure, Cuomo announced on July 1 that a special election to fill Weiner’s seat and a special election to fill the vacated seat of Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer would be held in conjunction with the primary elections, on September 13.

The special election means that party functionaries will select the candidate to represent the 9th Congressional District, which includes the west end of Rockaway.

The winner’s status as a freshman legislator may be short-lived. New York is set to lose two seats because of the 2010 census, and many believe that Weiner’s district will be carved up to benefit Democratic incumbents in adjoining districts.

One of those incumbents is Representative Joseph Crowley. And as the leader of the Queens Democratic Party, Crowley, with some input from the leader of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, Assemblyman Vito Lopez, and other leaders, will ultimately select the candidate to run in the special election.

Many analysts believe that a Democrat will be favored to win, based on the district’s demographics and voting patterns. And Democrats say that the party leaders will try to pick someone with a strong resumé who won’t embarrass the party in a way that Weiner did.

Insiders say that party leaders would want someone who is a proven fundraiser; political analysts estimate that the special election may require $1 million, which would have to be raised quickly. They also want someone who will be a loyal soldier and not take on incumbents in neighboring districts in 2012, should the 9th District be eliminated.

Already, several names have surfaced as possible contenders. The three leading candidates, according to Democratic leaders, are Assemblyman Rory I. Lancman; Assemblyman David Weprin; and former City Councilmember Melinda Katz. Others include City Councilman Mark Weprin; former City Councilman Eric Gioia, and former Representative Elizabeth Holtzman.

Holtzman may well be the front-runner, insiders say, because she would promise not to run against the sitting Congressman who would get Weiner’s district added to his or her own.

Inside betting says that Crowley, who has long coveted Rockaway because he grew up here, will get the Queens portion of Weiner’s district while Congressman Michael Grimm, who now represents a small part of Brooklyn as well as much of Staten Island, will get the Brooklyn portion in the redistricting.

“No decisions have been made,” said one Democrat who has talked to Crowley in recent weeks. “Everyone’s in the mix.”

On the Republican side, the leading candidate is believed to be Breezy Point resident, Bob Turner, who, fueled by a national wave of anti-incumbency, won a surprisingly high 40 percent of the vote against Weiner in 2010. City Councilman Eric Ulrich, who was thought to be a front runner for the nomination dropped out with a statement on NY1 News on Tuesday night, saying that he would no longer seek the nomination.

Philip Ragusa, chair of the Queens Republican Party, said that his screening committee had interviewed eight candidates so far, and would likely interview at least another four before he and his committee come together to make the final decision on who would get the Republican line in the September special election.

According to a Republican press release, those proposed candidates are Asher Taub, an attorney who has previously run for the House; Andy Sullivan, a 9/11 first responder who was a leader in the fight against the Ground Zero Mosque; Juan Reyes, a Washington D.C. attorney; Tom Cochrane, who has held seats on the New York Stock Exchange; Col. Fred Britton, a career military intelligence officer; Steve Schiffman, an attorney and pro-Israel activist with foreign service experience; Turner, a successful television producer; Dov Hikind, a member of the state Assembly and Noach Dear, a former politician and now a civil court judge.

Political insiders say that Reyes, an Hispanic with close ties to the Washington establishment, might well be the candidate because he can bring the critical Hispanic vote.

Leaders of both parties say that the decision on their candidates may be made as early as next week.

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