Rory Lancman says late lines won’t stop him from Turner challenge, ‘if there’s a seat to run for’

Rory Lancman, talking about Dominique Strauss-Kahn. (Rory Lancman, via flickr)
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Yesterday morning, at an Agudath Israel breakfast in lower Manhattan, Representative Bob Turner, the Breezy Point businessman who won a September special election on a pro-Israel platform, gave a talk about his service on the House Committee on Homeland Security.

Queens assemblyman Rory Lancman was among the other two dozen or so elected officials in attendance.

The two men might be seeing a lot of each other over the next twelve months.

Lancman made a quiet push to challenge Turner in the special election to replace Anthony Weiner in Congress earlier this year, but Queens Democratic chairman Joe Crowley eventually picked David Weprin to be the party's nominee. In the couple of months since Weprin tanked, handing a heavily Democratic district to Republicans and potentially complicating what already promises to be a hairy congressional redistricting process, Lancman has been conspicuously critical of Turner's early performance and has said that he's considering running for the seat in 2012.

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"If there's a seat to run for, I'm going to be thinking about it very hard," Lancman said yesterday after the event.

Whether there will be a seat to run for in the swath of Brooklyn and Queens currently covered by Turner's district is anyone's guess. The governor, who has promised to reform the decennial redistricting process to make it less prone to manipulation by party leaders in Albany, has promised to veto the legislative and congressional lines produced this year by a task force controlled by the legislature. A veto would like trigger court involvement in the process.

The uncertainty leaves prospective challengers like Lancman in the dark about what the district might look like, or whether it will even still exist by the time the next election comes around a year from now. 

That hasn't deterred one of Lancman's fellow assembly members, Hakeem Jeffries, from all but declaring a run for a Brooklyn-based congresional seat against longtime incumbent Ed Towns. But Towns' seat is governed by the Voting Rights Act, so its borders aren't as likely to change dramatically.

Lancman said he was prepared to weather a delay.

"You know, if there's a seat to run for, I think that potential candidates who have the ability to put a lot of money together quickly and already have a political operation and name recognition in the district are going to be at a huge advantage," he said. "So, if I'm in a position to do it, I'll be ready whether we find out next month, or three weeks before petitioning.

"Which is not impossible. This could all end up before a federal judge, and probably will. And he or she may be on a different timetable than we in New York are on. So, if there's a seat to run for, and I think that I would be the best candidate, I'll be ready to do it regardless of the timetable."

Asked if he'd consider starting a congressional exploratory committee before the lines were known, Lancman said, "I'm going to give a no comment on that one." 

Turner has said he'll run for re-election regardless of the outcome of the redistricting process, and is apparently hustling his way around the district.

"He's getting around," joked U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, who is something of an authority on the subject, in his remarks. "I saw him twice in two days ... He showed up at Phil Goldfeder's swearing-in yesterday and it was very smart of him to be there." (Goldfeder is a former Schumer aide who won a seat in the Assembly over the summer.)

In his own remarks, Turner said he was "the new guy," and that he "won't forget how he got here."

Lancman, who is Jewish and has made Israel a cornerstone of his political profile, praised Turner's speech, generically.

"I think support for Israel and the Jewish community is a bipartisan issue, so I'm very happy to see him and anyone else come and support Agudath and say good things about Israel," he said.