2:45 pm Mar. 16, 2012
Here's a list of Democrats who have expressed an interest in running for the congressional seat vacated by Gary Ackerman, based on conversations I've had.
-Rory Lancman, the assemblyman who was running a shadow campaign for the seat before Ackerman's announcement
-Mark Weprin, a gregarious city councilman and former assemblyman with close ties to the Democratic County organization, who also happens to be the brother of the last candidate picked by the Queens Democrats to run for an open congressional seat
-Grace Meng, an assemblywoman and the daughter of the first Asian-American elected to the state legislature, who has also been touted as a borough-president candidate
-Tony Avella, the newly elected state senator and anti-establishment Democratic candidate for mayor in 2009
-Liz Crowley, the councilwoman and, significantly, the cousin of congressman and Queens Democratic chair Joe Crowley
An open congressional seat is a rare prize, often leading to spirited primary fights or, more often, to closed-door bake-offs between the candidates until the county organization settles on a contender.
For Lancman, Avella and Meng, running for Ackerman's seat would mean giving up their safe seats in the legislature.*
Weprin and Crowley, the council members, wouldn't have to give up their seats to run, but both would be unlikely to risk damaging their ties to the county organization on a less-than-sure bet.
*CORRECTION: The state legislators might not have to give up their seats, depending on when the primaries end up taking place.
The congressional primary is on June 26, and the legislative primaries are currently scheduled to take place September. A court recommended that they be moved to June 26—the same day as the congressional primaries—and the Assembly duly passed a bill to make that happen. But the Senate Republicans are arguing for August.
As one lawyer explained via email, "Petitioning for assembly/senate start beginning of June. Goes through middle of July…So a legislator can run for congress, lose in the congressional primary on June 26th, and have enough time to circulate and file petitions for their state legislative seat. Of course others will have started circulating petitions for that state legislative seat weeks before. Could cause political contretemps. But it can be done.