10:36 pm Mar. 18, 2012
The Queens County Democratic Organization will back Assemblywoman Grace Meng to run for the congressional seat vacated by Rep. Gary Ackerman, according to multiple knowledgable sources.
Meng was first elected to represent Flushing in 2008 and re-elected in 2010, taking over the seat held by her father, Jimmy Meng, who in 2004 became the first Asian-American elected to the state legislature. (He left after one term amid questions of voter fraud.)
If elected, Meng, a trained lawyer and mother of two children, would be the first Asian-American elected to Congress from New York. The history-making potential of her candidacy has been a key part of her public profile. Her official biography says she "is proud to have been elected to the New York State Assembly on the same historic day as President Barack Obama."
The county's move to support Meng will propel her to the front of what was a crowded field of potential candidates, which included fellow assemblyman Rory Lancman, State Senator Tony Avella, and City Council members Mark Weprin and Elizabeth Crowley. Lancman had already been prepared to run for the seat and on Friday, former mayor Ed Koch announced he was endorsing Weprin, who hadn't declared his candidacy in an official capacity. Crowley, a congressman, is a strong fund-raiser, and the county support will also give Meng an advantage with on-the-ground organization.
Queens Democratic chairman Joseph Crowley threw his organization's support last year behind Mark Weprin's brother, Assemblyman David Weprin, in a special election to succeed Rep. Anthony Weiner in the 9th congressional district. Months later, a court-drawn redistricting plan that shrunk the New York delegation from 29 to 27 members erased that district, and created a new one wholly contained within the borough of Queens. It extends from the blue-collar neighborhoods of Maspeth, Middle Village and Glendale in the western part of the borough to Fresh Meadows, Bayside and Oakdale Gardens on the Nassau border to the east. The district, naturally, also includes Flushing, Meng's base.
New York's congressional primary is on June 26, and petitioning for the race is expected to start as early as next week. Potentially, a current member of the legislature would have time to petition their way onto the ballot for the primary in June and, if unsuccessful, could stil have time to get on the ballot and run for re-election to their seat in the legislature, which is currently scheduled to have its primaries in September.
There's been no official announcement yet from the county organization, but several of the prospective candidates were notified of the development, and reacted on twitter.
Weprin announced his "full support" for Meng.
Lancman, in congratulating Meng, also declared his intention to challenge her in "a spirited campaign on the issues." As Colin Campbell has noted, there are slightly more Asians than Jews in the district, but it's unclear which bloc of voters will ultimately show up on election day. And Andrew Hawkins notes that Lancman has a head-start in fund-raising and building a campaign operation.