Colby Hamilton, Writer, WNYC News
Colby Hamilton is a general assignment reporter. He originally joined WNYC as a political blogger. He's a proud graduate of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
The Democratic candidates running for Congress in the new 6th District in Queens took to the airwaves on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show on Wednesday. Their appearances occurred on the same day the New York Times published a piece that declared the race wide open. With less than a week to go before the election, the candidates reinforced their core messages, while trying to distinguish themselves from their opponents.
Assemblyman Rory Lancman
The biggest issue in the district in need of federal help:
“It’s very, very hard for ordinary people in this district—my family, the people I grew up with—to get ahead in the world. And the most disturbing representation of that is this fact: that, a kid today, born in the middle 20 percent of the income bracket in this country, is more likely to go down the economic later, as they grow into adulthood, rather than up. And there are lots of things we can do at the federal level to reverse that trend.”
Last book read:
“I read a series by Patrick O'Brian. Your listeners might know it as the Master and Commander series from the movie.”
Last month, the Empire wrote about Lancman in a profile piece:
What’s more important in a potential member of Congress, the esteem of your political peers, or the ability to point to a list of your many accomplishments as a legislator?
If the answer is the first one, Assemblyman Rory Lancman—candidate for congress in the 6th Congressional district in Queens—may be in trouble.
In conversations about Lancman, it's not uncommon for people to fall into non-attribution mode right before things like this get said: he’s self-serving, he’s entirely focused on his own self-promotion, he thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room, he lacks introspection.
Or, as one of his assembly colleagues not from Queens put it: “Rory’s probably the most hated member of the state assembly.”
If it’s the second one—if it’s about bills passed, issues tackled, and press conferences held—Lancman can make a good case for being the next Congressman from Queens.
Dr. Robert Mittman
Why people should vote for him:
“I’m different. I’m not one of the political establishment. I’m one of the community.”
On the Times calling him “libertarian-leaning”:
“I’m not into titles. I’m called a centrist. I’m called a lot of things. But in reality, what I am is, I’m the voice of the people. They [the other candidates] keep on claiming they’re the voice of the voiceless…The bottom line is they don’t see what’s going out on the street. They don’t understand what’s going on in healthcare. They don’t understand what’s going on in the economy. They’re career politicians and they’ve failed us.”
Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley
A defining life event that affected her view on an issue:
"I grew up in a big family where family was important. And when I was only seven my dad passed away with cancer, and at that time my mother was a teacher and she clearly did not make enough money to support our family so we were lucky that she was able to access Social Security—not only for her benefit, but also for all of us…I’m someone who’s going to go to Washington, given the opportunity, and fight for Social Security to protect it because I’ve experienced it in my own life.”
On the Times story saying her campaign could split the white vote:
“Any politicos that are saying those things about this race are clearly saying that from the outside.”
The Empire also featured Crowley in a profile piece:
“What has always set me apart before I was elected to the City Council, and what sets me apart from a lot of other elected officials, is that I'm somebody who knows what it's like to work with my hands," Crowley told those assembled.
Out of the candidates running in the primary, Crowley is the only one that can claim to be a card-carrying member of a union. It’s a core piece of her identity — white, working-class Irish Catholic from Archie Bunker country in eastern Queens— and it's something that has helped bring a slew of trade and public safety union support to her campaign. She’s the worked-with-my-hands candidate in the race, who also happens to share one of the city’s most potent political family names.
Assemblywoman Grace Meng
Federal funding priorities in the district:
“If I have the privilege of representing the district in Congress, I would want to be on the transportation and infrastructure committee. I think that Queens has too often been treated as a step-child, as an outer borough. And the federal government has for too long ignored the increasing needs of the borough of Queens…Something we really need to improve is our infrastructure and our mass transit system. It’s my dream to have a more efficient, more green and clean mass transit system.”
On President Obama:
“I think that he should have taken advantage of his first two years, and been a little bit more proactive…when we had a Democratic majority in the House.”
Earlier this month, the Empire published Meng’s profile:
At the March meeting where Meng received the county organization’s backing, state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky elevated her congressional campaign to nothing short of historic, saying: “Grace, it seems to me you are the future of the Democratic Party.
She’s also emphatically not of the ruthless political mold: In his nomination of Meng as the county organization’s pick for the open seat, Councilman Mark Weprin echoed what nearly everyone mentions when they talk about Grace Meng. “She’s hard not to love and she has character, commitment and confidence without a hint of arrogance—and in this business, that’s rare,” Weprin said.
Besides winning the straw poll for political Ms. Congeniality, Meng’s immigrant family and political do-it-yourself background has positioned her as the aspirational candidate in the race. She represents that classic New York political storyline of a rising community that, through the success of its favored daughter or son, can say it’s finally made it, even as questions linger about her readiness for a promotion to Congress.