2011-07-20 / Political Page

Queens Dems Respond To Koch Bid For GOP Vote Swing

Following our report in last week’s column that former Mayor Ed Koch was trying to swing the Jewish vote toward the Republican candidate in the special election for Anthony Weiner’s old seat because Koch was furious with President Barack Obama’s anti-Israel policy, another prominent Jewish Democratic pol Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver who came out for his party’s candidate, David Weprin, in the congressional race, saying Koch was totally out of line.

Another very prominent Jewish pol and Israel supporter, Congressmember Gary Ackerman, also came out with a very strong endorsement for Weprin.

Ackerman said having Weprin in Congress will be good for both the United States and the U.S. and Israel relationship. And taking a rap at Koch, without mentioning him, Ackerman declared: “Anyone who wants to take issue with the President’s policies—as I have certainly done whenever I’ve felt it necessary— should make the case without infairly trying to implicate David. His strong, lifelong record of support for Israel and the Jewish community is without blemish and he deserves to be recognized for it.”

Very prominent Jewish pol and Israel supporter, Congressmember Gary Ackerman, also came out with a very strong endorsement for Weprin. Very prominent Jewish pol and Israel supporter, Congressmember Gary Ackerman, also came out with a very strong endorsement for Weprin. The always outspoken Ackerman went even further to rap Koch’s knuckles, noting bi-partisan support for Israel is vital to that nation, and jeopardizing that support by thrusting Israel into our contentious politics is deeply irresponsible and does Israel a considerable disservice.

The rapid and strong response to Koch indicates that the equally outspoken former three-term mayor may have hit upon a weak area of Weprin’s defenses that possibly could have jeopardized his chance of winning the seat. So it was very wise and prudent to get back at Koch quickly and by using prominent Jewish pols to do it.

Cuomo stated (speaking of David Weprin), “I know his family. We’re both from the same part of Queens (Holliswood). I know him (David) for more years than I care to remember. Any way I can be helpful to him, I will.” Cuomo stated (speaking of David Weprin), “I know his family. We’re both from the same part of Queens (Holliswood). I know him (David) for more years than I care to remember. Any way I can be helpful to him, I will.” Meanwhile it’s worthy of note that the N.Y. Post, which typically lambastes Obama on any occasion, as do all of Rupert Murdoch’s media properties, printed both the original and a follow-up story on Koch’s offer to Republican candidate Bob Turner. In the follow-up piece, it’s reported that Koch hasn’t received a written acceptance of Koch’s terms from Turner. Koch offered to endorse Turner only if Turner opposed Obama’s proposal to use Israel’s 1967 borders as a starting point in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Turner would also have to reject House Republican plans to privatize Medicare and Social Security and make Medicaid a block-grant program.

In admonishing Koch for his opposition to Weprin, Silver acknowledged that Obama has a problem with Jewish New Yorkers, but electing a Republican to take the 9th CD seat was not the answer. Koch had said electing Republican Turner to the long-held Democratic seat would send a message to Obama that his position on Israel was wrong.

Silver maintained that we need more Democrats in Congress, including Weprin, an Orthodox Jew, who presently serves in the state Assembly under Silver, the Speaker.

Meanwhile, the day after the Post printed Koch’s blast against Obama, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued his endorsement of Weprin. Referring to Koch’s action, Cuomo said, “That’s the mayor’s opinion. That’s politics. I have a different opinion.”

Cuomo noted he was close with Weprin’s family, and Weprin’s dad was the leader of the local Democratic club which former Governor Mario Cuomo attended before becoming governor. He also was in office when Weprin’s dad, Saul, became Assembly Speaker.

Cuomo stated (speaking of David Weprin), “I know his family. We’re both from the same part of Queens (Holliswood). I know him (David) for more years than I care to remember. Any way I can be helpful to him, I will.”

Another Weprin endorsement came from the Working Families Party (WFP). The organizations’s Executive Director, Dan Cantor, said in a statement, “As the Washington Republicans threaten to default on our national debt and end Medicare as we know it for millions of seniors, the people of Brooklyn and Queens can count on David Weprin to stand up for working families.

QUEENS GOP NOMINATES THREE IN SPECIAL ELECTIONS: On the other side of the aisle Queens Republicans nominated two candidates Assembly seats. In the 23d AD (Rockaway), County Chairman Phil Ragusa announced, the party nominated Jane Deacy, of Rockaway, the candidate against Democrat Phillip Goldfeder, in the election to fill Audrey Pheffer’s seat. Deacy is a former police officer, a grandmother, and co-leader with Councilmember Eric Ulrich (R-C-Ozone Park).

In the other race, the Republicans nominated Marco De Sena to face Democrat Michael Simanowitz in the race to replace Nettie Mayersohn in Flushings 27th AD.

De Sena, 30, is a former co-leader, a communications consultant and an adjunct faculty member at Baruch College. Born and raised in the College Point section of the 27th AD. He received his BS in Public Affairs at Baruch College (Cum Laude) and his Masters at the London School of Economics, also with honors.

In 2007/2008, De Sena was a deputy director of policy research and an assistant speech writer for Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign. In 2010, he served as senior policy and communications advisor for David Malpass, a U.S. Senate candidate.

Commenting on the Assembly nominees, Queens GOP Chairman Phil Ragusa stated that De Sena understands the values and concerns of Queens families and seniors struggling to make ends meet and will be a watchdog against Albany’s unnecessary spending and waste.

QUINN LEADS MAYORAL ‘WANNABE’ PACK: City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is on a roll. The Manhattan Democrat, one of several would-be candidates for mayor in ‘2013, just wound up a successful city budget effort, helped steer the same-sex marriage bill through the Albany madhouse and helped to save more than 4,000 city teacher jobs.

Not surprisingly, she also had her best fund-raising effort ever, according to the July filings, racking up a $1.32 million windfall for the period. That also made her the leader in the funds on-hand column, with a total of $4 million.

When the totalling out was completed, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer was second in the funds on-hand column, with $2.5 million, but Public Advocate Bill de Blasio squeaked past Stringer in the funds raised for the present period, taking in $675,000, slightly ahead of Stringer’s $655,000 for this filing period. De Blasio had $1 million on-hand at this time, still trailing Stringer.

Bringing up the rear, former Comptroller William Thompson, who was defeated by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the last mayoral election, collected $250,000 this go-around and has just $300,000 on hand.

Incumbent City Comptroller John Liu, expected to be a major contender in 2013, strangely did not release his figures convering collections for the first half of this year. The deadline for filing was last Friday. Liu, by the way, had $513,000 onhand as this filing period came to a close, placing him third behind Quinn and Stringer.

To recap, the greatest significance to these filing figures is that the leader at this point (Quinn) is showing the greatest momentum of all the contenders and that sets her up to attract more compaign money than all the others in the coming months as 2013 comes ever closer.

DISTRACTED DRIVING BILL SIGNED INTO LAW: Distracted drivers, including those using a portable device while driving a motor vehicle, is a primary offense under a bill signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo recently, which means a police officer can stop them and charge them if they’re seen using their cell phone, MP3 players, laptops or any device with a screen while driving.

State Senator Michael Gianaris (DAstoria) says it’s a good law because, “Distracted driving is dangerous and can have critical consequences. This law will make our roads safer, our drivers more attentive, and will result in fewer accidents.”

A national campaign conducted in 2010 found that one in five car accidents in New York State occurs because of distracted driving, Gianaris said.

Previously, texting while driving was a secondary offense and police could only stop a motorist if he or she was committing another primary offense, such as speeding or running a red light.

BRAUNSTEIN’S FIRST BILL SIGNED INTO LAW: A bill authored by Assemblymember Edward Braunstein (DBayside), which bans certain substances dangerously marketed as bath salts from sale, manufacturing, possession and distribution, was signed into law recently by Cuomo. It was the first bill sponsored by Braunstein, a freshman lawmaker, to become a law.

In signing the bill, Cuomo stated,

“Deceptively labeled as bath salts, these dangerous products have become an alternative to methamphetamine use with dangerous results. They are a growing danger to public health and today’s signing to ban these products is a critical step towards ridding New York of these harmful drugs. I applaud Senator [Joseph] Griffo and Assemblyman Braunstein for working to pass this much-needed legislation.”

Griffo is a Republican from Rome, N.Y.

Braunstein said use of the products has led to dangerous consequences, such as hallucinations.

“With this new law, the state has recognized and responded to these sinister products by establishing these both salts as controlled substances,” Braunstein said.

GIULIANI PROMISES BETTER CAMPAIGN: Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who tested the campaign waters last week in New Hampshire, said he won’t make up his mind until late August or September about running for president, but said if he does make a go of it, he’ll run a much better campaign than he did in 2008.

Earlier this week in Washington, he called upon his party to walk away from the same-sex marriage issue. “The Republican Party would be well advised to stay out of people’s bedrooms,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program.

CITY COUNCIL CONTINUES FIGHT AGAINST AUTISM: Councilmember Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) has announced that autism has increased to epidemic proportions. The City Council, which has provided funds in prior budgets for the past several years for the Autism Initiative, successfully restored $1.25 million in this year’s budget for the program in a last ditch effort.

Weprin, who was assisted in the effort by Queens colleague Julissa Ferreras (DEast Elmhurst) stated, “While there is no cure, quality services go a long way towards maximizing positive outcomes.”

Ferreras added, “The Autism Initiative has helped thousands of families who are dealing with a child who has been diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum. To cut or eliminate this valuable initiative would have been devastating.”

Weprin explained that the Autism Initiative provides social and recreational services for children on the autism spectrum, as well as educational and training services to their families. The reuslt, he says, is that children can live fuller and more productive lives. The initiative funds, according to Weprin, not only direct programming, but also childcare services that allow parents to hold jobs, knowing that their children are safe and are receiving appropriate care.

Weprin summed up, “Autism impacts too many children and families today...it knows no boundaries. The prevalence of autism has increasded to epicemic proportions.”

According to Weprin, children with autism respond better and have a better quality of life when they have access to services that allow them to engage and participate in social skill development.

DENDEKKER HAILS BILL LOWERING RX COSTS: To help meet the ever-rising cost of vital, life sustaining prescription drugs, Assemblymember Michael DenDekker (D-Jackson Heights) reports the Assembly has passed legislation which establishes the Prescription Drug Assistance Program, harnessing consumer purchasing power by negotiating rebates with suppliers.

The rebates are then applied toward reducing prescription drug costs for participants, the Jackson Heights Democrat explained, thus helping to make their medication more readily attainable.

DenDekker said the legislation also would create the Prescription Drug Discount Card, outline the distribution of the rebate funds to retailers or individual participants, and promote the program through the state Department of Health education and outreach functions.

“It’s essential that we make sure our most vulnerable residents, especially the elderly, are not left to fend for themselves with outrageously priced prescription drugs,” DenDekker concluded. Lower prescription drug prices mean better and more manageble care for New Yorkers, as well as much-needed savings for both Medicaid and state helath programs.

ACKERMAN BILL WOULD CONTINUE HIGH MORTGAGE GUARANTEE: Facing an October 1 expiration date, Congressmember Gary Ackerman has teamed up with a Republican colleague to introduce bipartisan legislation that would contnue to offer guaranteed mortgages of up to $729,750 in so-called high cost areas, including Queens and the rest of New York City, Long Island and the New York Metropolitan area.

The mortgage guarantees would be offered by Fannie Mae, Freddi Mac and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Ackerman said. Without the legislation, the mortgage insurance cap would revert back to $625,500 in those areas, Ackerman said.

If that happened, Ackerman explained, borrowers in Queens and the other areas would have to seek privately-funded jumbo mortgages which are more expensive and harder to get.

“The housing market does not need a self-inflicted wound,” Ackerman said, citing what would be the effect of ending the higher mortgage insurance rate.

“With the economy remaining fragile, and the local housing sector still struggling to recover, now is not the time to make the cost of mortgages more expensive. Reducing the conforming loan limit would hurt home values, increase the cost of down payments and interest rates and shut prospective buyers out of home ownership, creating a burden for potential buyers and sellers.”

Ackerman emphasized, “It is essential that we continue to do all that we can to stimulate our economy and keep these mortgage limits in place to ensure that the housing market remains on the delicate road to recovry.”

Partnering with Ackerman in sponsoring the bipartisan bill is Congressmember John Campbell (R-California).

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