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Queens Democrats Begin To Eye Congressman Ackerman's Seat

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A number of potential candidates for outgoing Congressman Gary Ackerman's seat met with Queens Democratic leaders on Friday to court their support for the upcoming election. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.

Gary Ackerman’s announcement Thursday he would end his 30-year career in Congress perhaps caught no one quite as off-guard as Rory Lancman. Just hours earlier, the Queens state assemblyman announced he would no longer challenge Ackerman in a primary.

Now, Lancman is back in.

“If Gary’s decided after 30 years that he wants to move on to the next stage of his life, we're going to need to elect a new congressman, and I am ready, willing and able," said Lancman.

Lancman is not the only one.

“Interest has been expressed from multiple, multiple candidates,” said Queens-Bronx Representative Joseph Crowley, the head of the Queens Democratic Party.

Crowley will play a pivotal role in choosing the party’s designated candidate. And with the primary scheduled for June, candidates must act fast.

Queens Councilman Mark Weprin has already secured the endorsement of former Mayor Ed Koch.

“This is an unusual circumstance, so we’re all kind of flying blind here," said Weprin. "But I think, you know, as far as the Democratic designation, I think the Congressman’s going to meet with a lot of the people who might be interested and who he thinks will be a good choice over the next 48 hours.”

There’s also racial and ethnic considerations. A federal judge has redrawn Ackerman’s district so that it’s now situated entirely in Queens, and is almost 40 percent Asian.

"I am really excited to even think about his opportunity. It would be something historic. I think it's an opportunity not just for the Asian-American community, but for women,” said Queens Assemblywoman Grace Meng.

State Senator Tony Avella of Queens also expressed interest.

“We’ll have to see how this plays out. But, you know, I’d like to go to Washington. I think I’d have a lot to offer,” said Avella.

As for Republican candidates, City Councilman Dan Halloran said he is giving a run careful consideration.

Queens Democratic Party leaders will meet Monday morning at their headquarters to select their preferred candidate. Time is of the essence as the petitioning period, when candidates can begin gathering signatures to get on the ballot, begins on Tuesday.

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