With most City Council Members facing term limits in 2021, many of them have begun searching for their next jobs before their terms expire. The political news site City & State reported on Thursday that Councilman Rory Lancman is seeking a position in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration, citing unnamed sources close to Lancman.
Anyone who knows Lancman understands that with his experience in law and government, he is not the type to quietly collect a paycheck and go home each evening. As a State Assemblyman, he used his position on the workplace safety subcommittee to publish reports, and passed legislation concerning health-care facilities, hotels, bridges, taxis, and the juvenile justice system. His efforts won him the support of labor unions and immigrant advocacy groups, who could count on Lancman and his staff to produce detailed reports on bills relating to their workplaces.
He ran for Congress in 2012, coming in a second-place primary finish to Grace Meng in a race where he focused on his support for Israel and security for Jewish institutions. A year later, he won his seat on the City Council, succeeding term-limited Jim Gennaro. Here, he built his reputation as a champion for criminal justice reform. He initially served as chair of the committee on Courts & Legal Services, and presently leads the Committee on the Justice System, with a police chokehold bill as perhaps his best-known bill. With this experience, he sought to reform the office of the Queens District Attorney, running in a crowded primary last summer to fill the open seat. Realizing that he was not going to win, he dropped out to support Melinda Katz, who eked out a narrow win against leftist Tiffany Cabán.
City law requires the mayor to call a special election sometime between 80 and 90 days after a vacancy occurs. If this election occurs in 2021, it would utilize ranked choice voting, a new program that enables voters to write down their first and second choices.
The city’s Campaign finance Board has eight candidates registered to run for Lancman’s seat, which covers the neighborhoods of Kew Gardens Hills, Fresh Meadows, Briarwood, Hillcrest, and Jamaica. They are Moumita Ahmed, Stanley Arden, Neeta Jain, Dilip Nath, Deepti Sharma, Mohammed Uddin, and Jim Gennaro.
Nath is a resident of Fresh Meadows who previously ran in 2005. Neeta Jain is a local District Leader who has also served as Vice President of Jain Center of America, representing followers of the Jainist faith. Ahmed was a Bernie Sanders delegate and likely to run with the support of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), which supports boycotting Israel. The most recognizable name here is Gennaro, who sat in this Council seat from 2001 through 2013, best known for his environmental advocacy.
These individuals signed up to run in 2021, before there was speculation of Lancman’s early departure. The number of South Asian candidates signifies the growth and political activism of the south Asian community in the district, based mostly in Jamaica Hills, downtown Jamaica, and Hillcrest. The winner of a special election would serve out the remainder of Lancman’s term and then run again in November 2021 for a full term.
At this time, the voters of Queens are focused mainly on the Presidential and Congressional races and next year’s race for Mayor. But those who watch politics closely know that a winning candidacy requires a long-term effort to secure name recognition, financial support, petition signatures, and endorsements. That is why you are reading about November 2021 in September 2020.
By Sergey Kadinsky