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Dromm launches early political campaign

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The invitation to Thursday night’s fund-raiser for Daniel Dromm, a fourth-grade public school teacher who is probably the borough’s most prominent gay rights activist, has all the trappings of an ambitious piece of campaign literature — with only one glaring omission.

The front cover reads like a who’s who of borough politics, listing 10 prominent public officials — including state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone), state Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin (D-Flushing) and City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) — who collectively invite the recipient to Pio Pio Restaurant in Jackson Heights for a three-hour shin-dig.

The inside page lists three issues that “are central to Danny’s campaign — education, quality-of-life problems, and human rights,” and it even ends with a slogan, short and sweet: “Daniel Dromm. He’s the one!”

The only thing missing is the office he is running for.

If Dromm has not yet declared for a particular political seat, perhaps it is because that seat has yet to be created. The lines for state senate and assembly districts are being redrawn to account for population changes recorded in the 2000 census, a process that must be completed well before those seats go up for grabs in the November elections.

Dromm, a 46-year-old Democrat, lives in Jackson Heights, a neighborhood that is slated to get a new assembly seat under the initial redistricting plan that was proposed last month by the state Legislature.

It also happens to be the heart of the borough’s gay community, for which he has acted as a vocal leader since coming out as an openly gay teacher and founding the Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade and Festival a decade ago.

Whether he runs for assemblyman or district leader, Dromm is counting on capitalizing on his support in the neighborhood’s gay community — although he is looking well beyond it as well.

“I’ve begun to look at those lines,” Dromm said in a phone interview last week, alluding to the boundaries of the proposed districts. “I want to physically go out, see the neighborhoods that are included, look for where my support is strongest in the community and make the determination of what seat I’m going to run for.”

His political ambitions began to ferment during his early days in the borough’s gay right movement, which exploded a decade ago following the bias murder of a homosexual man and a borough school board’s assault on the city’s Rainbow Curriculum, which taught tolerance to gays and all minorities.

“I knew eight or nine years ago that eventually I would like to do something political down the road,” he said. “I didn’t know when opportunity would kind of knock at the door. That’s what happened with this redistricting. It seems to be the right time and the right place to begin to really do something.”

But the new district lines were drawn with another minority in mind. Hispanics make up 65 percent of the population in the proposed district, making it a likely attraction for a wide field of Latino candidates — a community in which Dromm believes he would also find extensive support.

“I do speak Spanish fluently, and I’ve had very good relationships with the Latino community,” Dromm said. “I fought very strongly for Latino empowerment in my school, and I have the backing of a lot of those parents. While it’s not directly in this district, it does speak to my credentials for garnering Latino support in this community.”

Although Dromm said gay concerns will figure strongly in his campaign, they form only one facet of his promise to fight for human rights, which is itself one of three central issues to his campaign.

A 24-year teaching veteran, he considers his most important issue to be education, vowing to fight to get “a quality teacher in front of every classroom” as part of his desire to “recommit ourselves to the students in New York City.”

He also wants to address quality-of-life issues affecting Jackson Heights, such as noise from LaGuardia Airport and dirty streets.

“I have always made sure that I don’t appear to be a one-issue person,” Dromm said. “I am a candidate who happens to be gay, and I’ve done a lot of work in the gay community, but I’ve also done a tremendous amount of work in the non-gay community.”

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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