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Crowley voices confidence over re-election campaign

Although the bulk of his district has been shifted from Queens to the Bronx and he faces a primary challenge from a former Bronx state senator, U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) is confident about his ability to win a third term in office.

“I’m not concerned about what might appear to be a disadvantage that I’m not from the Bronx,” Crowley said in a phone interview Tuesday, exactly four weeks before the Sept. 10 primary. “I still have a strong vote out of Queens.”

Crowley is running for his third term in the House of Representatives, and he is facing opposition for the Democratic nomination from Dennis Coleman, a former state senator from the Bronx.

A Republican, Kevin Brawley of the Bronx, has also registered with the state Board of Elections to run in the November general election.

“I don’t want to underestimate any challenge that I may have,” Crowley said. “We want to bring our vote out.”

With that in mind, the incumbent kicked off his campaign last Thursday at Italian Charities on Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst, attracting a wide contingent of borough politicians as well as U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-Manhattan) for the announcement of his re-election bid.

The congressman comes from a well-known political family in Queens, where both name recognition and a lengthy political career have given him a strong following. He is the nephew of the late City Councilman Walter Crowley, and his cousin Elizabeth Crowley — Walter’s daughter — ran on the Democratic ticket for City Council last year but was defeated by Dennis Gallagher (R-Middle Village).

Crowley was elected to the state Assembly in 1986, advancing to Congress in 1998 when he won the seat that had been vacated by Tom Manton, the chairman of the Queens Democratic Party.

But the shape of Crowley’s district was radically changed as part of this year’s redistricting process, in which the boundary lines were altered to account for population changes recorded in the U.S. Census. Whereas 70 percent of his old district was in Queens, the majority of the 7th Congressional District has shifted to the Bronx for the start of the next term, leaving only 45 percent of his district in his home borough.

Although Crowley has lost parts of Whitestone, Flushing, Queensboro Hill, Kew Gardens, Corona, Middle Village, Astoria and Long Island City, the new district includes areas in Maspeth, Woodside, Sunnyside, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Flushing and College Point.

Crowley said he is already known to many people in the Bronx, part of which he already represents in his old district, and he is running a “vigorous campaign” there with support from the borough’s Democratic Party.

“People are basically the same wherever you go,” Crowley said. “So many of the issues we’re dealing with now in Queens are also issues in the Bronx.”

Crowley said the central issues he plans to continue focusing on involve immigration and senior citizen concerns, such as the future of Social Security and prescription drug benefits.

He has also made homeland security concerns prompted by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks a priority over the past year, having released a homeland security report after sponsoring a series of town hall meetings about the subject.

“I think people in the community have been looking to members of Congress in their response to the attack, how to act or how to respond to it,” Crowley said.

In the neighborhoods that he will no longer represent if re-elected, Crowley said he intends to bring closure to some initiatives he has already begun addressing.

“It’s a combination of getting to know my new constituents but also following through on the things we have been working on and seeing them through before we depart from that area,” he said.

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

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