Gonzalo "Jun" Policarpio of Douglaston and Stephen Graves of Flushing will both be on the primary ballot for the 5th Congressional District. The winner of the primary will become the Republican candidate on Nov. 2 against Ackerman, who has held the office for 21 years and is unchallenged as the Democratic candidate. The district spans much of northeastern Queens, including Glen Oaks, Hollis Hills, Jamaica Estates, part of Jackson Heights, Bayside, Flushing, Douglaston, Little Neck, Whitestone and part of East Elmhurst as well as northern Nassau County. Some key issues for the district, the challengers say, are education, immigration, and taxation. "I don't want to sound divisive, but I sense an urgent need of a particular community in this district," said Policarpio, who emigrated from Manila in 1973 and worked for the INS in New York City and Newark International Airport. "The Asian and Hispanic communities want to have a stronger voice in Congress. One of my priorities would be protection of minority businesses, especially Asian or women" owners. Graves, who has been endorsed by the Conservative Party, believes 5th C.D. voters will respond to his platform. "The federal government needs to stay out of the way of small businesses and doing what they can to help them grow, " said Graves, who grew up in Tennessee and is currently president of Bio Nutrition Research Labs. "All of our new jobs are typically coming from entrepreneurs. That's what's really driving the American economy." Education, at the forefront of many New York politicians' campaigns, drew pledges of reform and support from the candidates."I was a New York city schoolteacher in Queens so education is one of my top priorities, both public and higher. I have worked on legislation that would make college affordable, with tax credits if you go to college," Ackerman said. "As we compete in a smaller and more globalized world, we really have to pay attention to that and make sure that Americans get the best education at all times."Graves supports charter schools and vouchers. "Our district has some of the best public school districts in New York City," he said. "I think that is a testimony to how strongly the parents focus on children's education." Policarpio would like to revamp the city's curriculum to include what he called "character education." "We have heard of incidents of students becoming violent, becoming disrespectful to teachers, principals, each other," he said, adding that he supported implementing a course "in teaching students to observe good manners, being civic-minded, respectful." In the 5th C.D., which Ackerman said has the highest percentage of Asian residents in the continental United States, immigration is a perennial hot issue. Policarpio, drawing on his experiences working for the INS, said that he would support an amendment to limit citizenship application processing times to two years. "The basic problem is backlog, pending applications, pending from five, even 15 years ago. That's a failure," he said. "If (the processing time) exceeds two years, the applications would be automatically approved." Ackerman said he is at the forefront of immigration reform. "I support family reunification, presuming they got here legitimately and play by the rules," he said, contending that he was a "good match" for the district "because I'm the most recent Democrat to chair the Congressional Committee on Asia."For Graves, another top priority is reallocating federal funds so that New York state and city receive bigger pieces of the pie. "I would also like to see a lot of federal dollars come back to our own community," Graves said. "New York has been a donor state for a long time. All of Ackerman's clout didn't do much in getting it back to our own community." Ackerman pointed to his record of funding projects in his district. "I brought back more federal dollars than any other New York congressman," he said. "They weren't pork barrel projects. They were projects for real people."Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at email@example.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.
©2004 Community News Group
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