Candidates for Ackerman seat focus on jobs

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U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) and two challengers for his seat said they are emphasizing economic initiatives for northeast Queens ahead of next week’s primary election.

Ackerman will face East Meadow, L.I., Democrat Pat Maher in the Sept. 14 primary, while Republicans Elizabeth Berney, of Great Neck, L.I., and James Milano, of Roslyn Heights, L.I., will compete for the Republican slot.

Ackerman, Maher and Berney said they are all focusing on job creation in their campaigns, but also listed Middle East issues and education at the top of their lists.

Milano, who is running on the Republican and Conservative lines, could not be reached for comment.

Ackerman, who was first elected to Congress in 1982, said economic security, such as creating jobs and Wall Street reform, was the key issue in his campaign.

“I’ve been working hard to create and retain jobs,” he said. “I’ve brought a lot of money back to the district for infrastructure and hiring programs. This is a fight to determine whether we go back to the economy of George W. Bush or move forward.”

Ackerman, chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, said he is also dedicated to protecting Israel and preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

“Nobody is a stronger supporter of Israel,” he said. “The threat of a nuclear Iran is a danger we face. This is a country that threatens to wipe Israel off the map.”

The congressman said he wants to ensure that the district retains teachers, so its schools will continue to be named among the city’s best.

Maher, the director of development for a nonprofit health-care foundation, said the economy was also the prime issue in her campaign.

“I think it’s the biggest issue for everyone in this community,” she said. “One in seven Americans are unemployed right now. We should focus on creating some local projects like highways or bridges that would enhance the infrastructure but also create jobs.”

She also said the district’s high taxes prevented small businesses from moving into the neighborhood.

“Right now, people are being hit with this tax and that tax,” she said. “Businesses are afraid to expand. If nobody takes a leap, then the economy will continue to be stunted.”

Maher also wants to ensure that senior citizens in the district are provided adequate services and that health-care options are available to them.

Berney, an attorney who specializes in tax law and securities fraud, said her campaign is also centered on improving the district’s economy as well as providing alternative energy

“It’s a combination of jobs, debt, taxes and overspendi­ng,” she said of the issues district voters are facing. “One thing I’m big on is the transportation sector. I’d mandate that all cars have to be flex-fueled. It will send oil prices down. We send hundreds of millions of dollars each year to regimes that don’t like us very much. It’s a huge drain on the economy.”

Berney said she is troubled by President Barack Obama’s methods of dealing with Israel.

“We’re selling our allies down the river,” she said. “There is constant pressure on Israel. There are too many demands being made and there’s never an insistence that Palestinians keep their agreements.”

She said lowering taxes for the district is another top issue.

“We shouldn’t let the Bush tax rates expire,” she said. “Small businesses will be badly hurt. I’m a tax lawyer. It’s an ideal background for Congress.”

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 6:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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