Ackerman seat attracts nine contenders

City Council members Elizabeth Crowley (l.-r.) and Dan Halloran and state Assembly members Rory Lancman and Grace Meng all snagged major endorsements and filed petitions with the city to get on the ballot for the Queens congressional seat -- but they were joined by several others.
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Candidates hoping for a crack at a vacant Queens congressional seat filed their petitions by midnight Monday and some surprising names made the cut.

On the Republican ticket, City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) is the sole candidate and will not face a primary challenger.

For the Democrats, City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), state Assembly members Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) and Grace Meng (D-Flushing), city Board of Elections employee Jeff Gottlieb, Bayside physician Robert Mittman and a Flushing television producer named Juan Sheng all filed with the city.

Evergreen Chou, who has run in many Queens elections, is running under the banner of the Green Party and Forest Hills resident Joseph Tiraco will run as an Independent along with Meng, who is also on the Democratic ticket.

The board does not keep track of how many signatures each candidate gathered, but political operatives said ideally each would submit several times the roughly 900 that are required.

The signatures mean the six Democrats may face off in a primary that will end June 26, provided their petitions are not invalidated by legal challenges.

Three of the Democrats also released their campaign finance information filed with the Federal Election Commission with each drawing from different bases.

Meng raised the most cash, boasting a $360,203 war chest.

Many of Meng’s donors gave money through a website called Act Blue.

It is registered with the FEC as a Political Action Committee. Anyone from around the country can browse candidates on the Act Blue website. When potential donors find a candidate they like, Act Blue will wire money into the war chest.

It is unclear whether donors using Act Blue would have given to Meng’s campaign through traditional means, but $73,058 came through the site from donors living in states including Arizona, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Illinois in addition to donors from within the district. None of the other candidates were listed on the website.

Meng had a large Asian donor base, and several employees of businesses in Flushing like Western Beef and Great Wall Supermarkets gave $5,000, the limit for the campaign, since an individual can give $2,500 for both the primary and general elections.

Meng also received donations from Flushing developers F&T Group, responsible for the Queens Crossing building and currently working on the $850 million Flushing Commons project and another project called One Fulton Square.

Lancman raised the second-highest amount with $239,628 in his coffers, including a $50,000 loan from his personal finances.

Much of Lancman’s cash came from lawyers, and a healthy portion of real estate and development firms chipped in along with many unions.

In total, Lancman received about $13,000 from unions, including $5,000 from the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, but that cash paled in comparison to individual contributions. Lancman also got $250 from Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Sunnyside).

The assemblyman also received a $500 donation from the Zuffa Political Action Committee. The PAC’s corporate counterpart, Zuffa LLC, is the parent company of Ultimate Fighting Championship, a full-contact mixed-martial arts league that has unsuccessfully tried to get a toehold in New York state, where it is currently banned.

Under Lancman’s expenditures, the political consulting firm Parkside Group was listed, although the company said the expenditures were left over from Lancman’s ill-fated campaign against U.S. Rep. Bob Turner (R-Middle Village) before the Queens Democrats instead picked Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck) to run.

Crowley raised the least amount of the three, coming in at $100,050.

She also received funds from two public officials. Crowley gave herself $500 and Assemblyman Michael Miller (D-Woodhaven) forked over $250 to the councilwoman. Miller did not formally endorse Crowley after she announced her run last month, but his father was named on a committee picked by Crowley to fill her spot should she suddenly have to drop out of the race.

Not one individual donor of Crowley’s gave the maximum $5,000, whereas the other two candidates boasted many such donors. Instead, the only $5,000 checks came from Crowley’s union supporters.

The International Association of Firefighters gave Crowley $5,000, along with Metal Lathers Local 46. The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades gave Crowley $10,000, which might be related to many individuals working at painting companies that donated to Crowley’s campaign.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 10:28 am, April 19, 2012
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