Photo by Nat Valentine
By Joe Anuta

Two Democratic lawmakers from Queens are diverging from the mayoral endorsements of the party leadership.

The Queens Democratic organization endorsed City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) Monday, but U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) is backing former city Comptroller Bill Thompson and Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) has thrown his support behind current Comptroller John Liu.

The party endorsed a slate of candidates along with Quinn at a meeting earlier this week, when it also announced its support for former state Assemblywoman Melinda Katz in her bid to become the next borough president.

The party is led by Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) and is considered to be one of the better run clubs in the city, according to numerous politicos.

But its members did not completely fall into line behind the leadership.

Several days before the party made its endorsements, Meeks issued a statement hailing Thompson as the one candidate qualified to lead the city and properly represent his constituents.

“He’s got a plan to improve our public schools, keep our communities safe and create good-paying jobs in every community,” Meeks said. “Bill will never turn his back on the people of southeast Queens or any community in New York. He knows how to bring people together and lead.”

Former Councilman Archie Spigner, a district leader from southeast Queens, said Meeks probably saw how difficult it would be for Quinn to gain support in the community.

“I think he may have concluded that Quinn is going to be a hard sell to the black community,” he said.

The party also passed over Queens Director of Community Boards Barry Grodenchik, who announced he was dropping out of the race Tuesday, and Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), who is running against Katz in the crowded field for borough president.

“I would have been much happier if they would have selected him,” Spigner said.

He added that his political club might decide to back Comrie, should he stay in the race, and Thompson during a meeting that was set for this Thursday.

In the Asian enclave of Flushing, Liu enjoys a strong following. The comptroller lives in the neighborhood and was Koo’s predecessor in the Council.

“Although the councilman respects the decision of the county leaders, Peter has a longstanding relationship with Comptroller Liu and feels John has been a trailblazer for Asian Americans,” said James McClelland, Koo’s campaign adviser. “Peter Koo strongly supports John Liu in the Democratic primary for mayor.”

Liu is the only member of the Queens Democrats in the mayoral race, but has been dogged by a federal investigation into his campaign. Two former staffers, including the treasurer, were recently convicted by a federal jury of soliciting illegal donations, but Liu has not been charged with any wrongdoing. Party insiders said this may have played into Crowley’s decision to go with Quinn.

But the former Flushing councilman has grown increasingly defiant, telling federal prosecutors repeatedly to “put up or shut up,” and in some cases the narrative that Liu has been targeted specifically to derail his mayoral prospects has helped him.

The Communication Workers of America gave him the nod Tuesday, saying in a release that Liu has “become the target of a smear campaign that is long on repetitive rhetoric and innuendo but short on the facts.”

Liu was elected to citywide office thanks to a groundswell of support from the Asian-American community, something Koo believes could happen in the mayoral race as well.

“The councilman believes this could be a historic moment for Asian Americans in New York City politics,” he said.

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

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