Katz wins Dem nomination for Koslowitz seat

By Daniel Massey

Melinda Katz is one step closer to returning to elected office.

Katz, the director of community boards for Borough President Claire Shulman, received 69 percent of the vote to crisis management expert Lynn Schulman’s 31 percent in last week’s Democratic primary for the District 29 City Council seat, according to preliminary figures compiled by the Associated Press.

Katz will challenge Republican Renu Lobo, Conservative Norbert Chwat, Green Jeanette Evans, and the Independence Party’s Joseph Tiraco in the Nov. 6 general election. In a heavily Democratic borough, Katz is expected to win.

District 29 covers Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Rego Park and parts of Maspeth, much of the area Katz represented as an assemblywoman for five years before she stepped aside in 1998 to run for the congressional seat previously held by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). Katz lost that election to U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner by fewer than 500 votes.

In the race for the seat to be vacated by term-limited Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), Katz was buoyed by the endorsements of both the borough president and the Queens Democratic Organization.

She also outraised Schulman by nearly five times, according to her filings with the Campaign Finance Board.

Katz believes her record with the state Assembly helped her win the primary. “I was thankful that as I was going door to door people remembered that I was an assemblywoman and how much I truly love the area we live in,” she said.

Schulman agreed that Katz’s prior experience as an elected official in the district was a deciding factor in the campaign, especially following the attacks on the Twin Towers.

“I ran on a platform of change and I think given what happened people felt more comfortable with what they were familiar with,” Schulman said. “People were comfortable with Melinda and didn’t quite feel comfortable changing.”

As an assemblywoman, Katz wrote the law requiring HMOs to provide women direct access to gynecological care without forcing them to first see a primary care physician. She also authored laws protecting victims of spousal and child abuse and became recognized as a strong advocate of abortion rights.

“I’ll be here 100 percent of the time,” she said. “which is a big difference from the Assembly where you’re in Albany on and off six months of the year. It’s a different type of dynamic.”

If elected Nov. 6, Katz will lead the district that includes some of the most perilous stretches of Queens Boulevard, where at least 74 people have been killed since 1993, and some of the borough’s most crowded schools. Katz and Schulman consistently spoke on both issues while campaigning.     

Schulman said Katz, if elected, would also have to deal with the economic fallout from the World Trade Center disaster. “There are issues that we talked about prior to Sept. 11,” she said. “Now there are new issues and challenges that she and other elected officials will have to face.”

At the top of the list is the economy, Schulman said.     

Katz said that no matter what is happening with the economy, “the most important job that a council member has is constituent services.”

She said the first thing she will do if elected would be to set up a staff that understands the district and be able to bring services to its people.

“Because Karen Koslowitz was so good at constituent services and working with agencies and bringing necessary services, people have become accustomed to that type of legislator and I think they are entitled to that type of legislator,” she said.

Reach Reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.