By William Lewis
The 5th Congressional District of northeast Queens and northwest Nassau County has been represented by U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) since 1993. He has been endorsed by the Working Families and Independence parties.
Since 1996, he has had little opposition from Republican candidates, although in 2004 Republican Steven Graves ran against Ackerman. Graves, however, lacked the financial resources to wage a winning campaign.
In 2004, before the fall general election, there was a Republican primary in which Gonzalo “Jun” Policarpio challenged Graves. Although Graves won the Republican primary election by a 3-1 margin, Policarpio continued in the race by running on an Independent third party line.
This year Policarpio is running in a Republican primary as an insurgent without official Republican Party endorsements in either Queens or Nassau. He is running against Elizabeth Berney, the officially designated Republican candidate, who is a Great Neck lawyer and graduate of the University of Chicago Law School.
During her legal career, she has specialized in tax law, securities fraud and investor protection. She possesses comprehensive knowledge about national issues and how these issues affect her district.
Berney is opposed to increased taxes and has pointed out that Ackerman has consistently voted for tax increases in Congress. She intends to make this a major campaign issue. She also favors increased enforcement of laws against terrorism. Berney indicated that of the 19 terrorists involved in the 2001 World Trade Center attack, five of them violated American immigration laws.
Presently, Berney is putting together her political campaign committee and having designating petitions circulated to gain ballot position. Before she can run against Ackerman in the fall election, however, she has to deal with Policarpio's challenge that could lead to a September Republican primary.
Policarpio's Republican petitions were challenged when he ran in 2004, but he survived. This year, it will be known soon after petition filings as to whether petition challenges from either side will go into effect.
There is also the matter of third party endorsements. Ackerman will have the Independence and Working Families party lines on the ballot as well as his Democratic Party line. Policarpio presently has the Conservative Party endorsement, so if he loses the Republican primary to Berney, he will possibly still be on the ballot as the Conservative Party candidate.
The registered voters of the 5th Congressional District will have some interesting potential elections coming up.
There are no gubernatorial or U.S. Senate races that could conceivably influence local races. Therefore, the presidential campaign may have a significant impact on local races, such as the 5th Congressional District. At any rate, in northeast Queens the voters will have a choice of candidates this year as we move into the 2008 electoral process.
Recently, the Rego Hills Republican Club had as a guest speaker Shaima Ali, originally from Afghanistan. She described how her upper-middle class family was changed by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. During that time, there was constant war in her country with the government structure collapsing. Her husband was a young lieutenant in the Afghan army and was killed in combat in 1980.
Ali and her two daughters fled first to Pakistan and then to India before immigrating to the United States in 1984. Once arriving, she wanted to make a better life for herself and her daughters. She went to school, learned English and eventually opened her own business as a beautician, which she has maintained. She became an American citizen in 1997.
Stories like Ali's have been repeated many times in American history in terms of achieving the American dream of success through hard work and sacrifice.