By Nathan Duke
Rob Speranza said his experiences as a city police officer will distinguish him from his opponents, most of whom are attorneys, in the race for state Assemblywoman Ann-Margaret Carrozza’s (D-Bayside) seat this fall.
Speranza, 43, retired from the Police Department in 2007 after having worked in central booking and Richmond Hill’s 102nd Precinct. He had challenged Carrozza, who announced earlier this year that she would not run for re-election, once before in 2008.
“I’m the only person running who’s not a lawyer — I was a cop,” he said. “And I plan on running a campaign based on what I’ve done, not on what I say I’ll plan to do.”
Speranza serves on Bayside’s Community Board 11, the 111th Precinct Community Council and the board of the Queens Hospital Center.
He will face Vince Tabone, an attorney for supermarket industry billionaire John Catsimitidis’ Manhattan-based Red Apple Group, during the Republican primary in September.
Democrats running for Carrozza’s seat include Edward Braunstein, who works as a legislative assistant for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan); Steve Behar, an attorney who ran last year in the race to replace then-City Councilman Tony Avella; Elio Forcina, a Whitestone attorney; and John Duane, a former assemblyman in the district and brother of state Sen. Tom Duane (D-Manhattan).
One of the key issues in Speranza’s campaign is cracking down on Medicaid fraud. He said preventing even 10 percent of the fraud that currently takes place on an annual basis could go toward schools in his district or lowering taxes.
“As a cop, I saw people doing all sort of fraudulent things and I wanted to improve the system,” he said. “Without any money in the budget, you can’t talk about reforming Albany or improving education.”
Speranza said he would also prioritize education during his bid. Northeast Queens is home to School Districts 25 and 26, which are listed among the best in the city.
“You can’t just open more schools because they cost more money,” he said. “So, I’m not against vouchers. It costs thousands of dollars to educate a child, so sending some of them to private schools would free up more space in public schools. Teachers need to be able to pay more attention to children by having less kids in the classroom.”
Speranza said his former position with the NYPD naturally makes crime prevention in the district high on his list of campaign priorities.
He said his work with community civic groups, CB 11 and the 111th Precinct has given him an opportunity to work closely with both Democrats and Republicans and that he would bring that same level of cooperation to Albany.
“I have a great track record of working with others,” he said. “Everyone is saying they are going to change Albany, but you can’t do that without a support system. I have a passion. This is not just an opportunity or an open seat. People shouldn’t get into politics unless it’s for the right reasons.”
Carrozza’s district covers Bayside, Little Neck, Douglaston, College Point and Whitestone.
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.