Meng accepts Halloran challenge to TV debates

Meng accepts Halloran challenge to TV debates
Assemblywoman Grace Meng and Councilman Daniel Halloran attend a rally to stop the turnaround plan at Flushing High School in April 2012.
Photo by Christina Santucci
By Joe Anuta

The race for the Queens congressional seat centered in Flushing is gearing up for its second stage, with the Republican Party candidate seeking televised debates and the two hopefuls starting off with modest war chests.

“I have a plan to create jobs, cut taxes and spending and get our country back on track from Day 1,” City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) said in a statement. “My opponent, best as I can tell, has recycled statements from liberal special interest groups. By debating me, she can fill us in on what she’d actually do if she were elected. ”

State Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) accepted Halloran’s challenge and fired back, drawing a stark contrast between the two platforms.

“Assemblywoman Meng will gladly debate Dan Halloran and his support for the radical, ultraconservative, Republican agenda, including his plans to privatize Social Security, pass the Ryan budget and continue the failed economic policies focused on supporting the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans,” said campaign spokesman Austin Finan.

Meng’s camp also hoped to have civic associations in the district sponsor the televised debates.

Meng initially addressed her challenger during a speech declaring victory in the June 26 Democratic Party primary, when she said she hoped to run a campaign not focused on race nor religion, two factors that played prominently into a 2009 Council race between a victorious Halloran and Kevin Kim.

The Republican currently has about $9,000 in cash on hand as of June 30, according to the FEC, which is about 5 percent of Meng’s coffers.

Halloran raised about $19,000 through individual donors.

Robert Beltrani, a conservative Queens judge who unsuccessfully ran for a spot on the Queens Supreme Court last year, gave Halloran $250. The Middle Village Republican Club also chipped in $250.

Most of the addresses listed to donors were outside the district. Halloran also incurred a significant amount of debt compared to the amount of money he took in.

Halloran owed $15,500 in debt to various campaign services, including $4,000 to a man named Dave Sieling, who founded the Rochester chapter of Tea New York, a statewide group associated with the Tea Party.

Halloran also owed a man named Paul Gullo $8,500 for campaign management. Gullo is a GOP political operative associated with the Monroe County Young Republicans. Halloran paid Gullo $2,000 for moving expenses, according to the FEC, and gave Sieling $1,000 for the same thing.

Meng had already spent about $1.13 million, including loans taken out, according to campaign finance data from the Federal Election Commission kept until June 30.

Meng still has a little more than $180,000 in cash on hand, according to the FEC, which is about 16 percent of the total money spent so far.

Meng only outspent her nearest rival, Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) by a little more than $220,000, according to the FEC data through June 30, yet Meng won more than 50 percent of the June 26 vote. City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) spent $320,000, which also included debt.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.

More from Around New York