By Rich Bockmann
U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) is fired up and ready to go, and he is on a mission to make sure others — especially minority communities — feel the same way.
Though he faces two challengers in the Nov. 6 election for his southeast Queens congressional seat, Meeks said the next couple weeks are all about taking up the president’s campaign slogan — “Fired up and ready to go” — and making sure Barack Obama gets re-elected.
“I’m here and I’m not here. The next 22 days are about having the president’s back,” Meeks said Monday morning at a breakfast he hosted in St. Albans, where he spoke with community leaders about the elections across the country, the state and the city that will affect southeast Queens.
Meeks, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, was tapped by Obama to stump in Ohio, Nevada and Florida — three swing states he said were essential to securing a second term for the president.
The federal election will not only present an opportunity to re-elect Obama, Meeks said, but also to regain control of the House of Representatives, where he said Republicans have become obstructionists who must be replaced in order to fix the “do-nothing Congress.”
And the congressman was not the only one in southeast Queens with his eye on other states. Groups throughout the area are ramping up their efforts to reach out to voters, particularly in Pennsylvania, where they think voter ID laws are disenfranchising voters.
Meeks said the community’s organizing efforts should carry through to next year’s local elections.
“We’ve seen especially — now I’m talking about all communities — but especially in the black communities, we’ve seen this before when we’re excited and emotional and when we’re not,” he said, citing how David Dinkins was elected mayor in 1989, only to lose to Rudy Giuliani the next time around.
“The operation that we could put together [for Obama] could help elect us a borough president in 2013 and a mayor,” he said.
For Queens borough president, Meeks threw his support behind City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), who will be term limited from his office next year, and for mayor former city Comptroller Bill Thompson got the nod.
Meeks said Thompson should be elected not “just because of the color of his skin,” but “because he’s the right guy to get the job done.”
Skin color, however, was an unavoidable topic.
After announcing his plan to run for borough president, Comrie took some time to address a New York Post article that appeared over the weekend focusing on southeast Queens state Assembly members Vivian Cook (D-South Jamaica) and Bill Scarborough (D-St. Albans).
“The New York Post and some of these good government groups want to change government so that it doesn’t look like us,” Comrie said.
The article, which blasted several lawmakers for allegedly misusing their travel per-diems, focused heavily on Cook, though she had not even used half the per-diem dollar amounts as other Assembly members cited in the article.
State Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica), who was indicted on corruption charges a few weeks before losing the Democratic primary to Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton), said she would remain a fixture in the community.
Both Meeks and state Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village) are facing challenges next month from candidates they defeated in the primary, but who are running on different party lines.
Meeks said the great thing about Queens was that after the elections are over, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are willing to work with each other.
“Not on the presidential election now,” he clarified. “I’m talking local here.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.