By Naeisha Rose
U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks’ (D-Far Rockaway) landslide victory in Tuesday’s Democratic primary race was called at 10:02 p.m.
Even before the votes were tallied after the 9 p.m. closure of voting booths across the city, Meeks was confident his relationship with his constituents would lead to another term. There is no challenger in the November general election, according to the Board of Elections. Michael O’Reilly, who tried to run on the Reform, Conservative and Republican lines, filed his petition for each party four days after the April 12 election deadline.
“I feel very good that those who are coming out to vote will come out to vote for me,” Meeks said about 8 p.m. Tuesday. “We are going to keep working until the polls are closed.”
The three-way Democratic primary race between the incumbent, entrepreneur Mizan Choudhury and Carl Achille, a detective and Iraqi war veteran, in New York’s 5th Congressional District started off slowly. Around noon only 103 voters had showed up to the PS 34 voting site in Queens Village, which had been open since 6 a.m. In St. Albans at the Robert Ross Johnson Family Life Center only had 106 voters had been counted by 2 p.m.
Despite low voter turnout and lingering confusion about the congressional primary being switched to June from September several years ago, the constituents who did file into voting booths across southeast Queens, the Rockaway peninsula and Nassau County have decided to keep Meeks as their representative.
With 99 percent of the precincts reporting, Meeks captured 81.5 percent of the vote vs. 8.8 percent for Choudhury and 9.7 for Achille, according to unofficial results reported by NY 1.
Meeks, who lives in St. Albans, is a 20-year representative of the district and his top campaign goals included saving the protections in the Affordable Care Act, fighting for Dreamers who were brought to this country without documents as children and tightening federal laws on gun control. After his victory he jumped on a flight to Washington, D.C. to vote on an immigration bill Wednesday.
“I’ve still got work to do in D.C.,” said Meeks. “We have this big immigration vote…and I don’t want to miss it. We don’t stop working.”
Choudhury and Achille, who both said Meeks “was out of touch” with his constituents, focused on jobs and affordable housing as ways of improving the district locally.
Meeks said he does want to bring more jobs and affordable housing to his district, but blamed President Donald Trump’s economic initiatives and said it doesn’t help people in communities of color.
Choudhury, a Bengali immigrant who lives in Bellerose and moved to the United States in 1997, also wanted to fight for Dreamers by helping them gain legal status in the United States and reunifying them with their families.
Achille, a resident of Elmont and a Haitian immigrant, called for improving the railways, subways and buses in the district, which he described as a “transportation desert.”
Meeks said his opponents don’t seem to have an understanding of his role as a federal representative for his district, and that certain local issues on the state or city level are best taken care of by those elected officials, but he does try to do everything he can to support Council and Assembly members where he can.
“The MTA is the state level, but we do work with them — for instance, the discount for travelers from southeast Queens. But clearly when you hear things like that you can tell they don’t have an understanding of what the difference is between a member of Congress, a councilman or a state assembly person or state senator,” said Meeks.
Ultimately voters wanted more of Meeks.
“I want to thank my constituents for their continued belief and support that they have shown me over the last 20 years,” said Meeks. “They have been standing by my side knowing that I am going to fight for them. I thank them for the faith they have me and I will continue to work hard everyday to make their lives better.”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose