New York state Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D) moved toward a campaign against Republican Rep. Bob Turner on Monday, filing paperwork for an exploratory committee with the Federal Election Commission. In September, Turner won an upset special election victory in the 9th district, and Democrats are keen to take back the seat their party held for generations.
In an interview with Roll Call today, Lancman, who has made a point of hammering Turner over the past few months, bemoaned the fact that "ordinary people are not playing on a level playing field."
"Wages have been stagnant since 2002, the majority of Americans don't have any pension or retirement security other than Social Security," he said, "and I don't see that Congress, or Bob Turner in particular, is doing anything about these issues."
The Empire State's redistricting process remains a huge question mark, but Lancman said it made sense to be prepared for whenever final lines are in place. "The election cycle is so compressed, one really needs to be ready... for when those lines finally come out," he explained.
Lancman, who represents a swath of Queens in the Assembly, said that many voters in the September special election may have been expressing frustration. But he argued that in nine months they would be ready to elect a proven legislator.
"In September, a lot of people in the district wanted to send a message," he said. "But in November, they're going to want to send a Congressman," he said, ticking through some of the types of laws he had helped pass during his time in Albany.
Dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama played an outsize role in the September special. But Lancman didn't seem too concerned that the top of the ticket would hurt him if he ended up being the Democratic nominee. "Anybody who wants to send a message to President Obama in November of 2012 can send a message to President Obama directly," he said. "They don't need to send a message to President Obama vicariously through me."
Until lines are in place, it's unclear if other Democrats will jump in the race to take on Turner. Regardless, Lancman is positioned to be a top contender.
Turner won the special by 6 points, and his victory vaulted him to momentary national fame. He sits on three committees in the House: Foreign Affairs, Homeland Security, and Veterans' Affairs. At the end of December, his campaign had $71,000 in cash on hand.
"If district lines permit, we welcome a challenge from Mr. Lancman," Turner spokesman Bill O'Reilly said in a statement. "He is a clubhouse politician in the finest tradition of New York clubhouse politicians. Brooklyn and Queens voters know the type well, and it would be instructive to have a public discussion about what they have done to New York."