Democrats hungry to take back former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s Congressional seat, which Republican Rep. Bob Turner won last fall in a special election that came to represent a referendum on President Obama’s standing among Jews, seem to have picked state assemblyman Rory I. Lancman for the challenge. A prominent Queens Democrat who is a strong supporter of Israel, Lancman has all the bona fides of somebody who could take on Turner, formerly just a rich cable executive but now an incumbent congressman, and win. “He is tenacious, smart, he will work tirelessly, and he wants the job,” Hank Sheinkopf, a prominent New York-based Democratic political consultant, told me. He’s been priming himself for this moment: as Sheinkopf put it, “You’re Rory Lancman, two years younger—you’re saying, ‘I can’t wait till 2013, when Weiner becomes mayor.’” And is he a superior candidate than David Weprin, his fellow Queens assemblyman, who lost to Turner last September? “Yes. No question.”
But even the contours of the race aren’t set in stone, because nobody knows for sure whether New York’s Ninth Congressional District will in November be what it is now—Albany has yet to complete its census-compelled redistricting. The Times reads the tea leaves and guesses that the Ninth will be kept stet. But Sheinkopf is less confident: “If you can predict the Congressional lines, you’d be sitting next to Odin and Thor,” he quipped. And he explained one complication: “The lines are going to depend to a large extent on whether the Queens County [Democratic Party] Leader, Joseph Crowley, a member of Congress, chooses to get out of the Bronx, where he has part of his district,” he said. If Crowley wants to alter his district, according to Sheinkopf, that would in turn start a chain reaction in which various districts on geographic Long Island get pushed eastward (in which case the representative most likely to get pushed off altogether is Carolyn McCarthy, a Democrat representing parts of Nassau County, including the Five Towns). And a Ninth District that is farther east—with less of Queens or Brooklyn and potentially a bit of Nassau County—is more likely to stay Republican.
But, Sheinkopf added, “Anybody who tells you they know the answer—except for the people drawing the lines—needs to be hospitalized.”
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.