Parts of Nassau in 5th Congressional District

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Nassau County voters this year will play a role in selecting a representative in the state's 5th Congressional District.

The newly redrawn district -- which resembles the former 6th District -- covers Southeast Queens and the Rockaways and now Elmont, parts of North and South Valley Stream and Inwood.

The 5th District, remapped after the 2010 census, is the only one to cross from New York City into Nassau's suburbs. The district, which previously had included only areas of Queens, is currently represented by Rep. Gary Ackerman, who announced his retirement earlier this year.

Rep. Gregory Meeks, who has represented the 6th District since 1998, will run in the June 26 Democratic primary against hip hop artist Michael Scala, former City Councilman Allan Jennings and community activist Joseph Marthone. Jennings also will be the GOP nominee in the Nov. 6 general election.

The heavily Democratic district faces widespread home foreclosures and high unemployment, the candidates said.

"It's all about jobs and the economy," said Scala, 29, of Queens Village. "Southeast Queens is the epicenter of the foreclosure crisis."

In the Nassau portion of the district, which includes about 50,000 voters, candidates have focused on the Federal Emergency Management Agency's decision to include Valley Stream in their new flood map.

"This map was not drawn correctly," Meeks, 58, said. "Valley Stream residents are looking at escalating flood insurance rates unless we fix it."

Meeks was elected to the State Assembly in 1992 and to Congress in 1998 in a special election to fill the seat vacated by Floyd Flake. Running for his seventh term, Meeks sits on the Financial Services Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee, where he is the ranking member of the subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia.

In recent years, the House Ethics Committee has investigated Meeks for failing to report a $40,000 loan he received in 2007 from businessman Emud Ahmad, who was arrested last year on charges linked to mortgage fraud. The ethics investigation of Meeks is continuing, but no criminal charges have been filed against him.

Meeks said the inquiry was generated by the news media and a right-wing watchdog group.

Marthone, 51, of Jamaica, has worked as an accountant, community organizer for tenants in Rochdale Village and as a mentor to teens in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

"We are facing a record jobless rate, an enormous budget deficit, a serious housing crisis, and a crumbling school system that is failing our children," he said on his campaign website. "We need change because too many career politicians in Washington are bailing out Wall Street instead of helping you and I in Main Street." Marthone did not return calls for comment.

Scala recorded several hip hop albums under the name "Pizon," and rapped about social injustice and the high cost of student loans. He is the son of the late actor Michael Scala, who played in Martin Scorsese's first feature film, "Who's That Knocking at My Door?"

Scala recently formed the Solid Ground movement, which calls for government transparency and the protection of Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and labor unions.

Jennings, 46, was elected to the New York City Council in 2001 as a Democrat. After censure by the council for creating a hostile work environment, improperly terminating an employee and improperly using public resources, Jennings lost his 2005 re-election bid. He has since run unsuccessfully for his former council seat and for the State Senate.

Jennings is running in the primary as a Democrat but has already secured the Republican line in the general election. He said he plans to caucus with the party that controls the House of Representatives, currently the Republicans.

"Both parties are too partisan," he said. "I have always been independent."

The district has 261,092 Democrats, 34,400 Republicans and 41,729 voters not aligned with any party. In the Nassau portion, there are 50,120 Democrats, 27,545 Republicans and 8,750 who are unaligned.

You also may be interested in: