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Gregory Meeks, Joseph Marthone face off in 5th Congressional District primary

The 5th Congressional District, which includes a portion of western Nassau County, will hold a Democratic primary on June 24 between eight-term Rep. Gregory W. Meeks and Joseph R. Marthone, an accountant who lost a bid for the seat two years ago.

Meeks of St. Albans, Queens, will face Marthone of Jamaica, who also has worked as a community organizer for tenants in Rochdale Village. Marthone finished last in the four-way party primary in 2012, when Meeks secured the line by a wide margin. Meeks won the general election with nearly 90 percent of the vote.

The communities of Elmont, North and South Valley Stream and Inwood, with a total of 54,536 voters, were included in the redrawn 5th District in 2012, when it became primarily a Southeast Queens seat.

Previously, the district was represented by retired Rep. Gary Ackerman, a Democrat, when it included much of Nassau County's North Shore.

The 5th District has the fourth-highest number of registered Democrats -- 301,082 -- of New York's 27 congressional districts, according to the state Board of Elections.

In the primary campaign, Meeks and Marthone are backing Democratic Party positions in favor of immigration reform, more funding for affordable housing and gun control.

"Whether it's Queens or Long Island, most of the issues are the same," said Meeks, 60, who represented the old 6th District for five terms. "It's not that different from what we did previously."

Through June 4, Meeks's campaign had raised $627,377, spent $590,726 and had $77,601 on hand. Marthone did not report any fundraising or spending activity to the Federal Election Commission. According to Marthone's Facebook page, he had scheduled several fundraising events in recent weeks.

Marthone, 53, did not return calls or emails seeking comment for this story.

Despite his heavy financial advantage, Meeks said he isn't dismissing Marthone. Meeks recalled the recent GOP primary in Virginia, in which House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost to Dave Brat, a college professor and tea party favorite whom Cantor outraised by more than $4 million.

"When somebody's name is on the ballot, you take all elections and everybody seriously," Meeks said in an interview. "I never look at what my opponent is doing. I just try to put out there what I'm doing."

Meeks said his top priorities in the new term would include passage of comprehensive immigration reform and ensuring that federal superstorm Sandy relief funds continue to flow to the Rockaways and other hard-hit communities in the district.

He said Nassau County issues also are high on his list, particularly federal aid for the redevelopment of Belmont Park in Elmont. The state Empire State Development Corp. is considering several private sector bids for the 36-acre site. Proposals include a 25,000-seat soccer stadium, retail and recreation complexes, community centers and grocery stores.

"I want to make sure I cooperate with the people who will make the final decision, and once there is a plan, I want to make sure I work with them to get the federal resources to make it a reality," Meeks said.

According to Marthone's campaign website, he would focus on job creation by recruiting established businesses to the district; push for more affordable housing as a requirement for any luxury high-rise proposal and support further gun control efforts.

In his online biography, Marthone calls himself an "independent Democrat . . . that has been progressively thinking and working in the community for many years as an activist." He said he would be "committed to building bridges for our community to prosper."

None of his proposals specifically mention the Nassau County portions of the 5th District.

"Many people in Washington are simply taking up space and have no urge to do anything that could move the country forward," the website says.

It continues: "Nobody has really challenged Marthone's opponent [Meeks] for the past 16 years, so he is very comfortable and complacent."

Meeks expressed pride in his record, and said he would continue working closely with state and local officials, including those in Nassau, to secure federal funding for important projects, such as repair of the Nassau Expressway in Inwood.

"My goal is to make sure that Nassau gets its fair share of federal resources," Meeks said.


The candidates

JOSEPH R. MARTHONE

Democrat

Home: Jamaica, Queens

Age: 53

Education: Associate degree from Queensborough Community College; bachelor's degree from Queens College.

Career: Worked as an accountant, community organizer for tenants in Rochdale Village and as a mentor to teens in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Has run unsuccessfully for the New York City Council and for the 5th Congressional District.

Family: Did not respond.

GREGORY W. MEEKS

Democrat

Home: St. Albans, Queens

Age: 60

Education: Bachelor's degree from Adelphi University; law degree from Howard University.

Career: Elected to the State Assembly in 1992 and to Congress in a 1998 special election to fill the seat vacated by Democrat Floyd Flake. Began representing the redrawn 5th Congressional District in 2013, after seven terms in the 6th District. Meeks is the ranking member of the House subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit.

Family: Married with three daughters.

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