Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, seeking an 11th term in Congress, will face off next Tuesday against NYPD Det. Carl Achille and technology manager Mizan Choudhury in a Democratic primary in the Fifth Congressional District.
Meeks, 64, of St. Albans, Queens, is widely known in the district, which is located primarily in southeast Queens, but includes 60,000 voters in Nassau County.
Meeks also has a significant fundraising advantage over his two opponents, who are making their first runs for elected office.
Meeks, a regular guest on cable news, is a former assistant district attorney and special narcotics prosecutor in Manhattan and serves as ranking member of Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia.
Achille, 34, of Elmont, is an Iraq War veteran who has spent the past decade with the NYPD, and works as an investigative adviser managing criminal intelligence. Achille is the past president of the Elmont Chamber of Commerce and the Parkhurst Civic Association.
Choudhury, 44, of Bellerose, is a Pakistani immigrant who works as an operations manager at Northwell Health, overseeing a group of engineers. He has served on Community Board 13 in southeastern Queens for the past two years.
The Fifth District has 433,469 registered voters, including 59,031 in Elmont, North and South Valley Stream and Inwood. There are 318,456 registered Democrats, 35,517 Republicans and 66,486 voters not aligned with a major party, according to the state Board of Elections. Members of minor political parties comprise the rest.
Since the start of the election cycle in January 2017, Meeks has raised $703,596 and spent $671,324, according to Federal Election Commission records, and has $108,252 on hand.
Achille, who entered the race in February, has raised $5,612, spent $2,045 and has $3,568 on hand, according to filings.
Choudhury, who declared his candidacy in March, has raised $15,871, spent $10,126 and has $5,745 on hand, records show.
Meeks’ priorities include protecting undocumented residents in his district — notably members of the Haitian community — who are facing deportation after the administration of President Donald Trump ended a humanitarian program that provided temporary protective status to people from unstable homelands.
“In many ways these people are as American as anyone else living here,” Meeks said.
Meeks and the other candidates offered varying degrees of support for a plan to redevelop Belmont Park.
A group led by the New York Islanders last year won development rights to 43 acres of state-owned land at Belmont in Elmont. They plan to build an 18,000-seat hockey arena, a hotel, retail stores, restaurants, a movie theater and outdoor space. The Long Island Rail Road has begun studying how to boost service at the Belmont station, where trains run only on race days.
Meeks said the project will “revitalize an area that desperately needs it,” while Choudhury said that without development “the district will not thrive.” Achille said he is “on the fence” about the project until state and local officials address concerns raised by project critics about traffic on area roads and parkways, expanded railroad service and potential increases in crime.
Achille also said he wants to use his law enforcement background to address opioid abuse in the region and close the “Iron Pipeline” used to smuggle illegal weapons into northeastern cities often from southern states.
“I have a unique perspective on these issues,” Achille said. “I’ve spent my entire career taking on drug dealers and gangs.”
Choudhury proposed building a technology park near CUNY’s York College in Jamaica, Queens, that would focus on careers in nanotechnology, robotics, space and drones, along with a vocational training institute for young people in the district.
“This would bring thousands of 21st century jobs to the district,” he said.
Achille and Choudhury criticized Meeks for neglecting the Nassau portion of the district.
“The congressman appears disconnected from the district,” Choudhury said. “The community is not getting the help it needs.”
Achille called Meeks an “absentee congressman” who is “going through the motions. He doesn’t come around and is not active in the community.”
Meeks said he works seven days a week, 12 to 14 hours a day, in Washington, D.C., or in the district.
“I’m there, doing my job,” Meeks said.
Home: St. Albans, Queens
Education/Career: Meeks received a bachelor’s degree from Adelphi University and a law degree from Howard University. He was elected to Congress in 1998 to fill the seat of Democratic Rep. Floyd Flake, who retired. Meeks is the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia and a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee. Meeks served three terms in the New York State Assembly from 1992-1998.
Family: Married with three children.
Education/Career: Achille received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where he is working toward a master’s degree in criminal law and procedure. He served in the U.S. Army, attached to the 101st Airborne Division in central and southern Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2008, he joined the NYPD, working in the 23rd Precinct in East Harlem. He works for the NYPD as an investigative adviser managing criminal intelligence.
Family: Married with one child
Education/Career: Choudhury, who was born and raised in Pakistan, received a bachelor’s degree in political science and history from Moulvibazar Govt. College in Bangladesh and a master’s degree from Dhaka College, also in Bangladesh. Choudhury came to the United States in 1997. He works as an operations manager at Northwell Health and has been a member of Community Board 13 in Queens for the past two years.
Family: Married with two children