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Long IslandPolitics

Gregory Meeks faces two challengers in House race

Rep. Gregory Meeks, seeking a 10th term in Congress, will take on Republican Michael O’Reilly and Green Party candidate Frank Francois in the 5th Congressional District contest on Nov. 8.

Meeks, 63, of St. Albans, Queens, is widely known in the district — which is located primarily in southeast Queens, but also has nearly 60,000 Nassau County voters — and has a significant fundraising advantage over his two lesser-known opponents.

Meeks, a former assistant district attorney and special narcotics prosecutor in Manhattan, is the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia.

O’Reilly, 58, of Broad Channel, is an attorney and former U.S. Marine who worked for four years as a commercial airline pilot. He ran unsuccessfully last year for Queens Civil Court judge.

Francois, 51, is a public adjuster from Queens Village who spent three years as a Queens Democratic Committee member. He said he became a Green Party member after becoming disenchanted with Democratic leadership in southeast Queens.

The 5th District has just over 400,000 registered voters, including 57,209 in Elmont, North and South Valley Stream and Inwood.

The district has 295,129 registered Democrats, 34,174 Republicans and 60,034 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 2015, Meeks has raised $874,007, according to Federal Election Commission data, and has $149,582 on hand.

O’Reilly, who entered the race in March, has raised $37,150 and has about $10,000 in cash on hand, according to FEC data.

Francois has not filed any campaign finance reports.

Meeks said he wants to deliver more transportation infrastructure funding for the district, including money to transform the seasonal-use Belmont Park Long Island Rail Road station into a year-round facility.

“This facility is underused and antiquated,” Meeks said.

All three candidates agree that state-run Belmont Park in Elmont must be redeveloped. Since February 2013, the Empire State Development Corp., a state agency that backs business investment and job creation, has been considering bids for projects at Belmont, including a privately funded soccer stadium for the New York Cosmos, along with a hotel and retail center. Other bidders have proposed privately funded complexes with retail, restaurants and a supermarket.

The state has yet to make a choice.

Meeks, who is not backing any of the bids, says the area needs a combination of retail, entertainment and affordable housing. The state’s requests for proposals currently prohibits any housing development on the site.

“We need a comprehensive approach that would create permanent jobs in the area,” Meeks said.

O’Reilly said he is not familiar with the specific Belmont proposals but pledged to learn more about the development.

Francois said while he personally supports the Cosmos bid, local residents should have the final say on the project through a public referendum.

“The decision should be up to the community,” he said.

Meeks said he also has worked with the state in recent months to create a committee, comprised of local residents and elected officials, to spread flights to and from Kennedy Airport more evenly so certain neighborhoods — including those in Nassau — don’t bear the brunt of the noise.

O’Reilly, a regulatory attorney in Manhattan, says too many residents in the district are in need of jobs and that public transportation in Queens is insufficient.

He said he wants to restore ferry service — put in place temporarily after superstorm Sandy — from JFK and Manhattan to Far Rockaway and Rockaway Beach.

He said he also would press to reactivate the LIRR’s Rockaway Beach line. “This would be a huge boon to businesses in Southeast Queens,” he said.

Meeks said he backs both proposals.

O’Reilly wants tax incentives to encourage small businesses to hire new employees. He also wants to reduce regulations that he says are “stifling” local businesses.

“The district needs new leadership,” O’Reilly said. He calls Meeks a “career politician” who does not attend enough neighborhood meetings and is not a frequent presence in the community.

Meeks disagreed, saying he has worked “to bring the entire community together.”

Francois expressed concern about allegations of police brutality against minorities across the country.

Francois, who lost a son to gun violence, said he backs the hiring of full-time federal prosecutors and judges to investigate allegations of police brutality and create a National Department of Law Enforcement Oversight to review the actions of police departments.

“It would provide checks and balances,” said Francois, who also wants to decriminalize marijuana use. “No one should be above the law.”


Party: Democratic

Age: 63

Home: St. Albans, Queens

Education/career: Meeks, who is also running on the Women’s Equality line, has a bachelor’s degree from Adelphi University and a law degree from Howard University. He worked previously as an assistant district attorney and special narcotics prosecutor in New York City, a deputy counsel to the New York State Investigation Commission and as a supervising judge for the state Workers’ Compensation Board. Meeks was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1992, and to Congress in a special election in 1998 to fill the seat vacated by Democrat Floyd Flake. Meeks is the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia and a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee.

Family: Married with three daughters

Fundraising: In the 2015/16 election cycle, through Sept. 30, Meeks has raised $874,007, spent $802,363 and has $149,582 on hand.


Party: Republican

Age: 58

Home: Broad Channel

Education/Career: O’Reilly, who is also running on the Conservative Party line, has a bachelor’s degree in air commerce from Florida Institute of Technology and a law degree from New York Law School. He served for two years in the U.S. Marine Corps, receiving an honorable discharge because of a medical condition. O’Reilly worked for four years as an airline pilot for Northwest Airlines and later became a corporate pilot, flying executives to private airports. O’Reilly works as a regulatory attorney in Manhattan. He ran unsuccessfully last year for Queens County Civil Court judge.

Family: Married with one son

Fundraising: In the 2015/16 election cycle, through Sept. 30, O’Reilly has raised $37,150, spent $27,174 and has about $10,000 in cash on hand.


Party: Green

Age: 51

Home: Queens Village

Education/Career: Francois graduated from Bayside High School and received certification from the now-closed Computer Career Center in Garden City. Francois worked as a real estate consultant and for the past six years as a public adjuster, arguing on behalf of homeowners against insurance companies. Francois was elected as a Queens County Democratic Committee member in 2009 and served for three years.

Family: Single with two teenage children

Fundraising: Francois has not reported any campaign fundraising activity.


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