State Senator Michael Gianaris of Astoria will face a challenger in the 2020 Democratic Primary from political newbie Justin Potter.
Potter, a 39-year-old small business owner who lives in Long Island City, fashions himself a centrist who says Gianaris has tried to follow in the footsteps of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and curry favor with the far left-leaning members of the party to further his own political career rather than represent the interests of his constituents.
Potter’s main point of contention comes from the failed effort to bring Amazon to Queens. He points out that Gianaris initially supported the plan to lure the tech giant to New York City, but after the election of AOC and the shifting of political winds, Gianaris suddenly changed his mind.
On his website, Potter labels Gianaris an “opportunist.”
Of course, we can’t forget the old adage about glass houses and throwing stones.
Until last year, Potter was a member of the Republican Party. He switched so he could challenge Gianaris in the primary, since Democrats have an overwhelming advantage when it comes to the general election.
Gianaris is already exploiting that factoid. According to a published report, when asked about Potter, Gianaris said, “I successfully fought Republicans and their agenda over the last several years and I look forward to doing it again in this campaign.”
Potter formed the group Citizens for Queens in April to provide a more centrist perspective in response to the Democratic Party moving too far to the left. The group just started raising money for Potter.
They also has plans to field challengers to Democrats in other districts across the city.
But for all of Potter’s criticism of Gianaris and left-leaning Democrats, he supports many of the more controversial measures Democrats passed in Albany in what Governor Andrew Cuomo called “the most productive” legislative session in history now that Democrats control both houses of the state legislature and the governor’s office.
For instance, Potter supports legalizing marijuana, giving licenses to undocumented immigrants, climate change legislation and congestion pricing.
So this really all comes down to Amazon and Gianaris’ role in scuttling the deal. Potter writes on his website that if a majority of Gianaris’ constituents opposed the Amazon deal, he would have no problem with the state senator’s position.
Instead, he points to a Quinnipiac poll that showed around 60 percent of Queens residents supported Amazon.
“Call it old-fashioned, but it would be nice to have a representative who is committed to looking out for the interests of the majority of his or her constituents,” the site defeatgianaris.com reads, “not just the demands of the activist base, and who is looking out for his or her community’s future, not just his or her political future.”
Let the race begin!
The 12th District
While we’re talking about the 12th District in the State Senate, can we talk about how messed up these district lines are?
The district is centered primarily in northwest Queens, but then cuts across portions of Ridgewood and Glendale and other neighborhoods along the Queens-Brooklyn border, and then inexplicably spikes south to include just a small portion of Woodhaven.
That means residents in a small section of that neighborhood are represented by Gianaris, while their neighbors on either side of them, who they probably share more issues and concerns with than someone living in a luxury high-rise in Long Island City, are represented by someone else.
It’s not the worst case of gerrymandering we’ve ever seen, but the 12th District still makes a good case for independent redistricting.