U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) has garnered support from mainline Democrats for his role as the new chair of the Queens County Democratic Party, but members of far-left groups are cautious of embracing him out of fear that he be like former Chairman Joe Crowley.
The longtime congressman is in his 11th term and has been in office since 1998, according to house.gov.
Currently, he represents The Rockaways, Jamaica, Laurelton, Rosedale, St. Albans, Cambria Heights, Queens Village, Springfield Gardens, and parts of Howard Beach and Ozone Park, according to the Census.
City and State representatives like Councilwoman Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica) and State Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) believe Meeks many years in office has made the congressman the right man for the job.
“Congratulations to Congressman Gregory Meeks for his historical elevation to Chairmanship of the Queens County Democratic Organization,” said Adams. “For decades Congressman Meeks has been a stalwart champion for his constituents, his city and his country.”
Comrie, someone that many political insiders also considered as a replacement for Crowley after he left his chairmanship role last month for a lobbying gig after being elected in September, was one of the 72 district leaders that unanimously voted on Monday for Meeks to represent the Queens County Democratic Party.
“Congressman Meeks is a dedicated public servant who genuinely believes in the fundamental ideals that our party stands for,” said Comrie. “I congratulate him on his election and look forward to continuing to work closely with him.”
Members from progressive groups like New Queens Democrats are open to working with Meeks, but wish the process of choosing a new leader were less secretive.
“We learned yesterday, as many in Queens did, that Gregory Meeks was elected as the new chair of the Queens County Democratic Party,” said Vice-Chair Nancy de Delva, of New Queens Democrats. “The [March 11] election took place behind closed doors without any announcement, debate, or transparency. Congressman Meeks steps into the leadership of an organization with a sordid past, one that refused to open its doors and permit the communities it portends to represent access to help determine its direction.”
While the group is excited to have new in leadership – Meeks is the first person of color to represent the Queens County Democratic organization – NQD finds the opaque process troublesome and hopes for a more open club under his tenure, which will run until July 2020.
As the new leader, he will have power over which judges and political candidates are nominated within the Democratic Party, according to NQD.
NQD wants Meeks to help the party be a “true driving force for the county Democratic organization by amending the organization’s by-laws to return the right to endorse candidates and nominate candidates to the County Committee,” said de Delva. They also want the new leader to “create a public vetting process for judges that permits open debate of [the] party’s nominees and open the nomination process to encourage qualified candidates to run.”
NQD’s other requests include creating a committee to reinvigorate the club to help new members find their voice in the party and call meetings with the County Committee to draft a platform for the party’s position on the most important issues affecting communities in Queens, according to de Delva.
“We hope that he will work with activists and communities to better the party,” said de Delva.
Heather Beers-Dimitriadis, an activist within the progressive group One Queens Indivisible, had the same sentiments about the election process of Queens County Democrats.
“Our main concern isn’t with who was selected, it has been with how decisions like this are being made,” said Beers-Dimitriadis. “All of these decisions are made by votes by district leaders. There is never any consultation or any discussions with the representatives for the individual election districts that are under district leaders leadership. These decisions are made in a room with the district leaders without talking to us.”
Beers-Dimitriadis also hopes to have discussions with Meeks about making the process for selecting leaders more Democratic and open.
“We don’t like how these decisions are made for us, like how they re-elected Crowley to the role after the election and his loss to AOC,” said Beers-Dimitriadis. “These decisions are very consequential and you have a very small group of people making decisions for a very large and very diverse county. You’ve got very conservative Democrats and you got very progressive Democrats and what we find is that the vote that is taking place are basically one note.”
She hopes that one day the process for elections in the committee will be more open like in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
“We want to give him a chance to be open to our suggestions,” said Beers-Dimitriadis.