U.S. Representative Gary Ackerman, a New York Democrat who helped craft financial legislation protecting consumers during a congressional career that spanned almost 30 years, said he won’t seek re-election in November.
Ackerman, a member of the House Financial Services and Foreign Affairs committees, said late yesterday he decided against running for a 16th term representing parts of Queens and Long Island suburbs. His term ends in January 2013.
“During my years in Congress, it has been my pleasure to address the needs of thousands of individual constituents and to influence domestic and global policy,” Ackerman said in a statement posted on his House website.
Ackerman becomes the 41st sitting member of the House to retire, announce they plans to seek another public office in 2012 or lose in a primary election. Of those, 23 are Democrats, 18 are Republicans.
President Barack Obama said in a statement today that Ackerman has been “a leader in the fight to pass Wall Street reform and helped strengthen the bonds between the United States and our allies, particularly Israel.” Obama said the congressman’s “unique enthusiasm will be greatly missed.”
Ackerman, 69, announced his retirement after his congressional district, which takes 80 percent of its population from Queens and 20 percent from northern Nassau County on Long Island, was substantially revised under a plan by a federal judge that probably will become law. Ackerman’s Nassau County hometown was drawn into a district where Democrat Steve Israel represents more people, though Ackerman could have sought re-election in a Queens district.
The retirement announcement by Ackerman “surprised a lot of people because he had given no indication he wasn’t going to run again,” said Jessica Taylor, a senior analyst at the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report in Washington.
State Assemblyman Rory Lancman said in a telephone interview that he will seek the Democratic nomination. After meeting with Ackerman yesterday, Lancman had announced he would support the congressman’s re-election bid and not run against him in a Democratic primary in the newly redrawn district.
Ackerman gave no hint he was considering retirement when they met, Lancman said. The state lawmaker said he offered Ackerman his support and put out a statement to that effect.
“Four hours later he wasn’t running for Congress,” Lancman said. Ackerman’s reversal didn’t bother him because “he didn’t owe me anything more” during their conversation,” Lancman said.
“I was deferring to Gary; now that Gary is not there to defer to, I am back running for Congress,” he said.
The redrawn district is still “a safe Democratic” area, Taylor said. “This is a seat that is going to stay solidly Democratic; it is going to be decided in the primary,” she said.
Ackerman was praised in a statement by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“The borough of Queens -- and the people of Israel, Africa and so many other areas of the world -- have rarely had a stronger ally in Congress, and our entire nation will miss Gary’s encyclopedic knowledge of foreign policy and so many other issues,” Bloomberg said in a statement. The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
Public School Teacher
Ackerman, a graduate of Queens College in Flushing, New York, began his career as a public school teacher. He was first elected to Congress in 1983 after the death of Representative Benjamin Rosenthal, according to his official House biography.
In 2009, Ackerman helped write legislation barring credit card companies from charging customers a fee to pay online or over the phone. He was instrumental in requiring banks and financial companies to tell consumers when negative information is posted in their credit reports.
Ackerman successfully sought to exclude provisions of the 2010 financial overhaul that he said could have led to job losses in New York’s financial industry. He also sought to reinstate the uptick rule curbing short selling, and revisions of mark-to-market accounting rules that require companies to set a value for securities reflecting market prices.
Ackerman has had a houseboat named the Unsinkable II as his Washington residence. His previous houseboat, the Unsinkable, sank in the Potomac River in the mid-1980s.
Starting with his days as a member of the New York State Senate, Ackerman wore a white carnation on his lapel each day that he attended legislative sessions in Albany or Washington.