On the way to
the State Senate, Gary celebrates with then-Borough President Donald
Manes and Rita Ackerman.
By Liz Goff
Gary Ackerman was
never afraid to go to battle with the “system” on issues
affecting the community and its residents.
So it was only natural when, in 1978, he tossed his hat into the political
ring, vying for a seat in the then-12th State Senate District, covering
Flushing, Whitestone, Bayside and Fresh Meadows.
Ackerman won the seat in November 1978 and headed off to Albany to battle
majority republicans “in the best interest of the community.”
He remained in Albany until 1983, when the sudden death of a veteran
U.S. Congressman put Ackerman on-track to a political future in the
The death of Congressman Ben Rosenthal in 1983 created a flurry of activity
by those interested in filling his shoes.
When Rosenthal died of a sudden heart attack, 36 people ran for the
Democratic nomination, seeking to challenge the republican contender
in the special election.
Among the candidates was Rosenthal’s widow.
Gary Ackerman beat-out the other Democratic contenders and won the party-nod.
Ackerman fought in a bitter but short race in the special election,
against three other candidates – two democrats and one republican.
Pundits predicted that the democrats would beat each other in the race,
handing the election and congressional victory to the republicans.
They were wrong. Gary Ackerman took the election and packed his bags,
heading to his seat in the U.S. Congress. In doing so, Ackerman went
from his seat as a minority democrat in the State Senate to a majority
democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives.