By Ray O’Hanlon
New York’s 7th Congressional District can probably lay claim to being the Big Apple’s version of Boston’s 8th.
Certainly, the Irish flavor of the place looks set to be enhanced by the upcoming election, which will almost certainly pit Democrat Joe Crowley against Republican Jim Dillon.
Both have immediate family ties to Ireland, both take a keen interest in Irish culture, history and Northern Ireland. Both men want to win. The scene appears set for a political Donnybrook leading up to election day, Nov. 3.
“I expect to be the next congressman for the 7th district. Mine is not a fringe candidacy,” a confident Jim Dillon told the Echo.
Dillon is critical of the manner in which Crowley has emerged to lead the Democrats — chosen to succeed him by outgoing seven-term representative for the Queens/Bronx district Tom Manton.
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“Walter McCaffrey has real reason to be upset,” said Dillon, referring to the long-serving and popular City Council member from the Woodside/Long Island City area.
Dillon, a retired State Health Department official who currently works in the corporate security business, is a relative novice in the political game although he did chair a community planning board.
But he sees the upcoming election as something of a turning point, one that will signal the start of the race “to see who the next generation of Irish-American leaders are.”
“We do need an Irish presence in this city,” Dillon said.
That outcome would appear certain in the 7th, although the voters will be the ones to decide whether the Irish name representing them is actually Dillon or Crowley.
The 7th District is strongly rooted in Democratic party traditions as evidenced by Tom Manton’s string of wins. But that doesn’t faze Dillon.
“A lot of the voters are Reagan Democrats and I believe that I have a great chance of attracting their support,” he said.
Meanwhile, Manton’s resignation announcement, which drew criticism of his record in a New York times editorial, has prompted words of praise from the Washington D.C.-based Irish National Caucus.
“Congressman Manton was not only one of the nicest men in Congress, but he was absolutely first class on all Irish issues. . . . Tom made a magnificent contribution to getting the U.S. to stand up for justice and peace in Ireland. He will be sorely missed,” INC President Fr. Sean McManus said last week.
“The pain of losing Congressman Manton is lessened by the fact that his likely successor will be Assemblyman Joe Crowley . . . another outstanding Irishman and I know he will continue Tom’s legacy on Irish affairs.”