Elizabeth Holtzman '62 plans to challenge Rep. Emanuel Celler (D-N.Y.) -- the dean of Congress -- in the New York Democratic primary on June 20.
Holtzman yesterday accused the 84 year old Celler of ignoring the problems of Brooklyn's Tenth District, which he has represented for the past 50 years. She cited education, housing and health care as the major areas in which Celler has failed his constituents.
Holtzman will soon leave her job at the Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison law firm in New York City and begin campaigning fulltime. She said she plans to talk to voters at subway stops, supermarkets, coffee klatches and in their homes.
"People care very much that he's not around, that he's taking them for granted," Holtzman said of Celler. "His longevity itself has created a tremendous dissatisfaction within the district. He has no office here -- his statement that his home is his office is a joke."
Celler Not Worried
Celler, who is chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee and seems fairly entrenched in the district, is apparently unworried about Holtzman's challenge.
"I never heard of her," Celler said in a New York Post interview. As far as I'm concerned she's a nonentity.... I don't know anything about this lady. She doesn't exist, as far as I'm concerned."
But Holtzman, a former assistant to Mayor John V. Lindsay and current Democratic State Committeewoman, is not entering the primary as an electoral exercise.
"I'm going to win," she said. "I wouldn't ask people to put their time and energy on this if I didn't think I was going to win." Holtzman is Celler's sole opponent, and winning the Democratic primary virtually guarantees election in November from the heavily Democratic Tenth District.
Holtzman has been endorsed by her own assemblyman. Melvin Miller (44th A.D.), and by Antonio G. Olivieri '63 (66th A.D.) in Manhattan. She said she expects to have strong support from Democratic reform clubs, young people, and women.
Although she was unwilling to classify herself in the same league with Reps. Shirley Chisholm (D-N.Y.) and Bella Abzug (D-N.Y.)--both of whom are very outspoken and somewhat flamboyant women--Holtzman did say she is as liberal as anyone in the House on peace and military appropriations, housing and education.
Holtzman was born in Brooklyn and attended Abraham Lincoln High School before entering Radcliffe. She graduated magna cum laude in American History and went on to receive a L.L.B. from the Law School in 1965
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Elizabeth HoltzmanAs a student at Radcliffe College, Elizabeth Holtzman ’62. who would later go on to hold some of the highest offices in New York government, had her first taste of political organizing.