CB3 Chair Gigi Li Will Challenge Rajkumar For District Leader (Updated)
The campaign for district leader in Lower Manhattan just got more interesting. While an official announcement has not yet been made, Community Board 3 Chairperson Gigi Li has decided to take on Jenifer Rajkumar, the incumbent. The contest could serve as a preview of a potential campaign to replace Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, should he choose to step down or be forced into retirement following his federal corruption trial.
Last night, political activist Zella Jones sent out an email invitation for a reception next week to introduce Li as a candidate for district leader in the 65th Assembly District, Part C. The “Friends of Gigi Li” event is being hosted by Jones, a Noho resident, Antony Wong, a leader of Community Board 2 and co-chair of the Chinatown Working Group; and Ken Paskar, the vice president of Lower Manhattan Democrats, a political club.
Rajkumar, who lives in the Financial District, announced her re-election campaign last month at City Hall with a sizable group of political supporters. She was endorsed by U.S. Representatives Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler, as well as New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Manhattan County Leader Keith Wright. Rajkumar unsuccessfully took on City Council member Margaret Chin in 2013, but pulled in over 40% of the vote. Li, a Chinatown resident, campaigned vigorously for Chin and has been viewed as a potential candidate for the District 1 Council seat in the future. Chin is expected to run for a third term.
District leaders serve as liaisons between the general public and elected officials and help coordinate elections, but they have little authority. The position can, however, serve as a launching pad for people with greater political ambitions. Since Silver’s arrest earlier this year, there’s been a great deal of speculation about the future of his Assembly seat, which the former Lower east Side power broker has held since 1974. His trial is set to begin November 2. While none of them has said anything definitive in public, Rajkumar, Li, as well as Rajkumar’s fellow district leader, Paul Newell, are all positioning themselves for a potential campaign.
This month, Li will very likely be re-elected to a fourth term as chairperson of Community Board 3. She was challenged for the position last year by Chad Marlow, but no one stepped forward during the nomination process in the past month to run against Li this time around. At the May meeting of CB3, Rajkumar took a turn at the microphone, telling members of the board that she is eager to help advocate for issues on the Lower East Side.
Li, the first Asian woman to lead Community Board 3, is director of the Neighborhood Family Services Coalition.
UPDATE 5:32 p.m. Here’s a sattement Li put out a short time ago:
Lower Manhattan residents deserve a district leader with a powerful voice, genuine leadership experience and the will to fight for the community every single day. I’m proud and excited to be running for Democratic District Leader in the 65th Assembly District, Part C, because I know that together we can make incredible strides and get the real results our community needs. In the coming weeks I’ll be speaking directly with residents across the district about my plan to take on challenges like preserving affordability, tackling the school overcrowding crisis and protecting the authentic, historic character of our neighborhoods. This September, voters in Lower Manhattan will have an important decision to make about who they think can truly get the job done on the issues that matter — and I’m looking forward to it.