Gigi Li Withdraws From District Leader Campaign (Updated 9:23 p.m.)

Gigi Li.

Gigi Li.

Community Board 3 Chairperson Gigi Li has ended her campaign for district leader in the 65th Assembly District, Part C. She made the announcement in a statement released a short time ago.

Li announced in June that she would challenge Jenifer Rajkumar, the incumbent. Supporters of Rajkumar filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court, alleging that Li’s petitions to get on the Sept. 10 Democratic Primary ballot were not only insufficient but that signatures were fraudulently obtained. The lawsuit also implicated staff members of City Council member Margaret Chin, who were helping collect signatures.

Here’s the full statement:

I am deeply grateful to the many Lower Manhattan residents who have so strongly supported my effort to serve the community as a district leader. Unfortunately, I learned today that I did not garner the necessary signatures to qualify for the ballot. I want to be clear that the accusations of fraud are false and played no role in my withdrawal, and I want to thank all of my hardworking volunteers who devoted themselves to the civic process with integrity. While I am disappointed not to be able to serve my community as district leader, I look forward to continuing to proudly serve as chair of Community Board 3, where I will remain passionately committed to improving our neighborhoods. That commitment will never end — and I will always use my abilities where they are most needed for the good of our community. I look forward to continuing that work every day.

More to come…

UPDATE 9:23 p.m. We asked Jenifer Rajkumar for her reaction. This is her emailed statement:

It is my great honor and privilege to be re-elected as your District Leader. I will continue to serve our neighborhood with dedication, energy, and passion. I would like to thank my supporters from the Lower East Side, to Battery Park City, to SoHo, to Chinatown for the movement we built together. I would also like to thank Congressman Jerry Nadler, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, NYC Public Advocate Letitia James, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and Manhattan County Leader Keith Wright for their incredible support. My focus remains fighting for my constituents everyday to keep our neighborhoods affordable, create quality education for our children, and transform local government into a platform for innovation and inspiration. There is a lot of work to be done and I am ready to keep working for you.

More reaction from Rajkumar’s political club. Jeanne Wilcke, president of Downtown Independent Democrats (DID), said:

Once again, the Downtown Independent Democrats prove that deep roots in the community, and the competence to organize them, matter. Getting 500 Democrats out of more than 13,000 in the district to sign a petition may not be a high bar – but it appears even with the help of city council staffers Ms. Li was not up to the task. In addition, given the gravity of the allegations against Ms. Li  brought up in the challenge to her petitions, it was prudent for Ms Li to step aside. We look forward to two more years of Jenifer Rajkumar’s leadership.

Sean Sweeney, another DID leader, added:

Of course Gigi Li will deny her election petitions were riddled with some 800 fraudulent signatures.  Why would she willingly admit to such a crime? Instead, I challenge her to sit down with me and a reporter, and go over the multiple photos and videos we have of the underage children that Li enlisted to collect signatures for herself.  It is unacceptable that she chose to use children from our community for her fraudulent scheme. Would Ms. Li care to explain the photograph we will produce of a teenage boy collecting signatures on a petition for her, yet that petition being eventually signed off by Margaret Chin’s Chief of Staff,  Ms.Yume Kitasei? Would she also care to address the 50 signatures – all in the same handwriting – “witnessed” by one of her petitioners?  Fifty forged signatures that she somehow never noticed when submitting them to the Board of Elections! In light of this fraud, I call upon Gigi Li to step down as Chair of Community Board 3.

A bit of background for anyone reading this who doesn’t follow downtown politics closely. Rajkumar, with backing from DID, unsuccessfully challenged Margaret Chin in the 2013 City Council election. There’s no shortage of bad blood lingering from that contentious campaign. Chin was an enthusiastic supporter of Li’s bid for district leader. We have contacted Chin’s office about the accusations made in the lawsuit regarding her staff. We’ll let you know if she replies.

One other note. A local group that has been at odds with Gigi Li, the Lower East Side Dwellers, put out a news release of its own tonight. It offered an “overview” of the petition controversy and a statement of support for Rajkumar:  

…we have always been able to count on our District Leader Jenifer Rajkumar to roll up her sleeves and help the residents of Hell Square. We will continue to work with her and all of our elected officials to make this a more livable and equitable city for everyone.

21 comments to Gigi Li Withdraws From District Leader Campaign (Updated 9:23 p.m.)

  • Jack Suarez

    Her statement is unadulterated nonsense and knowingly false. The fraud was documented in photos and videos and she knows it. She was upt o her eyeballs in it and she should have the courage to admit what she did. That’s leadership and that’s integrity. Disgraceful.

  • TheMysteryTramp

    I bet she is very relieved.

    If the fraud trial proceeded, Gigi Li and her petitioners would have been cross-examined regarding who encouraged her to run, who organized her campaign, and who supplied the petitioners. Mind you, at least three of them work for Margaret Chin.

    Since all roads lead to Chin, Gigi must be glad not having to discuss her mentor.

  • Lesgirl

    If these allegations are true then GiGi a chairperson of Community Board 3 and Margaret Chin a sitting council member participating in producing false affidavit.. This is a serious offense and should be looked in to.

  • Lesgirl

    Let us not jump to conclusion, let us see more evidence.
    Sean can you share with us what you have.

  • Jack Suarez

    No one is jumping to conclusions, believe me. Sweeney has seen the evidence. It’s conclusive. Let’s stop kidding ourselves. This is the way Chin, Li and their cronies have always done business. They are shocked to learn that they got caught and even more shocked that Jenifer Rajkumar had the guts and the resources to expose them and destroy them. Their idea of “collective petitioning” as they call it is a total fraud on all of us. It’s about time this all is brought to light and these people are removed form elected office once and for all. The photos and video should be released and Li should resign from CB3 and be prosecuted. It’s finally enough and it’s time to clean up this mess. Margaret Chin is a complete embarrassment and she just got totally crushed by the Rajkumar camp. Arrogance and stupidity and corruption finally exposed.

  • Downtown Activist

    “If any of these allegations are true:” Consider the source: Rajkumar, Wilcke, Sweeney. Scalawags all. They pull this trick every Primary season – accuse, knife and run. Does anyone remember their candidate Pete Gleason? But let’s look at the bright side, now Jennifer is backed into serving as a District Leader where she can do little harm and we don’t have to listen to her hollow claims of experience for the NYS Assembly. Whew!

  • ANewDayontheLES

    Gigi Li had no choice but to withdraw. CM Chin along with her Chief of Staff, Yume Kitasei would have been implicated in election fraud had Li pursued her bid for District Leader. It is this simple. Chin needs this all to to go away. Li did what she was told like always.

    While Jenifer Rajkumar ran a well-organized, above-the-board campaign, Chin/Li were playing dirty Lower East Side politics banking, like in the past, that they wouldn’t be caught. Oh, how wrong they were!

    Jenifer Rajkumar has proven to be a formidable political force. While Chin/Li clutched the coattails of their fallen leader Silver, Rajkumar built a ground game solidifying support from citizens across the district and among the elected officials.

    Li, if she were smart, would step down from CB3 and distance herself from the Silver /Chin stronghold at CB3. She needs to take time to reevaluate what she believes and to grow her conviction. This is the only chance her political career can be salvaged. Right now not many people respect her or believe in her.

  • DowntownLiz

    “Something is happening and you don’t know what it is, do you, Mister Jones?”
    Bob Dylan got that one right, didn’t he, Ms. Jones?

    O, Zellous one, how do you find time from shilling for NYU and the NoHo developers to defend Li? Actually, not defending Li, for her lies and fraud have no defense. Instead, as is your style, you obfuscate and divert, by attacking true community activists.

    Thanks for bringing up past election frauds that have plagued the LES for decades. Notice how they involve candidates YOU support. I’ll link to them, with lo-down’s permission, and let the readers decide your merit.

    Like the time YOUR political club collected signatures of DEAD PEOPLE on the petitions against Rajkumar in 2011 =

    Or real activists’ valiant role demonstrating improper use of a 501(c)(3) charity in collecting signatures in 2009 for YOUR candidate against Pete Gleason, whom you unilaterally besmirched here.

    Such fraud and corruption has been going on for decades on the LES

    But you don’t care about the truth, do you? Slinging mud and collecting checks from NYU and NoHo developers is your true forté, isn’t it?

  • Jack Suarez

    Are you in complete denial or just blind and stupid?!? Do you honsestly believe Li pulled out immediately because she was short some signatures at the BOE and that she and Chin walked away from this stupid vendetta with their tails between their legs while believing they could beat the fraud charges?? Wake up. No one is knifing Li/Chin except themselves, and they know exactly what they did. You can be certain that no one is running away, least of all Jenifer Rajkumar, who just very elegantly and with a smile drove a stake through the hearts of Ms. Li and her Chin-like cronies and made them look like the clueless amateurs they are. They still don’t know what hit them and neither do you. This isn’t going away anytime soon and a full inquiry is in order. You can rant and scream and play victim all you want Oh “Activist” but it’s all hollow nonsense and everyone here knows it. It’s time for Gigi Li to stand up and confront this and admit publicly what she did. It’s going to get way, way worse for her if she doesn’t. The evidence of her fraud is still out there in photos and videos and a lot of people will get hurt needlessly if Li doesn’t address this now. This isn’t a game and she gets no free pass. Neither do you, moron.

  • Downtown Activist

    Poppycock. All your references are flawed. Good luck with your vendetta.

  • Joey

    Chicken’s have come home to roost!

  • Steven Lee

    I think the discussion has moved past the point of whether the allegations are true and arrived at the point of what is to be done about it. This isn’t about which candidate is preferred….the election is over. What matters is whether we should permit this sort of misconduct to carry no penalty. I don’t think we should. I have no great desire to see a young woman’s career ruined. She may have something to offer in the future. But whatever we call this–fraud, corruption, dishonesty, etc.—it cannot pass wthout consequence. If it does, what will anyone have learned and what progress will have been made? The only lesson will be that nothing has changed no matter what. All of us know, no matter our political allegiance, that the time has come to clean up lower Manhattan politics. Results may be reached in small steps, but steps must be taken. So we must take this step. Ms. Li should be suspended as Chair of CB3 pending an inquiry. Others should investigate the complicity of the Chin staff and of those who gave false witness statements. Appropriate and reasoned punishment should be meted out. Ms. Li should not run for office again anytime soon. If careers are interrupted and lives disrupted, that is an unfortunate result. But a necessary one. This was a very local elelction, but much is at stake in how we react. Let’s get this right.

  • RoBow

    Another Li screw-up? How many times does she get to make CB3 look bad before something is done? The head is rotting, and we know how that effects things down the body. A change needs to be made at the top.

  • JEng

    Is there a Chinatown contact person to help new immigrants find housing or get on the waiting list at NYCHA or do they go through the “associations”? Because that is a needed service. I don’t know how my idiot half aunt got fast tracked into one of those yellow buildings by the Williamsburg bridge but many Chinese want to stay in Manhattan and pay regulated prices but other than the regulated owners, they seem to have no way of getting that for themselves.

    Chinese people have now paid the price for being characterized a certain way. Where is the payoff for the working class community then?

    You put a few of them in the spotlight – made us look a certain way – made us look anti Black – but what does that do for regular folks except increase muggings and store robberies?

  • JEng

    where are these photos and videos? youtube? She says she didn’t do it.

  • JEng

    someone claims someone else saw the evidence – where is it?

  • JEng

    Are you claiming that Margaret Chin was responsible for all of this and not just a willing figurehead? All that funding that courthouse support all of that came from HER? ALONE?

  • JEng

    who was her lawyer and who paid the fees?

  • JEng

    they didn’t need to lie – they could have gotten thousands of Chinese signatures and not just from AAFE clients.

  • JEng

    I don’t think the Chinese community regard her negatively yet.