Campaign to Succeed Sheldon Silver: New Candidates, Campaign Cash

Christopher Marte.

Christopher Marte.

We’re still waiting for Governor Cuomo to announce whether he’ll call a special election to replace Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, who was forced from office after his conviction on federal corruption charges. As previously reported, a number of candidates are jockeying for a possible run in the 65th Assembly District. A few more details about those contenders have emerged from this week’s campaign finance filings.

First off, a new candidate has notified the State Board of Elections that he’s establishing a campaign committee. He’s Christopher Marte, a lifelong Lower East Side resident who is planning to run as an independent. In a conversation the other day, Marte told us he’s already spent a lot of time on the streets meeting and reconnecting with neighbors. The son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Marte received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Long Island University, worked for investment firms and coached basketball at MS. 131. Marte plans to run a grass roots campaign.

That makes eight candidates who are potentially running for the seat, either in a special election (perhaps April 19) or in the regularly scheduled state elections this coming November. Here’s what records show regarding campaign fundraising to date.

Yuh-Line Niou, currently Assemblyman Ron Kim’s chief of staff, collected around $83,000 in the filing period and has a closing balance of $133,180. That amount includes a $50,000 loan she made to herself on January 11. Niou is being backed by the United Democratic Organization, a political club in Chinatown. Her campaign is being managed by Chung Seto, a veteran political fundraiser.

Paul Newell, a district leader, shows a campaign balance of $68,720 after raising about $31,600 in the filing period.  Newell unsuccessfully ran against Silver in 2008 and has been anticipating another run for the seat for many months.

Jenifer Rajkumar, also a district leader, raised about $30,250 in the past six months and has a closing balance of $83,463. Rajkumar has also been anticipating a campaign for the Assembly seat for quite some time.

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Clockwise from upper left: Paul Newell, Jenifer Rajkumar, Yuh-Line Niou, John Bal, Alice Cancel, Gigi Li.

Two other candidates, Gigi Li and Don B. Lee, have registered campaign committees with the Board of Elections but do not show contributions as of yet.  We just received an advisory indicating that Don Lee will announce his candidacy Monday in Chinatown. Gigi Li, chairperson of Community Board 3, has not officially entered the race, although she signaled earlier this month that a campaign is very likely. Two likely contenders, Alice Cancel and John Bal, told us this week they’re waiting for an announcement from Cuomo before establishing campaign committees.

There is, of course, a lot of uncertainty in the 65th Assembly District. If the governor calls a special election, candidates would be chosen by Democratic and Republican party insiders at the County Committee level. The winner of the special election would then run again in a September primary election and the November general election.

The race for campaign cash has begun and soon the quest for endorsements will kick in, as well. Recently, Rajkumar picked up support from the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club. She was also endorsed by a coalition of Latino activists, including tenant leaders at the Seward Park Extension and Rafael Hernandez Houses, both public housing complexes.