Campaigns Angle For Best Position As Democrats Prepare to Pick Silver’s Successor

Yuh-Line Niou in Chinatown last week.

Yuh-Line Niou in Chinatown last week.

As we have been reporting throughout the week, Manhattan Democrats will meet this afternoon on the Lower East Side to pick Assemblyman Sheldon Silver’s likely successor. Members of the Democratic County Committee in the 65th Assembly District will gather at the Manny Cantor Center at 2 p.m. to select a nominee for an April 19 special election. In the lead-up to the big vote this weekend, there’s been a flurry of activity from candidates maneuvering for position.

Last night, Yuh-Line Niou announced a new endorsement, from the Working Families Party. In a statement, the organization’s New York director, Bill Lipton said:

While this was a tough decision, a majority of WFP leaders decided… that she is the right choice to provide the strong, progressive leadership the working families of the 65th district need. New Yorkers can count on Yuh-Line to be a strong advocate for affordable housing, for immigrants and seniors, and for efforts to clean up our corrupt campaign finance system. We proudly support her.”

Niou, chief of staff to Assemblyman Ron Kim of Flushing, last week received the endorsement of city Comptroller Scott Stringer. She’s also being backed by the United Democratic Organization in Chinatown, one of four political clubs which hold sway over the County Committee.

The New York Post today is highlighting a $50,000 loan Niou made to herself. We first reported this as part of a roundup of the most recent campaign finance filings. Here’s the tabloid’s take:

A Democratic candidate for disgraced Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s seat has loaned herself $50,000 despite earning little more than that as a state worker. Yuh-Line Niou, who is paid $75,000 as a staffer for Assemblyman Ron Kim, gave herself the loan on Jan. 11. Niou, 32, insisted to The Post that the loan was her own money and that she had saved for years.

Earlier, the Post floated allegations that Niou might not meet the 5-year residency requirement to run for the Assembly seat. Her campaign called the accusations “bull” after rival candidate Jenifer Rajkumar raised the possibility of a lawsuit if Niou is selected by the County Committee today.

In other campaign developments, candidate Don Lee released a statement saying he would not participate in this afternoon’s “undemocratic process” to choose a nominee. Lee criticized the governor’s decision to call a  special election rather than to hold the office open until September’s primary election. The statement read, in part:

Despite the best effort of the County Committee staff to make presentable and respectable Sunday’s selection of the Democratic nominee for the special election, it remains a selection by a chosen few and not by the people. A campaign for public elected office should be about public service and the public must be involved… While I have been active in working with local elected officials in my activism… I was not involved in party politics per se. In a contest controlled by party operatives and those who pull their strings, average citizens such as myself are at a complete disadvantage.

In addition to Niou, Lee and Rajkumar, other contenders for the seat include: Alice Cancel, Paul Newell and Gigi Li. Cancel is considered a leading candidate today because she has the backing of Lower East Side Democrats, her home political club.

All eyes will be on the Truman Club, Sheldon Silver’s political organization. Its members could very well push one candidate to victory. The nominee will only emerge after gaining the support of 50% (+1) of the 186-member body. The meeting is open to the public. The Manny Cantor Center is located at 197 East Broadway.

Silver was, of course, forced out of office after a federal jury found him guilty on corruption charges.