Yuh-Line Niou Wins Democratic Primary in 65th Assembly District

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Yuh-Line Niou came out victorious tonight in the battle for Sheldon Silver’s former Assembly seat. In the Democratic Primary, she beat out five other candidates to win the race in the 65th Assembly District. Among those defeated tonight was Alice Cancel, who won a special election in April to serve out the remainder of Silver’s current term.

Here are preliminary results from the State Board of Elections:

  • Yuh-Line Niou: 2742 votes, 31.55%
  • Jenifer Rajkumar: 1612 votes, 18.55%
  • Paul Newell: 1381, 15.89%
  • Alice Cancel: 1069 votes, 12.30%
  • Don Lee: 984 votes, 11.32%
  • Gigi Li: 827 votes, 9.51%

(A total of 8692 votes cast; 43094 registered Democrats in 65AD)

Niou and her supporters celebrated a hard-fought victory at Hotel Chantelle, the club on Ludlow Street.  “It took us two tries,” she exclaimed, in brief remarks. Back in the spring, she ran unsuccessfully on the Working Families Party line after the local Democratic County Committee chose Cancel as its nominee.

Niou continued, “This victory silences the voice of hate, of racism, of division — desperate pleas of a clubhouse and a so-called progressive who reverted to Trump-style attacks… We are smarter. We are better than those who claim to be Democrats but run like Republicans. We need unity and I will provide that unity in the Assembly.”

[These remarks were an apparent reference to an anonymous flyer that surfaced during the final week of the campaign. The flyer insinuated that Niou was being supported by politicians seeking to “pander to the Chinese vote.”]

Niou is virtually assured of winning the General Election in November (the 65AD is overwhelmingly Democratic). Her victory is precedent-setting. She joins Ron Kim, Niou’s former boss, as only the second Asian-American in the State Legislature. Tonight, Niou said, “We are a caucus of two, finally… I am humbled to be the first Asian American to represent Chinatown or any part of Manhattan in the State Legislature.”

Niou thanked key supporters, including New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, State Sen. Daniel Squadron and Assembly member Kim. She also expressed her gratitude to the Working Families Party and local supporters, such as former City Council member Allan Gerson and Chinatown leaders, including Virginia Kee, Justin Yu, Chris Kui and Chung Seto.

“Now we begin the hard work of governing,” said Niou. “We live in a time of voter dissatisfaction with the status quo. We need to work hard to give the voters the change that they deserve.”

Niou, 33, was formerly chief of staff to Assemblyman Kim, who represents sections of Queens. She came to New York in 2010 to take part in the National Urban Fellows Program. Previously, Niou worked as a legislative assistant in Washington State and as a lobbyist for the Statewide Poverty Action Network. She lives in the Financial District with her fiance (the wedding was delayed due to the assembly campaigns).

Sheldon Silver held the Lower Manhattan seat from 1976 until his conviction on federal corruption charges last year.  Cancel had the backing of the Truman Democratic Club, Silver’s political organization. She is already raising the possibility of challenging Niou in a couple of years. Here’s a statement Cancel released a short time ago:

This has been an incredible journey, one that could not have been done without the unwavering support of my husband, my family, and my supporters. While I am disappointed that I will not be able to continue to work as your representative in the New York State Assembly, that certainly does not mean the task is done. I will never stop fighting to improve the quality-of-life of the community or stop bringing attention to the issues most important to us: affordable housing, local control of education, over development, and rejuvenating Chinatown small businesses. I was honored to have been challenged by some of the most knowledgeable and dedicated candidates, who brought an incredible amount of talent and earnestness to this campaign. A crowded primary points to a robust and thriving democracy, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in such a diverse and devoted field of candidates. I congratulate Yuh-Line on a hard-fought victory. I look forward to working with her on continuing to improve the lives of the residents of the 65th Assembly District. This district has been my home for 30 years, I remain as it’s District Leader and I know you will see me again in two years.

More reaction to come tomorrow.