Yuh-Line Niou Elected to Serve Lower East Side in State Assembly

Photo courtesy of Yuh-Line Niou's campaign.

Photo courtesy of Yuh-Line Niou’s campaign.

While we’re still reeling from last night’s shocker in the presidential election, the results in local races were a lot more predictable. Yuh-Line Niou was elected to serve the Lower East Side in Albany. She will succeed Sheldon Silver in the 65th Assembly District, after winning the Democratic Primary in September.

According to the State Board of Elections, Niou was the choice of 67% of those voting yesterday in Lower Manhattan. She collected 27,679 votes, while Republican Bryan Jung was the choice of 13%. He pulled in 5411 votes. The 65AD seat is currently held by Alice Cancel, who won a special election in April but lost the primary election earlier this fall. Cancel ran yesterday on the Women’s Equality Party line, attracting just under 5% (2031 votes). Manny Cavaco of the Green Party picked up 3%, or 1273 votes.

Niou is a resident of the Financial District and formerly served as chief of staff to Assemblyman Ron Kim of Queens. Her election is precedent-setting. Niou will join her former boss (Kim is a Korean American) as only the second person of Asian descent in the New York State Legislature. Silver, convicted last year on federal corruption charges, served the Lower East Side in Albany since 1976.

Niou celebrated her victory last night with supporters at Hotel Chantelle, the Ludlow Street night club.

In other political news, Daniel Squadron coasted to victory last night in the 26th Senate District (he ran unopposed). Squadron represents Lower Manhattan and sections of Brooklyn. Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh easily defeated his Republican challenger, pulling in 74% of the vote.

At the federal level, Congresswomen Nydia Velazquez and Carolyn Maloney were easily re-elected.

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


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.


Vote Until 9 p.m. in Today’s Primary Election to Pick Sheldon Silver’s Successor

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It’s Primary Day in New York today. On the Lower East Side, registered Democrats will go to the polls, choosing a replacement for former State Assemblyman Sheldon Silver.

You can vote until 9 p.m. To find your polling place and to look at a sample ballot, click here.

Alice Cancel won a special election in April and has been serving out the remainder of Silver’s current term in the 65th Assembly District. The election was made necessary after the former speaker of the assembly was found guilty on federal corruption charges. She faces five challengers today. They include: Yuh-Line Niou, Gigi Li, Jenifer Rajkumar, Don Lee and Paul Newell. Given the Democratic Party’s dominance in Lower Manhattan, today’s contest is far more important than the General Election in November.

You’ll notice another contest on the ballot today. Dodge Landesman, Christopher Marte and Lee Berman are running for a State Committee member position. As you might recall, the members of the Democratic State Committee in the 65th Assembly District chose Cancel to run in the special election this past spring. Most voters overlook these low level elections, but it was proved this year that the state coomiittee can have a major influence.

We’ll have election returns when they come in this evening.


New York Times: Ethnicity a Factor in Battle For Silver’s Assembly Seat

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The campaign to fill Sheldon Silver’s former seat in the New York State Assembly is attracting quite a bit of citywide attention. This afternoon, the New York Times offers an overview of the six-way race.

As you probably know by now, the Democratic Primary takes place Sept. 13 in the 65th Assembly District. The story plays up the district’s ethnic diversity as a potentially decisive factor:

Anchored by the oldest Chinatown in New York City, the Manhattan district is one of the city’s most ethnically diverse and the candidates reflect that mix: Three were born in Asia — two in Hong Kong, one in Taiwan. One is the child of South Asian immigrants. One came to New York from Puerto Rico as a child. One has roots in the area’s longstanding Jewish immigrant population. Ethnicity is not always a factor in elections, but in a primary that could be decided by hundreds of votes, it very well could be, said Doug Muzzio, a professor of political affairs at Baruch College. “In a close race it can make the difference,” Mr. Muzzio said. “I’m talking about ethnic identity politics, straight out.”

You can read the full story here.

(Audio) 65th Assembly District Candidate Forum

Photo courtesy of Henry Street Settlement.

Photo courtesy of Henry Street Settlement.

On Sept. 13, Democrats competing to replace Sheldon Silver in Albany will participate in a primary election. Five challengers are taking on Alice Cancel, who won a special election this past spring in the 65th Assembly District. At a candidate forum on Tuesday at Henry Street Settlement, she was joined on stage by Don Lee, Gigi Li, Jenifer Rajkumar, Yuh-Line Niou and Paul Newell. You can listen to the full audio recording here, or check out DNA Info’s recap of the event.

Six Candidates File For Democratic Primary in 65th AD

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(Clockwise from upper left) Alice Cancel, Don Lee, Gigi Li, Jenifer Rajkumar, Yuh-Line Niou, Paul Newell.

It’s time for the second act.

In April, Alice Cancel won a special election and is now serving out the remainder of former Lower East Side Assemblyman Sheldon Silver’s term in Albany. Now comes the regularly scheduled election cycle to replace Silver, who was convicted last year on federal corruption charges.

In the past week, six candidates submitted petition signatures for the Democratic Primary ballot. The election takes place Sept. 13. Challenge notices were filed against Gigi Li and Don Lee. It remains to be seen whether those challenges will actually materialize.

The candidates who filed with the Board of Elections for the race in the 65th Assembly District include: Alice Cancel (the incumbent), community activist Don Lee, former Community Board 3 Chairperson Gigi Li, local District Leader Paul Newell, Yuh-Line Niou (former chief of staff to Assemblyman Ron Kim) and District Leader Jenifer Rajkumar. It will take some time before the certification process is finished and the Board of Elections finalizes the ballot.

Also last week, there was a deadline to file campaign finance reports. Here’s a rundown of the filings in the 65th AD. The report covers the period from January of this year through mid-July.

Alice Cancel
“No activity statement filed”

Don Lee
Contributions: $156,150
(Including two payments from the candidate himself totaling $50,000)
Expenses: $113,000
Balance: $42,621

Gigi Li
Contributions: $105,670
Expenses: $25,510
Balance: $70,159

Jenifer Rajkumar
Contributions: $137,402
Expenses: $17,600
Balance: $204,146

Yuh-Line Niou
Contributions: $52,415
Expenses: $105,000
(Including an $83,000 payment to the Working Families Party)
Balance: $73,351

Paul Newell
Contributions: $91,513
Expenses: $65,647
Balance: $94,586

One note concerning these numbers. The fact that Alice Cancel did not file a finance report is raising a few eyebrows amongst her rivals. As the incumbent, she has certain built-in advantages. In the special election, she overcame a spirited challenge from Yuh-Line Niou, who boasted a much larger campaign account. This time around, in a six-way race, financial resources will likely matter a lot more. John Quinn, Cancel’s husband, told us this week that several fundraisers are scheduled. He’s confident they’ll have the money to stay competitive.


Council Member Rosie Mendez Endorses Paul Newell For State Assembly


State Assembly candidate Paul Newell was endorsed by City Council member Rosie Mendez last week, in his bid to replace Sheldon Silver in Albany.

Supporters huddled on the porch Thursday afternoon as the storm clouds opened up at City Hall. But it didn’t keep Mendez and fellow Council members Ben Kallos and Mark Levine from speaking up for Newell, a district leader for the past seven years.

Mendez said, “I am proud to throw my support behind the only person who had the temerity to run against Speaker Sheldon Silver about 10 years ago. He is not afraid to take on the heavy guns and he will do that again as a member of the Assembly come November. I am going to work every day to help him realize that goal for our district.”

Several candidates are competing in the Democratic Primary, which takes place Sept. 13. Alice Cancel currently holds the office in the 65th Assembly District (she won an April special election). Leading up to the first election, both Mendez and Council member Margaret Chin endorsed Cancel. Mendez’s decision this go-around was expected after her political club, Coalition for a District Alternative (CoDA), voted to back Newell. Chin is supporting Gigi Li, another candidate in the running.

The contenders faced a deadline this past week to submit petition signatures for the September ballot. There was also a fundraising disclosure deadline. We’ll have more about that in the next day or two.

Mendez represents Council District 2, which covers an area mostly above East Houston Street. Silver, of course, was forced from office after his conviction last year on federal corruption charges.

Yuh-Line Niou Announces Candidacy For Assembly Seat

Photo courtesy of: Niou for New York.

Photo courtesy of: Niou for New York.

At Hotel Chantelle on Monday evening, Yuh-Line Niou officially kicked off her campaign for Sheldon Silver’s former seat in the New York State Assembly. She becomes the fifth candidate to formally announce her candidacy ahead of the Democratic Primary in September.

In an April special election, Niou ran on the Working Families Party line and collected more than 6,000 votes. She was defeated by Alice Cancel, the Democratic Party nominee. Cancel was chosen by the local County committee in a controversial selection process. Niou received most of the endorsements from party heavyweights and had a lot more campaign money at her disposal.

Niou lives in Battery Park City with her fiance. She was formerly chief of staff to Assembly member Ron Kim of Queens. We were unable to attend Monday’s Lower East Side event. According to a press release, she told supporters, “We are here tonight because we are ready to finish the job we started back in April. Not surprisingly, Albany has not reformed itself, our schools are still overcrowded, the right of workers to organize and earn fair wages is still under attack, tenants are still being harassed out of their homes and too many families still struggle every day to make ends meet.”

City Comptroller Scott Stringer is endorsing Niou. In a statement, he said, “We are here today to continue our campaign to elect a true progressive Democrat to the State Assembly… We are going to win this race and change the status quo, because Yuh-Line has the right progressive values and the right experience to go to Albany and deliver for downtown.”

Other supporters in attendance included Virginia Kee, Jenny Low and Justin Yu, all activists in the United Democratic Organization, a Chinatown political club.

In addition to Cancel and Niou, Paul Newell, Gigi Li and Jenifer Rajkumar have also announced their candidacies. Don Lee and John Bal are planning to compete in the primary, as well. The candidates right now are in the midst of collecting petition signatures to qualify for the September ballot.

Alice Cancel Settles Into Her New Job as Albany Lawmaker

About five weeks ago, Alice Cancel was sworn in as Sheldon Silver’s replacement in Albany. This week we caught up with the Lower East Side assemblywoman elected to represent the 65th Assembly District for the remainder of Silver’s term.

In a phone interview Tuesday evening, Cancel said she’s skeptical of Mayor de Blasio’s push for permanent control of New York City’s public schools. The current law expires at the end of this month. The governor and assembly speaker have proposed extending mayoral control for three years; Senate Republicans are only want a one year extension.

In her campaign, Cancel said she believed school administrators (and the mayor by extension) were failing to give parents a meaningful role in their childrens’ educations. “Parents need to have a strong voice,” she said, noting that her concerns are unrelated to the current mayor. “What if we have another Rudy Giuliani?” Cancel asked. “We wan’t have permanent control. I would support temporary renewal.”

Another Albany issue of particular local interest is a law approved by the City Council last month instituting a 5 cent fee on plastic bags. City Council member Margaret chin was a prime sponsor. The State Senate passed legislation prohibiting the measure and the assembly was poised to do the same. [City Council and state legislative leaders are now talking about revisions.] Cancel said environmental issues are important to her and she’d like to see a version of the legislation implemented. But in the face of intense industry lobbying, some members have called the fee a tax on the poor. Cancel said she planned to talk with Council member Chin about potential changes in the law.

Finally, Cancel said she remains hopeful that “something will get done” related to stronger ethics rules for lawmakers before the current session ends. Albany lawmakers and the governor have been under fire for failing to make the issue a priority in the aftermath of Sheldon Silver’s conviction and the conviction of former Senate leader Dean Skelos. The governor’s latest proposal is not being warmly received by government watchdog groups. Cancel said there are a lot of ideas on the table. Lawmakers, she said, are well aware their constituents are unhappy about the lack of progress on ethics reform. “We want to pass legislation,” she added.

Cancel was appointed to four committees: Banks, Cities, Housing and Social Services. She’s established a district office at 250 Broadway (across from City Hall). Monica Guardiola, a longtime adviser and former staffer in Silver’s assembly office, was appointed chief of staff. Cancel said she will be conducting interviews for two additional staff positions tomorrow. If you’d like to contact her offices, you can click here.

Cancel is gearing up for the Democratic Primary, which is scheduled to take place Sept. 13. It will be a crowded field competing in the heavily Democratic District for the seat in the 65th Assembly District. There were persistent rumors that Cancel would not be running in the primary. But she reiterated once again this week that she has every intention of fighting to keep the seat she won six weeks ago.

Paul Newell Wins Downtown Independent Democrats’ Endorsement For Assembly Seat

paul newell 2

Newell announced his candidacy in Straus Square last month.

In a crowded race to fill Sheldon Silver’s former seat in the 65th Assembly District, each candidate is looking for any advantage. One of the contenders, Paul Newell, got a boost last night from Downtown Independent Democrats (DID), his home political club.

Eight candidates are planning to participate in the Democratic Primary on Sept. 13. Between June 7-July 13, they’ll be fanning out across the district in a quest for petition signatures to qualify for the ballot. Members of the four political clubs in the 65th AD are key foot soldiers in that process.

Each of the candidates previously appeared before DID to discuss their qualifications and answer questions. Last night, in a meeting held at St. Anthony’s Church on Sullivan Street, club members talked up the pros and cons of Newell and Jenifer Rajkumar, who also calls DID her home club. The two rivals are both district leaders with ardent defenders within the group. In the end, those who spoke for Newell won the day.  He garnered 61% of the votes compared with 33% for Rajkumar and 6% for Yuh-Line Niou. Candidates Alice Cancel, Gigi Li, Don Lee, Chris Marte and John Bal received no votes.

Cancel won an April 19 special election to fill the remainder of Silver’s term. He was ejected from the assembly after being convicted of corruption charges last November.


Paul Newell Launches Campaign For State Assembly Seat

paul newell 1

Just last month, voters elected Alice Cancel to serve the remainder of Sheldon Silver’s two-year term in the New York State Assembly. But a new political campaign is upon us. On Sunday, two candidates vying for the seat in the 65th Assembly District staged dueling kickoff events. They’re both planning to compete in the Democratic Primary, which takes place Sept. 13. We have separate stories this afternoon on the announcements from Paul Newell and Gigi Li.

Newell huddled with supporters in front of the former Jewish Daily Forward Building in Straus Square, a center of left-leaning activism for decades. “It was right here,” he said, “in this building that the Jewish Daily Forward cried out for justice for generations of Lower east Siders dreaming the American dream.”

Newell is a district leader who lives in Masaryk Towers, the Mitchell Lama Cooperative. He unsuccessfully challenged Sheldon Silver in 2008, criticizing the former speaker’s refusal to disclose outside income and Albany’s entrenched political culture. Over the weekend, he picked up the endorsement of CoDA, a political club just on the outskirts of the assembly district.

Newell emphasized his local roots (born and raised in Lower Manhattan) and said he’s “part of a proud Yiddish activist tradition here on the Lower East Side.” He also was not shy about recalling the earlier assembly campaign. “When three men sit in a secret room,” he told supporters, “and write laws for 20-million people, you can guarantee it is not our community that is being heard. Let me be as clear today as I was then.The culture of corruption and failure in Albany must end.”

“The cost of corruption,” said Newell, “is higher rents and higher taxes, overcrowded classrooms and crumbling subways. We can and must do better.” He called the district an “amazing place with an amazing story” that draws strength from its many ethnic, working class communities. Newell said he would be a fighter for all of the district’s diverse neighborhoods. “We are not a passive people in Lower Manhattan,” he explained. “It is not who we are. It is not who we want to be. We stand up. We organize and we demand what we need, not by trading favors with the well-heeled and well-connected but by standing up for our communities.”

At yesterday’s event, several local residents spoke on Newell’s behalf. They included Lee Berman, a board member at the East River Cooperative. “Paul will fight for all of us in Albany,” said Berman, “for quality education, for all of our children, unlike the former representative who only fought for some.” Mathew Quezada, a board member at the Hillman Co-op, also voiced confidence in Newell, arguing that he’s “best suited” to “help out all people within my community.”  Others speaking for the candidate included Eddie Chiu of the Lin Sing Association in Chinatown and Carolyn English, a fellow Masaryk Towers resident.

Besides Newell and Gigi Li, candidates in September will likely include: Yuh-Line Niou, who ran on the Working Families Party line in the April special election; Jenifer Rajkumar, a district leader and attorney; local businessman Don Lee; Lower East Side resident Christopher Marte.; and John Bal, a contender who dropped out of the special election citing a rigged process to select Silver’s successor.

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Gigi Li Kicks Off Campaign For State Assembly Seat

gigi li 1

The lull in the campaign for the 65th Assembly District is over. After Alice Cancel won a special election last month to serve the remainder of Sheldon Silver’s term, attention has shifted to the upcoming Democratic Primary in the fall. We’re publishing separate stories today on the kickoff announcements from two candidates seeking the seat: Paul Newell and Gigi Li.

Li is the outgoing chairperson of Community Board 3 and served as director of the Neighborhood Family Services Coalition. She announced her candidacy yesterday afternoon at an event in Sara D. Roosevelt Park. Li, who was born in Hong Kong, said she chose the location because it’s just steps away from I.S. 131, where she attended the Chinatown YMCA summer camp. Li now serves on the board of the Chinatown YMCA.

“This community means so much to me,” said Li in her opening remarks. She recounted her family history in Lower Manhattan. Her grandfather ran a small business on Bayard Street. Li’s grandmother worked in a garment factory.  “Lower Manhattan has been the first stop for millions of American families over the years and these neighborhoods are changing,” said Li. “But the strength, hard work and tirelessness of the people has not. That is what has allowed us to face a lot of challenges together.”

“My first and most important promise to you,” she said, “is that I will work harder than anyone else in this campaign and, if elected, in the state assembly for this community that I love.”

“In the past four years as your board chair,” Li added, “I have worked to improve this community. We’ve worked together to find smart solutions to real challenges. I have formed strong relationships with leaders throughout Lower Manhattan.”  The candidate said she has a three-pronged platform, which includes expanding social services, investing in youth and education and ‘encouraging smart development.” Li said she wants to see new residential projects that include affordability and community amenities.

Alluding to the expulsion of Sheldon Silver from the assembly after so many years, she said, “this election is incredibly important for us because we’ve lost a very powerful presence in Albany.” But Li said a new assembly member can accomplish a lot through hard work and smart planning. “I have the experience and the dedication to deliver results,” she said.

At the event, Li was endorsed by City council member Margaret Chin. [She had endorsed Alice Cancel in the special election]. “There is so much that (Gigi Li) has done to lead our community,” said Chin, “and it’s not easy because our community is so diverse.” Chin went on to say that Li has “managed to work together with everyone to bring benefits to our community… We should all work very hard to help her win.”  Li also received the endorsement of the Vladeck Houses tenant association and Alysha Lewis-Coleman, head of the tenant association of 10 Stanton St., an affordable housing complex.

Other candidates in September will likely include: Paul Newell, a district leader; Yuh-Line Niou, who ran on the Working Families Party line in the April special election; Jenifer Rajkumar, a district leader and attorney; local businessman Don Lee; Lower East Side resident Christopher Marte.; and John Bal, a contender who dropped out of the special election citing a rigged process to select Silver’s successor.

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Alice Cancel Sworn In as Lower Manhattan Assembly Member

Photo courtesy of Alice Cancel.

Photo courtesy of Alice Cancel.

As of this afternoon, the Lower East Side and other downtown neighborhoods once again have representation in the New York State Assembly. Alice Cancel was sworn in today by Democratic Majority Leader Joseph Morelle.

Sheldon Silver was forced to relinquish a seat he’d held for nearly 40 years this past Nov. 30, immediately after a federal jury found him guilty of corruption charges. Silver will be sentenced tomorrow. Cancel, the Democratic nominee, came out victorious in an April 19 special election in the 65th Assembly District.

Cancel will be introduced to fellow members of the Assembly when the session resumes tomorrow. She’ll serve the remainder of Silver’s term, through the end of this year. There will be a Democratic Primary in September and a General Election in November to determine who takes the seat on a permanent basis.

Follow-up: Alice Cancel Wins Sheldon Silver’s Seat, Fall Campaign Already Underway

Alice Cancel with City Council member Council member Rosie Mendez Tuesday night.

Alice Cancel with City Council member Council member Rosie Mendez Tuesday night.

It’s been three days since Democrat Alice Cancel emerged victorious from the special election in the 65th Assembly District. This morning, we’re taking a closer look at how she prevailed and also at what’s ahead as the battle begins anew for Sheldon Silver’s former legislative seat.

Cancel got around 7300 votes, about one-thousand more than Yuh-Line Niou, her rival running on the Working Families Party line. But now there’s a new campaign to run. At least 6 candidates will be vying in the September Democratic Primary.  Meanwhile, there are some bruised feelings after a contentious election and a need for a little “fence mending” among elected officials and community activists, who found themselves on opposite sides of the political battle.

During the campaign, both the mainstream media and her opponents portrayed Cancel as a puppet of Sheldon Silver, a “hand-picked party hack.” Many elected officials, including State Sen. Daniel Squadron and Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, backed Niou. Even Cancel’s own boss, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, was in Niou’s camp. While Cancel had a big advantage running on the Democratic Party line, she became an underdog and was accused of operating a lackluster campaign. She raised just $5,000, compared with $140,000 for Niou.

Rosie Mendez, Alice Cancel, Margaret Chin.

Council members Rosie Mendez and Margaret Chin were the only prominent elected officials to back Cancel.

On Tuesday evening, City Council member Rosie Mendez, a fervent Cancel supporter, said the campaign was marked by “personal attacks, misinformation (and) outright lies about Alice.” Some of it can just be chalked up to “politics,” said Mendez,” but she added, “One or two people (elected officials) made this really personal. That’s going to be very hard to mend.” The Council member said she was surprised by, “the lengths that the Working Families Party (had) gone to (in order to) elevate the candidacy of Yuh-Line Niou, who has spent very little time in this community (Niou has lived in the district for about two years). That meant something to people at the end of the day.”

The votes were barely counted the other night when Paul Newell, one of the contenders in September’s primary, sent around a sharply worded statement. He linked Cancel to the “Sheldon Silver machine,” but also took aim at Joe Crowley, the Queens Democratic party boss who was accused of meddling in the Lower Manhattan race. Crowley and the “Queens machine’s politics of big money and personal attacks” failed to win the day, Newell asserted, in spite of “dumping hundreds of thousands of special interest dollars on vicious and misleading attack ads.”

This point of view was also expressed by Soho activist Sean Sweeney of the political club, Downtown Independent Democrats (candidates Newell and Jenifer Rajkumar are club leaders). ” I feel that this is a major defeat for the Working Families Party,” he told us on Wednesday, “and the local elected officials who selfishly switched allegiance from their own party to endorse a Queens Machine candidate backed by the Working Families Party.”

Yuh-Line Niou.

Yuh-Line Niou.

For Yuh-Line Niou’s part, she put out a statement — congratulating Cancel — and stating, “We knew that running against the machine, off the Democratic line would be a challenge.” Alluding to the next campaign, she said, “We move on tonight from this party-dominated special election to September’s primary, and I look forward to continuing our vigorous fight to advance our progressive values.”

During the afternoon on Tuesday, Senator Squadron stood outside a polling place on Grand Street, passing out literature for the Niou campaign and urging passersby to vote. Several hours later, as votes came rolling in., he was one of the first people to place a congratulatory call to the assembly member-elect. John Quinn, Cancel’s campaign manager and husband, said Squadron suggested they sit down sometime soon for a post-election conversation.

Squadron and Cancel, now counterparts in the Senate and Assembly, have good reason to work past their differences. But given the looming primary election, politics is likely to take precedence over policy — both in Albany and here in the district for the rest of this year.

Known Democratic candidates in the September race include Paul Newell; Jenifer Rajkumar, a district leader in the Financial District; Gigi Li, chairperson of Community Board 3; and community activists Don Lee and Christopher Marte.

65th assembly district

In the aftermath of the special election, the campaign organizations are sifting through precinct-by-precinct reports for useful takeaways.

Even though she faced a huge financial disadvantage, Cancel and Quinn successfully did what they’ve been doing for years as political operatives in their section of the Lower East Side. They got their loyal supporters — many of them residents of large complexes such as the Vladeck Houses, the Smith Houses and Southbridge Towers — to the polls.

As expected, Niou performed well in Chinatown. She collected 351 votes at Confucius Plaza alone, compared with 139 for Republican Lester Chang and 51 for Cancel. But she also won a lot of support in the Grand Street Cooperatives, Sheldon Silver’s traditional political base.  She had worked hard to gain the backing of reform-minded residents of the co-ops, many of whom are eager for a clean break from the past.

It remains to be seen whether Lester Chang will run again on the Republican Party line. On Tuesday, he came in with just shy of 19% of the vote. Rob Ryan, a campaign spokesman, told us this week that they’d be taking a hard look at the numbers before making a decision. They saw the special election as a unique opportunity and hoped to take advantage of a split vote among Cancel and Niou, both Democrats. Ryan hoped more independents would show up (the NYC GOP spent heavily on direct mail aimed at unaffiliated voters). That didn’t happen.

For the moment, Cancel is focused on finishing out Sheldon Silver’s term in Albany.  On Tuesday, she told supporters, “You elected me and you wanted me to be your representative and to go to Albany to clean up the corruption and that’s what I’m going to do!” On Wednesday, Quinn told us she’ll be in a good position to take a strong stand on ethics reform and other issues because Cancel has no intention of staying in Albany long-term. “She’ll serve one or two terms, and that will be it,” said Quinn.

Alice Cancel Wins Special Election to Succeed Sheldon Silver


Alice Cancel declares victory as supporters, including City Council member Rosie Mendez looks on.

Longtime district leader Alice Cancel won a special election tonight to replace former Assemblyman Sheldon Silver in Albany.

Unofficial results show her with 39.21% (7284 votes) in the 65th Assembly District contest. Yuh-Line Niou, a Democrat running on the Working Families Party line, has 33.64% (6250 votes). Lester Chang, the Republican candidate, attracted 18.94% (3520 votes). Green Party candidate Dennis Levy came in fourth with 3.56% (661 votes).

Cancel awaited results with supporters at the Knickerbocker Village headquarters of Lower East Side Democrats, her political club. She thanked community members for working hard to overcome Niou’s well-financed campaign. Cancel ran her operation on a budget of just $5,000.

While Cancel won the Democratic nomination at a County Committee meeting in February, Niou denounced the process as undemocratic. The Working Families Party provided her with a lot of ground support, and Niou racked up many key endorsements. Cancel was portrayed as a disciple of Sheldon Silver, who will soon be headed to prison for federal corruption crimes. City Council member Rosie Mendez, standing by Cancel’s side, said last night that she had been subjected to unfair attacks.

Cancel will not have long to celebrate. She will face several challengers, including Niou, in a September Democratic Primary. We’ll have a more detailed report tomorrow, including reaction from Cancel, Niou and Chang.