Even her opponents would have to concede it was Margaret Chin's night. A large crowd turned out in Chinatown last night to size up the four candidates running against incumbent City Council member Alan Gerson. In a lively, two hour forum, Gerson was under constant attack by Chin and another challenger, Pete Gleason. But Chin – a longtime Chinatown activist – on her home turf, took the lead.
It was the third major forum in advance of the Septhember 15th Democratic Primary. Chin's message was, essentially, "eight is enough." After two terms, she argued, it's time to give someone else a chance. Chin railed against Gerson's decision to side with the mayor in extending term limits. But she also strongly criticized his leadership. Taking issue with Gerson's argument in earlier debates that he has an "unparalleled record" of achievement, she claimed he only acts when prodded to do so by community activists (such as herself).
Gerson spent most of the night defending his eight years in office and highlighting his accomplishments. Enjoying a significant amount of support in the neighborhood, his responses were generally followed by fairly enthusiastic applause. Meanwhile, PJ Kim refrained from criticizing his opponents, making the case that the time has come to move beyond divisive politics. Arthur Gregory positioned himself as the "truth teller," the only candidate who will truly confront the realities facing the district. Gleason, who has been Gerson's fiercest critic, kept up the pressure and pledged to "stand up to the powers that be" at City Hall and in Albany.
At the end of the night, the candidates had one thing in common: none of them was brave enough to reveal his or her favorite restaurant in Chinatown!
A short time ago, we posted the full audio recording of last night's forum. Below, are two video excerpts. The first clip, focusing on support for struggling small businesses, illustrates Chin's forceful criticism of Gerson. There's also an exchange on term limits. In the second clip, you'll hear portions of the candidates' closing statements.