Sheldon Silver congratulating Margaret Chin
Margaret Chin made history last night, coasting to an easy win in the District 1 City Council race. She becomes the first Chinese councilmember to represent Manhattan’s Chinatown, and the first Asian woman on the City Council. The victory party, in a cavernous banquet hall on Mott Street, was not only a celebration of Chin’s accomplishment but also a celebration of Chinatown’s new political clout.
Chin steamrolled her nominal Republican opponent, Irene Horvath, 86-percent (17.412) to 14-percent (2,834). She becomes one of at least 13 new members of the City Council, and one of five challengers to have knocked off incumbents. Together, those new members, are expected to counter-balance a newly elected, but weakened, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine Quinn. In September’s Democratic Primary, Chin defeated two-term incumbent Alan Gerson, who backed Bloomberg and Quinn’s maneuver to extend term limits.
Last night, Chin declared a “new day” had arrived in Lower Manhattan. She said, “I promise you will have active representation on the City Council. You will have a councilmember who will work with you to improve your community.” Chin thanked her supporters, many of whom stuck with her through three unsuccessful campaigns spanning two decades. Overcome with emotion, she said her faith and devotion to God helped guide her through the grueling campaign. Chin was joined on stage by her husband, a school teacher, and college-aged son.
Above: Chin with husband, Alan. Below: Chin with son
Later, State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver made an appearance, asserting that he and Chin would be a “dynamic duo,” partnering to represent the people of Lower Manhattan. The party was also attended by other prominent downtown Democrats, including one of Chin’s rivals in the Primary, Pete Gleason, Sean Sweeney of the Downtown Independent Democrats and Jean Grillo, a district leader. Both Sweeney and Grillo backed Gleason, but rallied around Chin after her victory in September.
As Chin arrived last night, around 9pm, she marveled, “you guys really know how to throw a party.” A large crowd feasted on a Chinese buffet. Confetti cannonballs crackled and Chin was serenaded with a rousing rendition of “she’s a jolly good fellow.” The gathering paused to sing the national anthem, dozens of supporters lined up to take pictures with Chin and, every so often, they stopped to glance at the unexpectedly close Mayor’s race, on a big projector.
Michael Bloomberg narrowly beat Bill Thompson on the Lower East Side. In the 64th Assembly District, the mayor had 10, 734 votes to Bill Thompson’s 8,169. Overall, Bloomberg’s supporters were mostly white and affluent. Despite spending $90 million of his personal fortune and advertising aggressively in diverse communities, he was soundly rejected by minority and middle class voters. Chin, who criticized Bloomberg for neglecting downtown’s working families, will join a City Council that for the first time will have more ethnic minorities than whites.
During the campaign, Chin promised to take on the city’s political establishment on a wide range of issues, from housing to education to transportation policy. She was able to tap into a perception that the City Council all-too often “rubber stamped” Bloomberg’s policies. In the weeks ahead, she and her new colleagues are widely expected to challenge the mayor and his close ally, Speaker Quinn, in a way that would have been unheard of during the mayor’s first two terms.
Chin has expressed an interest in chairing the Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Committee, if it isn’t disbanded after the new year. She might also be interested in sitting on the housing or education committees.
We’ll have video highlights from last night’s party later today.