Gigi Li Withdraws From District Leader Campaign (Updated 9:23 p.m.)

Gigi Li.

Gigi Li.
Gigi Li.

Community Board 3 Chairperson Gigi Li has ended her campaign for district leader in the 65th Assembly District, Part C. She made the announcement in a statement released a short time ago.

Li announced in June that she would challenge Jenifer Rajkumar, the incumbent. Supporters of Rajkumar filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court, alleging that Li’s petitions to get on the Sept. 10 Democratic Primary ballot were not only insufficient but that signatures were fraudulently obtained. The lawsuit also implicated staff members of City Council member Margaret Chin, who were helping collect signatures.

Here’s the full statement:

I am deeply grateful to the many Lower Manhattan residents who have so strongly supported my effort to serve the community as a district leader. Unfortunately, I learned today that I did not garner the necessary signatures to qualify for the ballot. I want to be clear that the accusations of fraud are false and played no role in my withdrawal, and I want to thank all of my hardworking volunteers who devoted themselves to the civic process with integrity. While I am disappointed not to be able to serve my community as district leader, I look forward to continuing to proudly serve as chair of Community Board 3, where I will remain passionately committed to improving our neighborhoods. That commitment will never end — and I will always use my abilities where they are most needed for the good of our community. I look forward to continuing that work every day.

More to come…

UPDATE 9:23 p.m. We asked Jenifer Rajkumar for her reaction. This is her emailed statement:

It is my great honor and privilege to be re-elected as your District Leader. I will continue to serve our neighborhood with dedication, energy, and passion. I would like to thank my supporters from the Lower East Side, to Battery Park City, to SoHo, to Chinatown for the movement we built together. I would also like to thank Congressman Jerry Nadler, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, NYC Public Advocate Letitia James, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and Manhattan County Leader Keith Wright for their incredible support. My focus remains fighting for my constituents everyday to keep our neighborhoods affordable, create quality education for our children, and transform local government into a platform for innovation and inspiration. There is a lot of work to be done and I am ready to keep working for you.

More reaction from Rajkumar’s political club. Jeanne Wilcke, president of Downtown Independent Democrats (DID), said:

Once again, the Downtown Independent Democrats prove that deep roots in the community, and the competence to organize them, matter. Getting 500 Democrats out of more than 13,000 in the district to sign a petition may not be a high bar – but it appears even with the help of city council staffers Ms. Li was not up to the task. In addition, given the gravity of the allegations against Ms. Li  brought up in the challenge to her petitions, it was prudent for Ms Li to step aside. We look forward to two more years of Jenifer Rajkumar’s leadership.

Sean Sweeney, another DID leader, added:

Of course Gigi Li will deny her election petitions were riddled with some 800 fraudulent signatures.  Why would she willingly admit to such a crime? Instead, I challenge her to sit down with me and a reporter, and go over the multiple photos and videos we have of the underage children that Li enlisted to collect signatures for herself.  It is unacceptable that she chose to use children from our community for her fraudulent scheme. Would Ms. Li care to explain the photograph we will produce of a teenage boy collecting signatures on a petition for her, yet that petition being eventually signed off by Margaret Chin’s Chief of Staff,  Ms.Yume Kitasei? Would she also care to address the 50 signatures – all in the same handwriting – “witnessed” by one of her petitioners?  Fifty forged signatures that she somehow never noticed when submitting them to the Board of Elections! In light of this fraud, I call upon Gigi Li to step down as Chair of Community Board 3.

A bit of background for anyone reading this who doesn’t follow downtown politics closely. Rajkumar, with backing from DID, unsuccessfully challenged Margaret Chin in the 2013 City Council election. There’s no shortage of bad blood lingering from that contentious campaign. Chin was an enthusiastic supporter of Li’s bid for district leader. We have contacted Chin’s office about the accusations made in the lawsuit regarding her staff. We’ll let you know if she replies.

One other note. A local group that has been at odds with Gigi Li, the Lower East Side Dwellers, put out a news release of its own tonight. It offered an “overview” of the petition controversy and a statement of support for Rajkumar:  

…we have always been able to count on our District Leader Jenifer Rajkumar to roll up her sleeves and help the residents of Hell Square. We will continue to work with her and all of our elected officials to make this a more livable and equitable city for everyone.