Don Lee, a Chinatown community activist and technology executive, declared his candidacy today for the State Assembly. He’s seeking to fill the seat held for 40 years by Sheldon Silver, who was forced to relinquish his office after being convicted of federal corruption crimes.
Lee gathered with supporters this morning at the Joy Luck Palace Restaurant on Mott Street. As they feasted on dim sum, Lee outlined his reasons for running in the 65th Assembly District, which includes the Lower East Side and most of Lower Manhattan.
The former city official in the Koch Administration is now chief information officer for the Coalition of Asian American IPA and the Asian American Accountable Care Association. Lee said he has a strong desire to represent “hard working people who get up every day,” work hard and support their families. Referring to Silver, the candidate said, “What he did was wrong. He violated the public trust.” Lee said he wants to go to Albany to restore faith in government. “We want to make a statement: We all want clean government that represents our interests.” Top policy priorities, he said, would be access to health care and senior services, as well as strengthening small businesses and creating jobs. “All of Lower Manhattan, from Battery Park City and the Financial District to the Lower East Side and Chinatown,” said Lee, “is under intense pressure from forces that threaten to price long term residents and businesses out of their neighborhoods.”
Lee noted that the restaurant chosen for his announcement was formerly a garment factory where his wife worked as a seamstress to put the couple through college. Growing up in Chinatown, Lee attended P.S. 130 and Seward Park High School. He graduated with an accounting degree from New York University. Lee said he’s always been a tireless advocate for local residents. He cited campaigns for better service at the MTA’s Grand Street subway station during construction and advocacy on behalf of street vendors in Chinatown. Lee now lives in Battery Park City.
Governor Cuomo has yet to call a special election to fill thr remainder of Silver’s current term. If he takes this step, the Democratic and Republican nominees would be chosen by local political activists at the county committee level. Regardless, a Primary Election will be held this coming September for the position. That election is Lee’s focus. Other candidates for the office include: Yuh-Line Niou, Assembly member Ron Kim’s chief of staff; Jenifer Rajkumar, Paul Newell and Alice Cancel, all district leaders; and Little Italy resident John Bal. Community Board 3 Chairperson Gigi Li is also anticipating a run. Finally, Lower East Side resident Christopher Marte is running as an independent.