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New York Publications Underwhelmed with Contenders in the 65th AD

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(Left to right) Alice Cancel, Yuh Line Niou, Lester Chang.
(Left to right) Alice Cancel, Yuh Line Niou, Lester Chang.

There’s only one more day before voters head to the polls to pick a new assembly member to replace Sheldon Silver. A special election takes place tomorrow, alongside New York’s presidential primary. Over the weekend and again this morning, the unusual campaign garnered more mainstream media interest. Here’s a roundup.

The Times bundled the Lower Manhattan race with the contest in Nassau County for the Senate seat formerly held by Dean Skelos:

…the special elections on Long Island and in Lower Manhattan offer voters a chance to do the unprecedented: to replace, in the space of one day, two former members of New York State’s ruling triumvirate, both of whom are scheduled to be sentenced in the coming weeks after being convicted on corruption charges. And the two contests, if less chaotic than their presidential counterpart, have afforded their own measures of intrigue and incivility.

Reporter Vivian Yee notes that the Democratic candidate (Alice Cancel) would normally be a huge favorite to win the special election. But the contest is seen as competitive because Yuh-Line Niou (running on the Working Families Party line) is orchestrating an unusually robust and well-organized campaign.

Most local Democratic elected officials have endorsed (Niou) and her promise to break with Mr. Silver’s brand of politics, which depended on a loyal and tight-knit network of Lower East Side allies who helped propel Ms. Cancel, a longtime district leader, to the Democratic nomination. Ms. Cancel, who has praised Mr. Silver’s work in the area, has sought to sow doubt about her opponent’s commitment to reform by pointing out that Ms. Niou, too, sought the backing of Mr. Silver’s associates before declaring the process corrupt when she was not chosen for the nomination. Ms. Niou moved to the district two years ago, and she has also been flustered by questions about her previous voting record. The Republican candidate, Lester Chang, a businessman, has also branded Ms. Cancel as a creature of Mr. Silver’s political organization.

While the Times has endorsed Niou, the Daily News blasts the “rigged special election to replace Silver for the few months left in his term.”  It’s choosing to sit this “phony contest” out:

When Silver got convicted and bounced from office last November, it left his district without representation. But rather than wait for a new assembly member to be chosen via a legitimate primary and general election, Gov. Cuomo scheduled a special election. That let a handful of party insiders put only one name on each ballot line, leaving voters a choice in roughly the same sense that you have a choice of peanuts at the vending machine. In a 65% Democratic district, the holder of that line is a shoo-in. This is Alice Cancel, a cog in the machine favored by Silver’s faction. Yuh-Line Niou, a Democrat running on the Working Families Party line, is a little better, but that’s not saying much. Whoever wins this wasteful exercise will have the shortest of tenures. But as the incumbent, the winner will get a leg up on challengers in the real open primary that starts within weeks. Which means the people will get robbed, again.

New York Slant, a publication of City & State, also finds the choices uninspiring:

Unfortunately, the candidates to replace Silver in the forthcoming April 19 special election leave much to be desired… Cancel’s ties to the former Assembly speaker through his Democratic club – which anointed her as his replacement – calls into question whether she would serve the district independent of the influence of Silver’s cronies… Both Chang and Niou demonstrated a much more comprehensive understanding of some of the issues facing the district – from congestion pricing to education reform. Chang, however, indicated that he would not be the most independent-minded legislator despite running as a Republican, saying that he would be more likely to go along with the consensus on key policy votes, rather than consider issues independently on their merits. Which brings us to Niou, a former Assembly staffer who has only lived in the district for the last two years, immediately raising the “carpetbagger” allegations that typically dog similar candidates. It was unclear to us whether Niou was driven more by her ambition to hold public office rather than a genuine desire to advocate for a district she claims to have grown familiar with while campaigning these last several months. However, Niou’s positions on education reform – she spoke eloquently on fighting for much-needed school funding in the district – and commitment to being a vocal advocate for Chinatown, a long underserved part of the district, swayed our editorial board enough to endorse her to replace Silver for these next several months.

Finally, the Post endorsed Lester Chang:

Voters in Tuesday’s special election to fill the Assembly seat of corrupt ex-Speaker Sheldon Silver have a chance to send a message: No more business as usual… But that’s only one of the reasons The Post endorses Lester Chang for the 65th Assembly District. Chang, a local businessman and the son of immigrants, is also the candidate best suited to stand up for the interests of the district’s residents — from Chinatown voters concerned about the schools to residents further downtown worried about safety in the age of terror.

Here’s what you need to know about voting tomorrow. You’ll receive two ballots — one for the presidential primary and one for the special election. Any registered voter is eligible to vote in the assembly contest. Follow this link is you need to check you poll site.

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