Paul Newell Launches Campaign For State Assembly Seat

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Just last month, voters elected Alice Cancel to serve the remainder of Sheldon Silver’s two-year term in the New York State Assembly. But a new political campaign is upon us. On Sunday, two candidates vying for the seat in the 65th Assembly District staged dueling kickoff events. They’re both planning to compete in the Democratic Primary, which takes place Sept. 13. We have separate stories this afternoon on the announcements from Paul Newell and Gigi Li.

Newell huddled with supporters in front of the former Jewish Daily Forward Building in Straus Square, a center of left-leaning activism for decades. “It was right here,” he said, “in this building that the Jewish Daily Forward cried out for justice for generations of Lower east Siders dreaming the American dream.”

Newell is a district leader who lives in Masaryk Towers, the Mitchell Lama Cooperative. He unsuccessfully challenged Sheldon Silver in 2008, criticizing the former speaker’s refusal to disclose outside income and Albany’s entrenched political culture. Over the weekend, he picked up the endorsement of CoDA, a political club just on the outskirts of the assembly district.

Newell emphasized his local roots (born and raised in Lower Manhattan) and said he’s “part of a proud Yiddish activist tradition here on the Lower East Side.” He also was not shy about recalling the earlier assembly campaign. “When three men sit in a secret room,” he told supporters, “and write laws for 20-million people, you can guarantee it is not our community that is being heard. Let me be as clear today as I was then.The culture of corruption and failure in Albany must end.”

“The cost of corruption,” said Newell, “is higher rents and higher taxes, overcrowded classrooms and crumbling subways. We can and must do better.” He called the district an “amazing place with an amazing story” that draws strength from its many ethnic, working class communities. Newell said he would be a fighter for all of the district’s diverse neighborhoods. “We are not a passive people in Lower Manhattan,” he explained. “It is not who we are. It is not who we want to be. We stand up. We organize and we demand what we need, not by trading favors with the well-heeled and well-connected but by standing up for our communities.”

At yesterday’s event, several local residents spoke on Newell’s behalf. They included Lee Berman, a board member at the East River Cooperative. “Paul will fight for all of us in Albany,” said Berman, “for quality education, for all of our children, unlike the former representative who only fought for some.” Mathew Quezada, a board member at the Hillman Co-op, also voiced confidence in Newell, arguing that he’s “best suited” to “help out all people within my community.”  Others speaking for the candidate included Eddie Chiu of the Lin Sing Association in Chinatown and Carolyn English, a fellow Masaryk Towers resident.

Besides Newell and Gigi Li, candidates in September will likely include: Yuh-Line Niou, who ran on the Working Families Party line in the April special election; Jenifer Rajkumar, a district leader and attorney; local businessman Don Lee; Lower East Side resident Christopher Marte.; and John Bal, a contender who dropped out of the special election citing a rigged process to select Silver’s successor.

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