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Winning the Democratic primary almost assures victory in the November election in the heavily Democratic 65th Assembly District, which covers Downtown, Chinatown and the Lower East Side.
A native of Taiwan, Niou would be come the first Asian-American ever to represent Chinatown in Albany, but she stressed unity and inclusion in her victory statement.
Niou said it’s now time to “restore trust” in Albany. She also referenced a negative campaign card that was mailed out to Grand St. voters that charged she would only represent Chinatown’s interests, along with a series of other attack points against her.
“Tonight, we open a new door and a new chapter for Lower Manhattan, and I am honored and humbled by the trust the voters have placed in me,” Niou said. “This victory is one more step forward for New York, and tonight we silenced the voices of bigotry and division with our campaign of unity, hope and inclusion. Now we have important work to do to restore the voters’ trust in our state government by fighting for better schools, good jobs, affordable housing and a Downtown community that is welcoming to all.”
Cancel conceded the six-way race to the former chief of staff of Queens Assemblymember Ron Kim shortly after 10 p.m. on Tuesday, even before all districts had reported their results.
“A crowded primary points to a robust and thriving democracy, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in such a diverse and devoted field of candidates. I congratulate Yuh-Line on a hard-fought victory,” Cancel said in a statement.
With all results in, according the state Board of Elections’ unofficial tally, Niou had won 31.55 percent of the votes. Her 2,742 votes gave her more than a 1,000-vote lead over her nearest rival, local district leader Jenifer Rajkumar.
It was Rajkumar who was actually the first to gain momentum in the race to replace Silver. Just a week after he was convicted on federal corruption charges late last year, a group calling itself the “Women for Jenifer Committee” sent out a press release comparing the Battery Park City resident to Eleanor Roosevelt, Golda Meir, Malala Yousafzai, and Hillary Clinton.
Niou, who moved to the Financial District two years ago, jumped into the race in mid-December, shortly after the Rajkumar camp’s committee announcement.
But it was longtime Lower East Side district leader, and Silver ally, Alice Cancel, who was chosen in February as the Democratic nominee for the special election at a closed vote of about 200 Democratic County Committee members. Cancel won the April 19 special election, fending off a stiff challenge from Niou, who ran on the Working Families Party line.
But no sooner had Cancel won the seat than other local Dems started announcing plans to challenge her in yesterday’s primary. As soon as the special election results were official, district leader Paul Newell — who had come in second in the County Committee vote, and had challenged Silver in 2008 — issued a statement announcing his primary run.
Newell was soon joined by Niou, Rajkumar, Chinatown activist Don Lee, and former Community Board 3 chairperson Gigi Li in what promised to be a crowded and contentious battle for the Democratic Party line.
The Downtown Independent Democrats added to the drama in June with its decision to endorse Newell over fellow member Rajkumar by a 2-to-1 vote. That prompted Rajkumar to blast the group as an unrepresentative “a gang in a clubhouse” which she compared to Albany’s “Three Men in a Room” — the notorious triumvirate of the Governor, Assembly Speaker, and Senate Majority Leader who control state politics.
Cancel struggled with fund-raising as the primary race heated up, leading to a striking episode last month when the incumbent suddenly bolted in the middle of a candidate forum to attend a fund-raiser.
It was actually the runner-up, Rajkumar, who won the money race, with $113,802 in contributions by the time of the primary, according to the state Board of Elections.
According the state Board of Elections’ unofficial tally, 8,692 voters showed up to the polls for Tuesday’s primary, or 20 percent of the district’s 43,094 registered Democrats.