History Made in NYC Elections

The Chinese, Korean and Albanian communities in New York each saw one of their own reach a political milestone in yesterday’s elections.

Chinese-Americans helped send Grace Meng to Congress, where she will represent Queens as the first Asian-American from New York. Fellow borough resident and now Assemblyman-elect Ron Kim became the first Korean-American to be elected in New York State. In the Bronx, Mark Gjonaj also reached the State Assembly as the first Albanian-American to be elected in New York.

Grace Meng’s (center) win made her the first Asian-American to represent New York in Congress. (Photo via World Journal)

Assemblywoman Meng, a Democrat of Taiwanese descent, received over 67 percent of the vote and will represent Congressional District 6, which is around 40 percent Asian-American and includes Flushing and Forest Hills. Her victory was hailed as historic for Asians and important for women in elected office. Reported the World Journal:

In a 12-minute speech, she emphasized twice that the most important task is rebuilding after the hurricane. She said that the fruits of her victory belonged to everyone. “Tonight is historic in that we’ve taken one small step in getting more women elected to government.”

Queens City Councilman Peter Koo saw Meng’s win as an opportunity to get young Chinese-Americans involved, as well as to foster better international relations with China. There’s about half a million Asians of Chinese and Taiwanese ancestry in the city according to the New York City Department of City Planning.

Peter Koo said that he hoped Grace Meng’s win will bring more young people of Chinese descent to participate in community activities and care about politics. Koo is also looking forward for Meng to fight for immigrant rights in Washington and also use her strengths in diplomatic relations between the United States, China and Taiwan.

The city’s 100,000-strong Korean community also celebrated a historic victory. Democrat Kim made it to the New York State Assembly, where he will represent District 40, which covers downtown Flushing. The Korea Daily reported he becomes the first elected official of Korean descent in New York State.

Ron Kim (center) and his supporters cheered his victory, which made him the first Korean-American elected official from New York. (Photo via Korea Daily)

In the general election on Nov. 6, Ron Kim (Korean name: Taesuk Kim), the former “regional director for government and community affairs in the administration of two New York State governors,” [according to his campaign site] ran for New York State Assembly as the Democrat candidate in District 40. Kim defeated Republican candidate Philip Lim, who is Chinese-American, with 67 percent of the vote.

Mark Gjonaj (Photo via Facebook)

Up in the Bronx, Albanians saw one of their own elected. Newcomer Mark Gjonaj, the son of Albanian parents from Montenegro, got 79 percent of the vote in the 80th Assembly District, which includes parts of Norwood, Bedford Park, Morris Park and Pelham Gardens.

“For Bronxites, this is a victory for their future,” Gjonaj told Voices of NY via e-mail. “For too long we have not been represented the way we need to be. I am more than eager to be that representative.”

Gjonaj, who runs the Morris Park real estate company M.P. Realty Group and is a member of the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission, becomes the first Albanian-American elected to office in New York. The city is home to 36,000 Albanians. The father of two beat the incumbent – twice – in the primary and again last night, reported the Norwood News:

Gjonaj easily beat incumbent Naomi Rivera in the September Democratic primary. Rivera, however, remained on the general election ballot as a Working Families Party candidate. Still, the Democratic ticket in the Bronx trumps all at this point. Rivera received less than 2,000 votes, good for 7.9 percent and less than the GOP candidate Nicole Torres who hauled in 9.1 percent of the vote.

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