Deputy Mayor Liu? Chinese Media Dissects Defeat

John Liu said bad polls and a politically motivated investigation hurt his chances. (Photo by Heather Martino)

In campaign postmortem, John Liu said bad polls and a politically motivated investigation hurt his chances in the mayoral primary. (Photo by Heather Martino/Voices of NY)

City Comptroller John Liu might be out of the mayoral election after his loss in Tuesday’s primary but the Chinese community is not yet ready for a post-Liu era. He remains in the headlines of the Chinese language newspapers, at least for now.

All Chinese newspapers focused on Liu’s thwarted dream for mayor and the impact on the community. Some stories tried to offer reasons for the loss and others listed the options he might still have to remain in politics. Liu himself held a September 12 press conference for the Chinese and Korean media at his campaign office in Chinatown to talk about these issues. The session was reported by Rong Xiaoqing in Sing Tao Daily the following day:

The screens of the seven computers were all black. The few telephones were all quiet. Posters with the name John Liu and his giant pictures were all piled up against the wall by the door side. The microwave and coffee machine which had been chirping the entire summer to provide energy to the volunteers who worked here from dawn to dusk, now have nothing to do. Liu, sitting in front of the table, was focusing on eating some shrimp dumplings. Behind him on the glass wall, the word “win” someone had written with a blue ballpoint pen is still bold and clear.

Seven Mott Street, Liu’s campaign office, opened on June 18 and will be officially closed on September 30. More than 100 years ago, Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of the Republic of China, gave a speech at this location. Yesterday, when Liu held a press conference here, the same message he sent out can be summed up in a famous quote of Sun: “The revolution has not yet succeeded. Comrades, you must carry on.”

Liu admitted the votes he got were less than he expected. He blamed the “unfair” federal investigations on his fundraising and the “false” poll numbers released by mainstream polling centers.

Of the former, he said the investigation in 2009 about money from foreign countries was reasonable. But the later investigation on “straw donors” was more a political action to derail his campaign. Plus, the mainstream polls never include Asians and new voters. But these inaccurate numbers were repeated again and again by the media. So many people who supported him thought he had no chance, and therefore, gave up on voting.

Another reason for his loss, Liu thought, was the sneaky strategy of his rivals. “When de Blasio learned we wouldn’t get the matching funds, he changed his advertisements and adopted our opinions and grabbed some voters from us,” he said.

Liu didn’t disclose who he would support in a possible runoff. He said he would discuss with the community in the next few weeks to see how to make sure the next mayor takes care of the interests of the community. He didn’t disclose what he plans to do the next either, and said he’ll finish his job as comptroller first. But he encouraged young Asians to continue participating in politics.

Liu said Chinese youths should not be discouraged by his loss and should participate in politics with even greater passion.

He shared the two biggest lessons he learned from this campaign and hoped these could benefit Asian candidates in the future. The first one is: Sending out an accurate message is crucial, especially concerning the polls. He called on Asians to start their own polling centers. The second one is: voter education is also important. What’s urgent is to help Asian voters understand the importance of the primary and encourage more people to register as party members.

In the World Journal, a story by Luna Liu talked to people in the community about Liu’s work options if he were to keep doing political work.

John Liu will have to consider his options after he finishes his term as comptroller in December. (Photo by Heather Martino/Voices of NY)

John Liu will have to consider his options after he finishes his term as city comptroller in December. (Photo by Heather Martino/Voices of NY)

Some people suggested Liu become a lobbyist or set up his own public relations company because any citywide candidate in future elections would like to get his support. This is an option picked by many politicians term-limited out of public offices. And the profits of such companies range from more than $100,000 to millions a year, depending on their political clout. Liu’s mentor, the late Bill Lynch, is an example. He turned himself from a deputy mayor into a professional lobbyist, largely influencing politics in New York.

Some people hope Liu could take a key position in the new administration. According to Chung Seto, Liu’s campaign manager, Liu has talked to the teams of both Democratic front-runners de Blasio and Thompson.

If Liu can maintain a good relationship with the final winner, it is possible he could get a position in the new administration. Positions such as deputy mayor, director of the Independent Budget Office, and commissioner of the Department of Finance all play important economic roles. And Liu’s experiences as actuary and city comptroller have made him qualified. David Yassky, who lost to Liu in the comptroller campaign four years ago, later became the commissioner of the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

To take a job in finance management or governmental affairs at a private company is also a good option for Liu. At least he won’t have to worry about his income. And the job would be a piece of cake for him.

Some people suggested for him to keep running for public office positions, for example, running for the state senator position in Flushing or to move to Brooklyn and run for Congress there. As Liu’s political base, Flushing now has Councilman Peter Koo, State Assemblyman Ron Kim (of Korean descent) and Congresswoman Grace Meng. The only non-Asian public official is state Sen. Toby Stavisky. It would be easy for Liu to replace her.

He can also run for congressman in Brooklyn. Asians in Brooklyn now show an increasing passion for politics. And they contributed a lot of ballots to Liu this time. Now the 7th Congressional District that includes the Chinese-dominated areas in Brooklyn is represented by Rep. Nydia Velazquez. And the 8th Congressional District is represented by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries. In Congress, Liu would get the opportunity of wielding power in Washington, D.C.

Another story by Rong Xiaoqing in Sing Tao Daily looked at the interactive ballots map compiled by the New York Times and found that Liu’s low performance in the primary might have something to do with the surprisingly low support he got from the African-American community.

For a while before the primary, John Liu’s poll number kept at 7 percent. But when Bill de Blasio leapt to the front of the pack, Liu’s numbers started to drop. In the last Quinnipiac poll that was released a day before the primary, he only got 4 percent. Mainstream polls don’t include Asian voters, and traditionally Liu doesn’t have strong support among white and Hispanic voters. So the drop of his poll number was very likely because de Blasio, thanks to the impressive afro of his son, had stolen many hearts from the African American community that originally belonged to Liu.

The ballot map of The New York Times seems to have proved this. Based on the map, Liu only got 4.7 percent of the votes in the election districts that have more than 50 percent African American voters.

This is the second lowest rate among the five candidates, and it is only 0.7 percentage points more than Christine Quinn, who had almost completely given up on the minority communities. Meanwhile, de Blasio got almost half of the votes in these districts. And African American candidate Bill Thompson also got 34 percent. The results don’t seem to match Liu’s backbreaking campaigning in African American neighborhoods.

In the Hispanic and white majority election districts, Liu got 6.2 percent and 4.6 percent of the votes respectively. And de Blasio is still the one who got the most — 35.4 percent and 39.6 percent respectively.

But in Asian-dominated districts, Liu still won over his competitors by large margins. He got 42.2 percent of the votes in these districts, compared to the 22.4 percent that went to de Blasio. Thompson and Quinn got 12.2 percent and 10.8 percent respectively, and former congressman Anthony Weiner only got 4.3 percent.

With the increase of Asian voters in a district, Liu’s share of the votes also increases. In the districts where more than 80 percent are Asians, Liu got 65.8 percent of the votes, 49 percentage points higher than the runner-up de Blasio. And in the area around Confucius Plaza in Chinatown, Liu got 79.8 percent of the votes, the most district that went strongest for him.

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