Assembly District 65 Candidates Wooing Voters with Tricks

Competing campaign flyers on a storefront window in Chinatown. (Photo via Sing Tao Daily)

Competing campaign flyers on a storefront window in Chinatown. (Photo via Sing Tao Daily)

With less than three weeks left before the primary election, the six candidates eying the seat vacated by disgraced former Speaker Sheldon Silver in Assembly District 65 are all going full steam ahead. Everyone is trying their best to attract the attention of the voters. But some of the tricks they play are questionable. Meanwhile, three out of the six are Chinese. Some of the storefronts in Chinatown accept campaign posters from any candidate who approaches them to avoid upsetting anyone. On the one hand, this reflects the scorching competition in this election, while on the other hand it shows that Chinese voters still don’t completely understand election politics.

Alice Cancel, who won a special election in April to finish Silver’s term, has been in the office for less than four months so far. But she has already published two newsletters. Newsletters are paid for by taxpayers’ money. Normally the offices of elected officials publish them four times a year. But Cancel seems to have been eager to so since May when she took over the office.

Her first newsletter, published right after she was elected, was a short introduction of herself. And the second one, published in the summer, discussed topics from the facilities on South Street and mayoral control of education to community management in Battery Park City.

Both newsletters were written in English, Chinese and Spanish to echo the composition of the constituency in this district. But these newsletters are more likely to be for the purpose of grabbing votes for the future election than communicating with constituents.

Paul Newell, one of the candidates for the primary, listed the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA) as his endorser last week. Incidentally, Don Lee, another candidate, also listed CCBA as his endorser in his campaign flyers this week. When asked by this reporter, Jerry Shiao, President of CCBA said he got to know both Newell and Lee before he took the reins of CCBA. But he has never offered an endorsement to any political candidate. The by-laws of the organization prohibits it from endorsing political candidates. And he doesn’t plan to endorse anyone personally either in this election. But Shiao said CCBA welcomes all candidates to visit and introduce themselves and their political views to the community so the voters can get familiar with who’s who before the election.

Gigi Li, also a candidate, made a poster with an archived picture of her standing between Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez and Council member Margaret Chin. In the picture, which was apparently taken some months ago, the three appear clad in coats or jackets. Li made it clear that she has been endorsed by both Velázquez and Chin. While Chin has announced her endorsement of Li a long time ago, Velazquez issued a statement on August 23 to clarify her position. It says: “As Democrats, we are fortunate this cycle to have a wide field of diverse candidates in the race for the 65th Assembly District seat.  I’m fortunate to call many of these leaders my friends and, as such, I have not endorsed. I look forward to working with the candidate chosen by voters to be our party’s nominee.”

And in Chinatown, a ubiquitous scene this summer is the campaign posters stuck on the windows of storefronts. Chinese business owners don’t like to upset any candidate, so they accept all requests from candidates to put their posters up on the windows. A coffee shop on Grand Street is the best example of the strategy of Chinatown shop owners. On its window, posters of Lee, Li, and Jennifer Rajkumar are lined up, competing for space with various other commercial advertising posters. While the window looks like a Kaleidoscope, the shop owner maintains his friendship with the future assembly member, whoever that person might be.

Now the summer is near its end. But clearly the campaign is heating up more and more. The temperature could keep climbing in the next couple of weeks and bring Chinatown what’s known in Chinese as the “Autumn tiger”—flaming autumn days— before the primary election.

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