A Taiwanese American beat out a crowded field of Democratic candidates in Tuesday’s New York primary for a seat held for decades by former Assembly Speaker and convicted felon Sheldon Silver, while a Korean-American businessman accused of making alleged homophobic remarks lost a bid in Queens for New York State Senate.
Yuh-Line Niou, who served as Queens Democratic state Assemblyman Ron Kim's chief of staff, received 31.8 percent of the vote, while runner-up Jenifer Rajkumar, an Indian-American civil rights attorney, earned 18.7 percent, with 99 percent of scanners reported, according to unofficial results from the city Board of Elections.
Niou told NBC News by phone Tuesday night her victory shows that the 65th Assembly District in Lower Manhattan is ready for change.
“They’re asking for somebody who has the experience to be able to make sure that we’re bridging the gaps and that people are getting the services they need,” she said.
Despite securing the Democratic party’s nomination in February for a special election she won in April, Alice Cancel, a district leader and 40-year resident of Lower Manhattan, placed fourth among the six candidates, taking in 12.4 percent of the votes, the results show.
Cancel is filling out the rest of Silver’s term after he was convicted in November in a $5 million federal corruption case.
“They’re asking for somebody who has the experience to be able to make sure that we’re bridging the gaps and that people are getting the services they need.”
Niou, if elected in November will be one of two Asian Americans in the State Legislature, the other being her former boss, Kim. Asians make up around 43 percent of the 65th Assembly District, which includes Manhattan's Chinatown.
“What makes our Assembly stronger will be more fresh perspectives and different perspectives,” Niou said.
She added, “Right now, we have 14 percent Asian Americans in the population of our state, and yet we are less than one percent of the representation, even with my election.”
Niou said she plans to champion ethics reform and join the Assembly’s reform caucus come January.
“I think that my election also symbolizes that our state no longer wants to turn a blind eye,” Niou added, noting that Silver for nearly four decades held the 65th Assembly District seat.
The other Democratic assembly candidates on the ballot included Paul Newell, who won 16 percent of the vote; Don Lee, 11.4 percent; and Gigi K. Li, 9.6 percent. Write-ins made up roughly .2 percent of the total 8,631 votes cast.
Meanwhile, in Queens’ 16th Senatorial District, which is 53.2 percent Asian, S.J. Jung was defeated in the Democratic primary by incumbent Toby Ann Stavisky, who was first elected in 1999.
Jung received 42.3 percent of the vote to Stavisky’s 57.5 percent, with 99 percent of scanners reported, according to unofficial results from the city Board of Elections. Write-ins accounted for .2 percent of the 9,027 total ballots cast.
Jung came under fire in late August for reportedly saying he’d fight to ban pictures of same-sex couples from school textbooks. Responding to those allegations at the time, Jung said while he doesn’t support same-sex marriage, he would protect members of the LGBTQ community from hate crimes and “uphold their human and legal rights” as state senator.
In a statement to NBC News just after midnight Wednesday, Jung said he accepted the results of the primary, saying the voters had spoken.
“I am also proud of our clean and uplifting campaign through which we provided real solutions to long-neglected quality of life issues in Queens and the age-old problem of corruption in Albany,” he said. “In a [different] capacity, I will continue to tackle these issues and make my contributions to the community.”