Niou moves into congressional race as Assembly District seat remains to be won

When Assemblywoman Yuh Line Niou (D – Manhattan) first saw the finalized map of Congressional District 10 drawn by court-appointed cartographer Jonathan Cervas late last week, she realized that the new lines offered him a unique opportunity.

“Once the lines were drawn, I realized this was going to be a historic moment, I think, for a lot of our Asian American communities,” Niou told PoliticsNY. “Because this is the first time it will be possible to have maybe an Asian American in this area, spanning Chinatown in Manhattan and Chinatown in Brooklyn.”

The new lines include Manhattan’s Chinatown, which Niou has represented in the lower house of Albany along with much of lower Manhattan since 2017, and Brooklyn’s Chinatown at Sunset Park in the same congressional district — where they were previously divided between two districts. The neighborhood also includes parts of Brownstone Brooklyn like Park Slope and Cobble Hill as well as more affluent Manhattan neighborhoods like SoHo and Tribeca.

Prior to the release of the new maps, Niou was running in the Democratic primary to unseat State Senator Brian Kavanagh in her lower Manhattan and Brooklyn neighborhood – a race she dropped out of to run for Congress. Niou presents himself as a progressive, who has already won the endorsement of activist and former gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon.

But that wasn’t the only reason Niou — who had been publicly considering a race since Cervas released draft maps from Congress earlier last week that didn’t include Sunset Park in the new District 10 — decided to throw his hat in the ring. While in the Assembly, Niou said, she realized that lower Manhattan faced several issues that could only be resolved at the federal level.

“We have so many issues that we need help at the federal level,” Niou said. “When I was working at the state level, I started to see where there were so many things that we need to push harder at the federal level that affect my constituents every day. Whether it’s dollars for public housing or ensuring we have resiliency considerations for lower Manhattan. And so, I realized this was the time I could do this for my constituents. And I felt very compelled to give it a shot.

Although Niou acknowledged that she would be a freshman on Capitol Hill with just one vote in a 435-member chamber, she said she had shown she could make full use of the limited reach of her office to bring results to his community. Plus, she added, she’s stood her ground on tough issues, like standing up to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration over allegations that they covered up the true death toll in homes of statewide COVID-19 care.

“I think I’ve always shown that it doesn’t matter when it’s a tough vote, or when it’s a tough decision, or when it’s a time when I stand alone against everyone,” Nio said. “When it came to doing the right thing for my constituents, whether it was talking about nursing home deaths, whether it was talking about corruption when it came to appointments or when it came to the governor. And I’ve never been afraid of [not] avoiding difficult topics and giving everyone the transparency and accessibility to government they deserve.

While Niou is likely to receive support from neighborhood Asian communities and progressive activistsShe is running in a competitive field against other high-profile candidates like former Mayor Bill de Blasio and Westchester Congressman Mondaire Jones. De Blasio – who lives in Park Slope – could benefit from his deep ties to the many Brooklyn parts of the district he represented on city council more than a decade ago, but political operatives say he could be hurt by his unpopularity among the ranks- and drop off voters after eight years as mayor.

Jones – who is running for the open seat after being kicked out of his Westchester district by Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney (D – Hudson Valley) – is believed to have more than $3 million in his campaign account and possible backing from the leadership of the House. But can be hurt by his lack of connection to the neighborhood.

Many others are considering running include council member Carlina Rivera (D – Manhattan), attorney Maud Maron and Elizabeth Holtzman – a former district attorney, city comptroller and congresswoman.

When Niou initially announced her intention to leave the assembly and run for the state senate in December, several candidates quickly declared their candidacies to replace her in the lower house.

There’s businesswoman and activist Grace Lee who ran an unsuccessful race against Niou in 2020 and has received endorsements from several elected officials and unions, including Congressmen Hakeem Jeffries (D – Brooklyn) and Grace Meng (Queens) as well as 1199SEIU and DC37. In a video interview with PoliticsNY Lee said she advocates for the cleanup of environmental hazards near two lower Manhattan schools and fights for tenant rights on the Lower East Side.

“My record as an organizer proves that I will do the hard work to amplify the voices of the people of this district demanding safe and affordable communities here in lower Manhattan,” Lee said.

Running next to Lee’s left is social worker Illapa Sairitupac, who is backed by the Democratic Socialist of America (DSA). Sairitupac said he wants to push the Lower Manhattan Assembly District further to the left and placing more emphasis on issues such as climate change mitigation.

Denny Salas, who works at a school in the Bronx and has spent time on Capitol Hill and as a political consultant according to his website, is also in the running. And Alana Sivin — an educator and former public defender, according to her website, also calling herself a Democratic socialist.

There are two main dates this year, with statewide contests and Assembly races on June 28 and those for Congress and the state Senate set for August 23.

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