Liu Poised to Become 1st Asian in City-Wide Office

Several Incumbent City Council seats are in tough contests


Barring an upset of monumental proportions, New York City is expected to elect its first ever Asian-American to citywide office today.

Democrat John Liu, who is also running on the Working Families Party line, is expected to easily defeat his Republican challenger, Joe Mendola, in Tuesday's election for comptroller. Also on the ballot: Stuart Avrick, Salim Ejaz and John Clifton.That office serves as the watchdog of City Hall, auditing city agencies and overseeing the municipal pension.

Liu's family emigrated from Taiwan when he was a child.

Liu, who grew up in Flushing, Queens, would make history as the first Asian-American to become a highly ranked city official.

The city saw a rise in Asian-Americans at the polls during the Sept. 15 primary, resulting in a number of Queens candidates taking the Democratic slot, including Liu,and Kevin Kim, a Korean American running for Council District 19 in northeastern Queens.

Speaking to the Times Legder newspaper after the vote, he said "every community reaches a certain stage of political maturity,” he said. “It’s a great sign that Asian-American voters turned out in great numbers. Having new voices in a legislative body, such as the City Council, is good not only for the community that is gaining the new voices but the city as a whole.”

Liu has served on the City Council since 2002, representing parts of Queens. He also was the first Asian-American on the council.

If elected, Liu said he plans to implement reforms to the city comptroller’s office within his first six months in office.

"I’m going to {talk} about important issues — the economic slump we have to get out of, leveling the playing field for minority businesses and small upcoming businesses with an emphasis on creating jobs for people living in the city and eliminating waste from the city budget, which has a looming $5 billion gap that needs to be filled in the next nine months,” Liu said in the interview with the Times Ledger Newspaper.

Since New York City is overwhelmingly Democratic, a string of other city-wide races up for election today are considered a forgone conclusion.

In the Public Advocate race, Democrat Bill de Blasio is expected to easily over-take Republican Alex Zablock.

But in several races, Democratic incumbents are facing challenges from third party candidates.

In the 22nd District in Queens, which includes Astoria and Long Island City, incumbent Peter Vallone Jr. has drawn a well-funded challenge from Lynne Serpe, an environmental and transportation activist running on the Green Party line.

And in Brooklyn's 36th District, which includes most of Bedford-Stuyvesant and parts of Crown Heights, incumbent Al Vann is facing a fierce challenge from Working Families Party candidate Winston Griffith.

The 19th District in northeast Queens, which includes College Point, Bayside and Whitestone, is the site of one of the ugliest battles in this year's race. Democrat Kevin Kim is running against Republican Daniel Halloran, a local attorney, in a race that has seen accusations of racism and questions about religion.

The Halloran camp accuses Kim of being a pawn for Asian real estate developers, many of whom have given donations to his campaign.  "Kevin Kim is itching to sell off our community to the highest bidder," says a recent Halloran press release -- a move that elicited calls of Racism from Kim.

Halloran, an admitted Pagan, has endured scrutiny about the practice from local media and his opponents.

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