LES Democrats Make History, Select First Asian-American to Represent Chinatown in Albany

In the wake of 40 years of Sheldon Silver, Democrats in lower Manhattan on Tuesday chose the first Asian-American to represent Chinatown in the state legislature. Political reporter Courtney Gross has the story.

The old guard is gone.

"It feels really great," said Yuh-Line Niou. "I think my district is speaking up and asking for a change."

Niou won the Democratic primary for the 65th Assembly district in lower Manhattan on Tuesday, beating five other candidates in a crowded field.

"This victory silences the voice of hate, of racism, of division," Niou said.

She ousted the short-term incumbent, Alice Cancel who had only been in office since an April special election to replace former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Niou lost in that election by about 700 votes.

Silver was convicted of federal corruption charges last year.

Cancel was considered his handpicked successor. In a statement she congratulated Niou on her win. Hours before her fourth-place finish, we asked her about the influence of Silver on the race.

"Living here for 40 plus years and being a grassroots candidate, I would say that would have no play in this election," Cancel said.

Niou's election may be interpreted as a rejection of that past, while also making history in the process.

In a heavily-Democratic district, she is on her way to become the first Asian American to represent Chinatown in Manhattan.

"I am humbled to be the first Asian American to represent Chinatown or any part of Manhattan in the state legislature," Niou said.

"We said we had the best candidate," said Niou supporter Virginia Kee. "She is Asian American. She can represent this district."

She cast herself as a reformer — someone who would change Albany after years of corruption.

Niou is the former chief of staff to Assemblyman Ron Kim of Queens. She is 33 and moved to Manhattan six years ago.

There is a Republican on the ballot this November, so Niou is widely expected to sail to victory.

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