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Democratic lobbyist vies for new assembly seat

As a lobbyist for crime victims’ services, John Albert learned his way around the state Legislature.

Now as a candidate for the newly drawn assembly seat in Flushing, he’s hoping to put that experience to work.

Albert, a 28-year-old Fresh Meadows resident who emigrated from India at the age of 6, is hitting the streets of Flushing this summer in his first campaign, he said.

“I’m cutting my teeth in a very difficult race,” Albert said in an interview with the TimesLedger earlier this month. “I think I have something positive to say. I’m a fresh face and a fresh voice.”

Albert is running as a Democrat in an already crowded race for the 22nd Assembly District, now centered around the heavily Asian downtown Flushing. Also vying for the seat are political insider Barry Grodenchik, who has been backed by the Democratic Party; Democratic District Leader Ethel Chen; Republican District Leader Meilin Tan, who won her party’s designation; Democratic activist Richard Jannaccio; Green Party candidate Evergreen Chou; and Democratic businessman Jimmy Meng.

According to the 2000 Census, the new district is 53.3 percent Asian, 20.1 percent white, 18.7 percent Hispanic and 4.5 percent black, and although the new lines are drawing more attention to Flushing, Albert is concerned the numbers might make ethnicity a larger factor in the race.

“The problem is that Flushing has been drawn as an Asian district,” he said. “It’s alienating everyone who isn’t Asian. We need someone to bring the disparate groups together.”

As an Indian-American, Albert is hoping to be the pan-Flushing candidate to represent the district.

“The visceral reaction to people is always people who look like me, who act like me, who talk like me,” he said. “When you get to the other level, I want to be there.”

Albert’s priorities for Flushing include problems such as crowding, transportation, quality-of-life concerns like parking, and affordable housing, he said. Zoning is also on his list, and he would like to see Flushing rezoned to help create more affordable housing and easier traffic flow.

“These are the types of things that are so obvious that no one saw them,” Albert said.

Albert also hopes to focus on senior citizens’ concerns, such as prescription health care and youth issues, including increased after-school programs, he said.

Although Albert has his base of support in the Indian community, he is hitting the pavement and going door-to-door to talk to voters, he said.

“Many people open their doors, and some don’t,” Albert said. “But I talk to them about their issues and people are responding.”

Albert’s youth has also worked both for and against him at times, the 28-year-old candidate said.

“A lot of people say, ‘who is this guy?’” Albert said. “But it’s a benefit if you can show you’re energetic and you have substance behind it.”

And Albert hopes to use his energy to attract under-represented groups in Flushing, including the black and Latino populations, he said.

“There are groups that will feel alienated,” he said. “If I go and speak to them, I will convince them.”

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138.

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