City Councilman John Liu’s victory last week in the runoff for the Democratic nomination for city comptroller was a historic accomplishment not just for his campaign but for the city’s Asian-American community. In all likelihood, he will become the first Asian American to be elected to a citywide office.
In the years to come 2009 may be remembered as the year the Asian-American voter became a power to be reckoned with. This is true in Flushing and other parts of Queens, where Asian Americans flexed their muscle like never before.
Asian Americans have long been a financial force in the city. The Chinese and Korean Americans have progressed from nail salons and take-out food to become players in the realm of finance and international trade. But it was not until this fall that Asian Americans demonstrated their power at the polls.
Liu does not want to be seen as an Asian-American candidate. He could not have won the runoff without widespread support. As a councilman he worked hard for his district and won respect citywide for his stance on critical issues.
In Council District 20 Democrat Yen Chou captured the nomination and Kevin Kim, a Korean American, won the nomination to replace Councilman Tony Avella in District 19, which includes College Point, Whitestone and Bayside.
This happened in part because the Asian-American community got out the vote when overall turnout was sparse and again for the runoff. Not surprisingly, Asian Americans who came to the polls voted overwhelmingly for Asian-American candidates.
Non-Asian Americans should neither be surprised nor discouraged by this turn of events. It is a familiar pattern in American politics where new ethnic groups grow from minority status to become a powerful player on the political scene. Liu, for example, has shown that while he is sensitive to the needs of Chinese Americans in his district, he is prepared to address the concerns of all New Yorkers.
We congratulate Liu and the other candidates who won nominations in the Council races. We are hopeful these candidates will bring new life into the city’s government.
©2009 Community News Group
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