Cuomo calls April special election to fill L.E.S. Assembly seat

Governor Andrew Cuomo has called a special election for April 19 for the 65th Assembly District.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has called a special election for April 19 for the 65th Assembly District.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has called a special election for April 19 for the 65th Assembly District.

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Updated Mon., Feb. 1, 11:48 p.m: On Saturday, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a proclamation setting Tues., April 19, as the date for a special election for the 59th, 62nd and 65th Assembly Districts, as well as the 9th Senate District.

The date — which coincides with the presidential primary election in New York State — was chosen in order to both “maximize voter turnout and minimize the cost to taxpayers,” according to the governor.

The Lower East Side’s 65th A.D. seat has been vacant since late last year when former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was convicted on multiple federal graft charges and immediately stripped of his office.

According to State Committeeman John Quinn, Democratic County Committee members from the 65th A.D. will meet this coming Sun., Feb. 7 — Super Bowl Sunday — for their vote to pick the party’s sole nominee for the “special.”

Quinn’s Lower East Side Democratic Club will play a pivotal role in the County Committee vote. Other clubs covering parts of the district include Soho’s Downtown Independent Democrats, Chinatown’s United Democratic Organization and Grand St.’s Harry S. Truman Club.

The roster of Assembly hopefuls includes District Leaders Alice Cancel, Paul Newell and Jenifer Rajkumar, as well as Yuh-Line Niou — chief of staff to Queens Assemblymember Ron Kim — John Bal, Chinatown activist Don Lee and Community Board 3 Chairperson Gigi Li.

Newell and Rajkumar are fighting it out for County Committee members’ support in D.I.D.’s turf, while Niou has the backing of U.D.O. Cancel’s home club is L.E.S.D.C.

According to Quinn, Councilmember Rosie Mendez has endorsed his wife, Cancel.

At an event in Chinatown on Jan. 25 — before the special election was called — Lee announced he is running for Assembly. However — without a base in any of the local political clubs — he said he was looking beyond the special election, to the general election in September, when the public will have a chance to pick the Democratic nominee.

Speaking last week before the governor had called the special election, Virginia Kee, president emeritus of U.D.O., said it was hard to predict how the County Committee vote would play out. No candidate can expect to a win an absolute majority — more than 50 percent of the vote — on the first round, she said. She predicted Cancel might conceivably be the top vote-getter in a first round, and that she hoped Niou would come in second. After that, there would be further jockeying for position and more rounds of voting, during which she hoped Niou, her candidate, would prevail. But that, obviously, is clearly Kee’s partisan take.

“We don’t know what will happen,” she admitted.

Sean Sweeney, a leading member of D.I.D., said after each successive round of voting, the hope would be that the low vote-getters would drop out of the running.

Because of the short notice, it was a scramble to set a time and place for the County Committee vote, Sweeney said.

“It’s crazy because the Super Bowl is that day,” he said. “But Saturday is the Sabbath, and Monday is Chinese New Year, so that leaves Sunday afternoon. But sports fans on the committee might get antsy to watch the game and that could affect decision making. Crazy timing.”

The location and time of Sunday’s County Committee meeting have been set for the Educational Alliance, at 197 E. Broadway, at 2 p.m. According to Quinn, the meeting must be open to the public and the press.

According to their State Board of Elections January 2016 periodic filings, showing how much cash the candidates had on hand, Niou had $133,180, Rajkumar had $84,363 and Newell had $68,720.

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