HomeAsian AmericansSplit among Asian Am leaders surfaces in NY Congressional race

Split among Asian Am leaders surfaces in NY Congressional race

By Ti-Hua Chang, AsAmNews Staff Writer

A divide among Asian American political leaders in a key New York Congressional race may highlight a divide among Asian American voters nationwide, say political analysts and insiders.

The division in New York City is between young progressives, who favor defunding the police and support Black Lives Matter versus older, more traditional Asian American voters concerned about rampant anti-Asian crime, store robberies and public high school admittance for their teenage children.

They say the leading Asian American candidate in this race, Yuh-Line Niou, may be too progressive for most older Asian American voters.


The newly redrawn 10th Congressional district of New York encompasses two large Asian communities: Manhattan’s Chinatown and Brooklyn’s Sunset Park. Yet two polls indicate the front-running candidate for the district is Dan Goldman, who is not Asian.   

The 10th District’s borders were redrawn to offer Asian Americans an opportunity to have another member of congress for the New York delegation.  It is for representation. New York City is roughly 17% Asian. It and all of New York State have only one Asian American member in Congress, Grace Meng. She represents New York City’s 6th Congressional district of western, central, and northeastern Queens County.

On August 23rd, voting will end in the Democratic Primary for the new 10th district. In addition to the poll favorite Goldman, an Emerson College poll found that State Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, who is Taiwanese American, is “ a close second.” The margin of error on the poll was 4.3% so Niou could statistically be tied for first place.


There is no overwhelming support among Asian American political leaders for either Niou or Goldman, or for the other leading candidates-Manhattan City Council member Carlina Rivera or Brooklyn Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon.

Asian American leaders State Senator John Liu, and Assemblymember Ron Kim, both of Queens, endorsed Niou. (Niou was once Kim’s chief of staff). Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, a progressive and the only Asian mayor of a major American city, also endorsed Niou. Niou has said she would join the Progressive Caucus if elected to Congress.  The powerful On Leong Merchant Association also supports Niou.

Goldman, who worked on the first impeachment of then President Donald Trump, also has prominent Asian American community leaders endorsing him: Grace Lee who is running to replace Niou in the 65th State Assembly seat,   Jan Lee, who headed the efforts to stop the building of a 39-story megajail in Chinatown; and Don Lee, a longtime Chinatown and Sunset park community activist and chair of Homecrest Community Services.  (Don Lee lost to Niou in the 2016 65th District State Assembly race).

City Council member Carlina Rivera is backed by former New York City Councilmember Margaret Chin and former U.S. Ambassador and Washington State Governor Gary Locke.

Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon is backed by Chinese homecare attendants and Chinatown Activists Women Against Racist Violence organization.

By Ti-Hua Chang, AsAmNews


Political strategist and analyst Hank Sheinkopf says the divide is due to several factors. First, there is split between young Asian Americans and middle-aged and traditional Asian American voters.  The young tend to be more progressive and support defunding the police and the Black Lives Matter movement. The middle-aged and traditional Asian American voters worry about the dramatic rise in anti-Asian violence and robberies of family-owned stores.  

Another big factor, again related to age, is middle-aged Asian American voters care deeply about the SHSAT high school exams for the limited spots in the elite New York City Public high schools. Young Asian American voters do not have teenage children.

Sheinkopf says that Asian American voters overall are less progressive than the leading Asian American candidate Yuh-Line Niou.  He adds that Asian Americans are not a monolith, noting, “Even among just the Chinese, you have many different dialects and provinces.”  


But Sheinkopf concluded that this was a natural political maturation process for Asian Americans and, “ Black, Latin and Jewish voters  all went through this period of development.”


A long-time Asian American political leader in New York City agreed with Sheinkopf, telling AsAmNews that Niou was too “left” for most Asian American voters in her own district. This leader, who is not supporting Niou, said that Goldman was popular because he is rich. Goldman is an heir to the Levi-Strauss $7.9 billion dollar company.  Asians, said this leader, admire the rich seeing them as successful noting even Trump is admired, not for his anti-Asian statements, but for being rich.


A community leader in Chinatown, who supports Yuh-Line (because she actively helped his organization’s economic project) says whenever he meets other community leaders supporting Dan Goldman the first thing they say is, ‘”He is the heir to Levi Strauss.”’

“They’re expecting a payday,” says this community leader who asked not to be named.

Levi Straus also has a foundation, which donates 10.5 million dollars a year to worthwhile projects. Its website notes, “The Levi Strauss Foundation supports pioneers working on the frontlines of social change. Our mission is to advance the human rights and well-being of underserved people in places where Levi Strauss & Co. has a business presence.”

This community leader believes part of the Asian nonsupport of Niou is because she won her Manhattan Assembly seat without the backing of most of the borough’s Asian American political organizations.  Niou won from young White progressives said this leader.


 The former Lieutenant Governor of Delaware, S.B. Woo, in the 1990’s proposed a principle he termed 80/20.  Asian American voters should vote as a bloc with 80% of their vote going to the candidate supporting Asian Americans.  It seems that will not be the case in the Democratic primary for selection to represent the new 10th congressional district of New York. Though in this primary all the candidates say they support Asian Americans.   With the overwhelming number of Democrats in this district, the primary is expected to determine who will be this new member of Congress.

This story is a project of “The Stop The Hate campaign and is made possible with funding from the California State Library (CSL) in partnership with the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs (CAPIAA). The views expressed on this website and other materials produced by Asian American Media, Inc. do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the CSL, CAPIAA or the California government. Learn more at capiaa.ca.gov/stop-the-hate.

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