Tag Archives: AD40

Incumbent Stavisky, newcomer Ron Kim defeat Republican challengers


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/PHOTOS BY ALEXA ALTMAN

Political veteran State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky welcomed in a new generation of local leadership when she and first-time candidate Ron Kim celebrated their general election wins of Senate District 16 and Assembly District 40, respectively.

Stavisky, the first woman from Queens to be elected to the State Senate, defeated Republican opponent J.D. Kim with 76 percent of the vote and garnered 40,355 votes according to unofficial results, retaining her seat in Senate District 16 for what will be her seventh term.

“I’m always nervous,” said Stavisky before the results poured in on Tuesday, November 6. “And I think that’s a good thing because you can’t take voters for granted. Every election is different and I’m optimistic but the voters have spoken.”

Celebrating alongside Kim, who swept a victory from Philip Gim with 67 percent of the vote, Stavisky applauded the political newcomer’s “remarkable job” and indicated his key to success as continuing along his current trajectory.

“It’s very difficult when you run for office for the first time but [Kim] instinctively knew what to do, he knew what positions to take — it’s a lot different when you’re a candidate. It’s one thing to study political science and be familiar with the issues and it’s quite different when you’re a candidate.”

Kim, who was endorsed by Assemblymember Grace Meng, whose seat he will be taking, outraised Gim by a more than 2 to 1 margin.

During Kim’s victory speech, he thanked his staff, volunteers and family. Kim named New York City Comptroller John Liu as his “mentor” and “advisor,” saying that had it not been for Liu, he would have not won this election.

“When an elected official makes an endorsement it’s usually a photo op and a piece of advice,” said Kim. “But John was there every single night — he was so dedicated. I learned so much about what it is to run a campaign the right way and do it the clean way and just pure hard work.”

He then thanked Stavisky for her guidance, saying the Senator stood with him from the beginning of his campaign and their successes were the result of a combined effort.

“We ran as a team and we won as a team,” said Kim.

Kim takes 40th District race by less than 200 votes


| brennison@queenscourier.com

KimLee

Ron Kim fought off four other competitors in a tight primary race to secure the Democratic nod in the 40th Assembly District.

Kim collected 27 percent of the 4,182 ballots cast; just 162 votes ahead of second place finisher Yen Chou and 204 more than third place Ethel Chen, according to unofficial results.

Myungsuk Lee finished in fourth, followed by Martha Flores-Vazquez.

“I knew it was going to be tight, so I didn’t want to be watching television all night,” Kim said of the election.

Instead, he closed himself off in a room to write a thank you speech, regardless of the outcome.

“I felt very proud of the race that we ran,” he said.

Finally, at approximately 10:45 p.m. he received a congratulatory call from Chou.

The Queens Democratic Party-backed Kim will now face off against Phil Gim in the general election. Gim bested Sunny Hahn in the September 13 Republican primary by a 74 to 26 percent margin.

“It’s a first step toward a much tougher election,” Gim said late Thursday night.

The lead fluctuated throughout the night between the candidates in the hotly-contested Democratic primary battle for Assemblymember Grace Meng’s seat — who is running for Congress.

Meng did not endorse a candidate for her seat, though she did offer Kim words of support after his victory.

“Congratulations to Ron Kim on a historic, hard-earned and well-deserved victory. Ron’s vast government experience and dedication to public service will well serve the constituents of the 40th Assembly District,” Meng said in a statement. “I look forward to helping Ron win in November and working alongside him in the years to come.”

Though hard fought, the race only brought out approximately 16 percent of registered Democratic voters in the district.

Approximately 400 residents cast votes in the Republican race, 7 percent of the eligible field.

The winners will meet in the November 6 general election.

“I’m confident that as long as I continue to do the campaign that I’ve been doing, we’ll come out on top,” said Kim.

Gim, happy one campaign is behind, said he’s prepared for November.

“We’re ready for the next challenge,” Gim said. “We will put up a very good election fight.”

40th District assembly hopefuls square off in first debate


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Six out of seven Assembly hopefuls running in the 40th District race mulled over their top legislative priorities, plans to stir job creation and stances on affordable housing before each were stumped by questions on immigration policy.

The would-be state assembly freshmen — Democrats Ethel Chen, Yen Chou, Myungsuk Lee, Ron Kim and Republicans Phil Gim and Sunny Hahn — deliberated on hot-button state issues for the first time together during an August 16 candidates forum in the Flushing library branch.

Democrat Martha Flores-Vasquez was a no show.

The candidates relatively shared the same answers — each agreeing their top concerns include protecting seniors and education and making sure small businesses thrive. They were also united in their matching confusion on the federal immigration reform and enforcement program called Secure Communities, and were similarly vague when explaining how they would balance the state budget.

Secure Communities prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens and repeat immigration violators — and “causes discontent” largely within immigration communities, as was described in the prompt by a forum panelist. But while each candidate said it was important to protect immigrants, they said in contrast they would support the Secure Communities program.

After an audience member’s question called them out on their opposing statements, each finally admitted they did not know of the program and said they would have to study it more before answering.

Some of the candidates’ hazy answers on how they would balance the state budget during a brutal session beginning in January also seemed to frustrate audience members and panelists who had to continuously ask speakers to be more specific.

Lee and Hahn stood by generically repeating they “believe in balancing the budget,” without issuing many specifics. But Gim said he would do so by not raising taxes for small businesses and the middle class and cutting wasteful spending in the state by first finding where money is being misused.

Kim said he would fight for tax breaks for small businesses and working families.

Job creation plans ranged from Kim’s idea to work with state leaders to secure funding and make sure the government does not neglect the downstate area, to Chen’s proposal to focus on development in Willets Point, which she called “that triangle place.” Gim said his priority would be instead to help people keep their jobs in the first place and give small businesses incentives to encourage new hires.

The future of Willets Point came back into conversation when candidates discussed Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plans to increase affordable housing by 2014. Kim said he would push for more affordable housing in the redevelopment site than the 30 to 40 percent slated to be built in there. Lee also agreed the Iron Triangle would be a good location to plant more affordable housing.

Gim said the Flushing Waterfront, once redeveloped, would be ideal for affordable housing if the state could first stop lobbyists from getting zoning to build high-end luxury condos instead.

The six candidates were also prompted to debate what they would do differently than current Assemblymember Grace Meng, who is making a run for Congress in the 6th District.

Chen said she would “have a full attendance record.”

The Assembly hopefuls will battle it out in both a Democratic and Republican primary on September 13.

 

Board of Elections bounces hopefuls from ballot


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Three northeast Queens assembly hopefuls had their election dreams squashed after the city’s Board of Elections (BOE) tossed them off the primary ballot.

Democrat John Scandalios, who was vying to replace Assemblymember Grace Meng in the Flushing-based 40th District, had an insufficient number of signatures and was bumped off the September 13 primary ballot, according to results of the BOE’s July 31 ballot challenge hearings.

William Garifal Jr. — one of two Republican runners in the 25th Assembly race — and Lauren Whalen-Nelson, who had hoped to take on current Assemblymember Ed Braunstein in the 26th District, also got the boot due to lack of valid petitions.

Each contender had until July 12 to circulate at least 500 required designating petitions, according to the BOE.

Democrats Ron Kim, Ethel Chen, Myungsuk Lee, Yen Chou and Martha Flores-Vasquez and Republicans Phil Gim and Sunny Hahn will battle it out next month in the 40th District, as will Democrats Jerry Iannece and Nily Rozic in the 25th District. With Garifal’s expulsion, Republican candidate Abe Fuchs in the 25th District will sail through to November’s general election.

State Senator Tony Avella will also not see a challenger until November, when he will face off with Republican contender Joseph Concannon in the 11th District. But State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky in the 16th District can expect a primary fight from Democratic opponent John Messer. Both had enough signatures to make it through until September, despite allegations from Messer’s camp saying Stavisky submitted fraudulent signatures. The winner will take on Republican candidate J.D. Kim.

Braunstein is looking at an uncontested re-election if the Queens County Republican Party declines to file an appeal on behalf of Whalen-Nelson. GOP chair Phil Ragusa said the County was considering the move but was not yet sure.

“We don’t want to disenfranchise the voters of the 26th Assembly district,” Ragusa said. “In an election, you should have both parties represented.”

Whalen-Nelson was seeking to run as a substitute for Tim Furey, a candidate who originally planned on taking on the incumbent but later declined the line, Ragusa said.

Furey, who had unsuccessfully tried to unseat Assemblymember David Weprin in the 24th District in 2010, was not the first this year to bow out of the 26th District race despite being backed by the Queens GOP.

The GOP originally pushed to pit Ralph Cefalo against Braunstein, but the Malba resident ultimately chose not to enter the race, citing personal matters, Ragusa said back in June.

But the County chair said declinations were nothing new.

“There’s a time to decline. This isn’t the first time this happened. It’s how Joe Crowley became the congressman. It’s done all the time,” he said.

Meanwhile, Scandalios lambasted the “forces against him” — opponent Yen Chou, the Queens County Democratic Party and the BOE — for throwing him off the ballot.

The former comic book store owner said the BOE gave him “false information” while he fought objections from the Queens Democrats and “corrupt data” by BOE clerks.

Scandalios can appear on the ballot in the general election if he runs on another line and gathers 1,500 signatures from within the district by August 26, according to the BOE.

“Eventually, I will be elected,” Scandalios said.

Assembly candidate Myungsuk Lee won’t battle Post over claims


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Myungsuk Lee headshotw

An embattled assembly hopeful is backing out of plans to confront the New York Post after the major metro paper exposed alleged prostitution ads in his Korean-language newspaper.

Myungsuk Lee, a 40th Assembly District candidate, was dealt a major blow to his campaign when the Post recently reported his paper, the Korean American Times, had published ads for seemingly legal massage services that ultimately served as guises for prostitution.

“The New York Post wrote an article of my newspaper’s back pages — that there are some illegal massage businesses — but it’s not true,” Lee, 49, said. “If you see my newspaper’s back pages, there are a lot of massage businesses on Northern Boulevard and Union Street. They’re all legal businesses.”

Lee said the lewd classifieds in question are located inside the paper, not on the back pages. The candidate, who has already issued an apology, now told The Courier he’s not sure the four or five small ads are in fact illegal.

“I acknowledged it at the time because I trusted the New York Post reporter,” Lee said. “But I called the massage business the New York Post visited and they said they are just a regular massage business.”

Lee said he had plans to send a letter to the Post to request a sit down with the paper’s higher up editorial officials, but the candidate is now postponing delivering the letter until after the election.

“Personally, I want to send a letter to the Post, but my political consultants advised me not to do it,” he said. “It makes it worse.”

The District Attorney’s office said they were “going to confer with the NYPD’s vice squad on the matter.”

Multiple Korean and Chinese-language newspaper reports said Lee intends to sue the Post for defamation and libel, but the newspaper owner denied that accusation.

Meanwhile, Lee — who is vying for the seat currently held by Assemblymember Grace Meng — said he’s hoping for a civil and positive campaign against fellow Korean-American candidate Ron Kim. Lee said he withdrew petition objections against Kim and asked his opponent to do the same.

“It’s bad in the Korean community to fight each other. It makes it very negative,” Lee said.

Pat McKenna, Kim’s spokesperson, said the Queens County Democratic Party verifies all petitions to make sure they conform to election law requirements in a “routine investigation.”

“It is clear that Myungsuk Lee will say anything to distract voters from the fact that he is under criminal investigation by the Queens District Attorney,” McKenna said. “His increasingly bizarre attacks and statements are simply the reflection of a campaign in turmoil desperately attempting to avoid talking about Myungsuk Lee’s shameful record.”

Candidate apologizes for prostitution ads in his paper


| mchan@queenscourier.com

File photo

An Assembly candidate and newspaper owner who is under fire for having prostitution ads printed in his Korean-language paper’s back pages apologized and said the lewd classifieds were a reminder that Flushing’s “quality of life is under attack.”

Myungsuk Lee, a 40th Assembly District hopeful, had published ads for seemingly legal massage services that ultimately served as disguises for illegal prostitution in his Korean American Times paper, the New York Post reported this week.

Lee, 49, said his paper, which places hundreds of ads per week, printed the ads under the impression the services offered were legal in nature.

“Had my staff known these individuals were, in fact, using these ads and services as a front for illegal activities, they would never have been accepted,” said the Flushing resident.

According to The Post, women answering telephones at numbers posted on at least two of the ads offered hour-long massages for $50. They directed callers to the same building as Lee’s publishing and campaign offices — at Prince Street and 35th Avenue in Flushing — where workers then tried to sell a Post reporter sexual services.

“I live in this community. I work in this community. I am raising a family in this community. I am deeply concerned that this type of illegal behavior is happening all around us every day, and part of the reason why I decided to run for office this year was to work to improve the overall quality of life for Flushing residents,” Lee said.

The Assembly candidate, who raised about $82,000 in campaign funds so far, pledged to discontinue the ads and correct the issue in the district going forward.

“We always need to stay vigilant against those [who] will lie and deceive for personal gain,” he said.

Meanwhile, seven other candidates vying for the same seat have filed their petitions and await a Board of Election’s commissioner’s hearing on July 30 that will determine if they have a sufficient number of signatures to make it on to the September 13 primary ballot.

They are Democrats Ron Kim, Martha Flores-Vazquez, Ethel Chen, Yen Chou, John Scandalios and Republicans Phil Gim and Sunny Hahn.

The seat is currently held by Assemblymember Grace Meng, who is heading into a general election for the 6th Congressional seat against Councilmember Dan Halloran.

Assembly race divided along ethnic lines


| mchan@queenscourier.com

KimLee

A Democratic Assembly hopeful in a primary race already dividing ethnic lines fears a split Korean community could give the Chinese candidate a golden ticket to the general election.

Myungsuk Lee, who is vying for the potentially open and brewing 40th Assembly District race, expects to face an uphill battle with fellow Korean candidate — and county pick — Ron Kim.

“The Korean community is a little divided between Ron Kim and me,” said Lee, 49, of Flushing. “Their votes are really divided. I don’t think it’s easy to unify them because I will keep running. I won’t give up, and the other candidate won’t give up.”

Kim, a 33-year-old South Korean-born community activist, has the backing of the Queens County Democratic Organization and City Comptroller John Liu. The Flushing resident was an aide to then-Assemblymember Mark Weprin before moving on to work for the city’s Department of Buildings and the Department of Small Business Services, serving also as vice president of the Korean American Association of Greater New York.

Lee, owner and publisher of the tabloid newspaper Korean American Times, is the president of the Federation of Korean American Associations in Greater New York and former president of the Korean American Chamber of Commerce of New York and the Korean American Association of Queens.

While each candidate eyeing the seat will still have to garner enough petitions to make it on to the ballot, Lee and Kim expect to face off with Chinese contender Ethel Chen.

“If there are two Koreans and one Chinese [candidate], it’s not easy for us to win,” Lee said, citing the results of the highly competitive 20th District City Council race in 2009, when Korean hopefuls John Choe and S.J. Jung were beat out in the Democratic primary by Chinese contender Yen Chou. “We are afraid that’s going to happen again.”

Chou — who is also reportedly seeking another run for election this year in the 40th District — was ultimately defeated in that general election by then-Republican rival Peter Koo.

Former Democratic district leader Martha Flores-Vazquez has also reportedly joined the buzzing primary this year. But each hopeful could possibly go up against Assemblymember Grace Meng, who currently holds the seat and is making a run for Congress in the 6th District. Meng’s spokesperson did not directly address whether she would step down or seek re-election if her campaign falls short of Capitol Hill.

On the Republican ticket, Chinese candidate Phil Gim — who got the nod from the Queens County GOP — will take on Korean-native Sunny Hahn.

Candidates have until July 12 to gather enough signatures to qualify for the September 13 primaries.