Niou Vacancy Leads to Open Assembly Seat
(l-r) Illapa Sairitupac, Grace Lee, and Denny Salas
*Reposted from Gotham Gazette. Written by Rachel Cohen.*
There’s a wide open and highly-competitive Democratic primary heading for the finish line in Lower Manhattan’s 65th State Assembly District.
It is among many Assembly primary elections where voting is set to conclude Tuesday, along with the statewide party primaries for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, as well as some down ballot races. Another set of primaries will unfold in August.
Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, a progressive rising star, is leaving the 65th Assembly District seat to run for Congress in the new 10th Congressional District, part of a crowded primary that will be decided in August, along with other U.S. House and State Senate party primary elections.
Running to replace Niou in the heavily-Democratic Assembly district are social worker Illapa Sairitupac, charter school development officer Denny Salas, and small business owner Grace Lee, who unsuccessfully challenged Niou for the seat in 2020. All three candidates have been involved in local community organizing in different ways.
The new 65th district, somewhat redrawn in the redistricting process, includes Chinatown, Two Bridges, the Lower East Side, South Battery Park City, and part of the Financial District. The total population of more than 139,000 residents, based on 2020 Census data, is 33.5% white, 36.8% Asian, 19.1% Hispanic, and 6.6% Black, according to Redistricting & You: New York from the CUNY Mapping Service. Residents of the district voted heavily Democratic during the 2020 presidential election, with 83.3% casting their ballot for now-President Joe Biden and 16.7% voting for then-President Donald Trump.
Niou was the first Asian-American to represent the district that is home to Chinatown and she won the seat over a short-term incumbent with establishment support who had replaced the disgraced former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Backed by the Working Families Party and several progressive elected officials and clubs, Niou was victorious in 2016 and has been a leading progressive voice in the State Legislature since.
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