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Winning Chinese Vote Becomes Key As Bay Ridge State Senate Race Intensifies
From Singtao Daily
October 5, 2002

This November 5th, the Chinese community of Brooklyn’s Sunset Park and Bay Ridge will meet with an unprecedented opportunity in local political history — their votes might very well decide the state senate elections. At the moment, area residents are equally divided in their support for the Republican and the Democratic candidates.

Senate District 22 comprises the heavily-Chinese neighborhoods of Sunset Park, Bay Ridge, and Bensonhurst. With roughly a month to go until election day, candidates Vincent Gentile (D) and Marty Golden (R) are neck in neck. The one who manages to curry the favor of Chinese voters will definitely have the advantage.

Census 2000 statistics indicate that Senate District 22 has a total population of 311,260 of which 73 percent is white, 16 percent is Asian (mostly Chinese), and approximately 8 percent is Hispanic. The actual number of Chinese residents is 50,869, of which only 14,000 are registered voters. According to Golden’s campaign office, there are still 38,000 within this group who are over 18 and thus eligible to vote, but have not yet registered.

It is obvious that Golden has a greater regard for the Chinese minority than Gentile does. Golden has hosted quite a few voter registration drives for the Chinese community this year alone. His office reported that he helped register 200 new immigrants this summer, of whom half were Republicans, and the rest from various parties. Yesterday, his office held a voter registration event in Bensonhurst for Chinese residents.

Senate District 22 has one of the largest and most concentrated Asian populations among the districts redrawn as part of this year’s statewide redistricting plan. The seventy-percent non-Asian segment of the area’s residents is basically split between the two candidates, making the Asian minority the deciding factor in this race.

Gentile (D) is State Senator for District 23. Most of the neighborhoods he represents have been swallowed up by District 22. He now has to run for office in a new district against the popular Marty Golden, the current City Councilman for Bay Ridge. Now serving his second consecutive term within this capacity, Golden has already built up quite a reputation within the neighborhood. Residents of all faiths and ethnicities readily place their trust in him.

Golden and Gentile both started their political careers in this area of Brooklyn. Having been elected State Senator for the past three terms, Gentile would most definitely have won again had Golden not decided to join the fray. The uncertainty he introduced is palpable. Many in the neighborhood have been longtime supporters of both politicians — the one being at the state level and the other local. Many voters are thus caught in a dilemma now that they are both after the same job.

Gentile was a prosecutor for the District Attorney before serving as SD 23 Senator for three terms. He has roots in the community, and attends to district affairs both great and small with much zest. Because of his visibility within the district, the local press has nicknamed him "Senator Everyday." Golden was a police officer until he was injured on the job. He retired from law enforcement and helped revitalize the neighborhood when he launched a new career in business. He defeated all his opponents when he first ran for City Council in 1997 as a Democrat, and has been Bay Ridge’s representative ever since.

The number of registered Chinese voters has grown considerably since the presidential elections of two years ago, and especially since Brooklyn Chinese American Planning Council director Mai Baoluo made it onto District 20’s school board. Actual voter turnout has gone up too, and given the significance of some of the races this year, Chinese participation is expected to jump.

Right now both senatorial candidates are eagerly pursuing the Chinese vote. They regularly appear at local events. Golden though, in addition to maintaining close ties to the community in Brooklyn, has also kept up a relationship with the one in Manhattan (Chinatown) as well. This summer, he hired Chinese-American Li Zongbao as a consultant after his long-term efforts within the City Council for establishing the Lunar New Year Festival as a city-wide holiday finally succeeded. On that day next year, the alternate side of the street parking will be suspended as it is for all other public holidays.

Most people believe that SD 23’s Chinese residents are inclined towards electing Golden. However, the Republican cannot overlook the fact that a majority of Chinese voters are Democrats. Their support for Gentile is not to be dismissed.

In the coming weeks, Golden is expected to intensify his campaign efforts within the Chinese community through telephone calls and mass mailings.

Translated From Chinese By Kelvin Wu

• • • • •

Chinese State Assembly Candidates Struggle For The Fujianese Vote
From Singtao Daily
October 2, 2002

The candidates for the state assembly seat in District 22 are engaged in a heated battle for the support of immigrant voters from China’s Fujian province. Republican candidate Meilin Tan has been quite successful in this endeavor thus far, but the others, most notably Jimmy Meng, have not given up. Although Meng’s ties to Fujianese associations are less intimate than Tan’s, he took the initiative of publishing a full-page advertisement to promote his campaign in the October edition of "The Voice of Fujian America" (Fujian Qiaosheng), a monthly newspaper read primarily by Fujianese immigrants.

As the only Republican in the race, Tan did not need to fret about the primary. This not only allowed her to comfortably wait by as her Democratic opponents fought it out amongst themselves (Grodenchik won the primary; early on, Tan had already perceived the Jewish candidate to be her real challenger), but also saved quite a bit in campaign financing; her Flushing campaign office only opened on September 6th.

One might expect her efforts at wooing the favor of the Fujianese community to still be in their infancy, but the situation is quite the reverse. She and her son, Shunxi Tan, have shown up at all major Fujianese gatherings accompanied by mayoral and gubernatorial representatives.

Tan can greet the director of every single Fujianese council by name, in the process reminding him or her of a close relationship extending back one to two decades.

The weight these ethnic associations cast on the local political scene is quite apparent. In the course of many meetings with them, Tan has not failed to stress her record of service to the Fujianese community and remind them of the sacrifices she has made. Though she never specifically pinpoints what these are, everyone present is undoubtedly aware of them.

In response, these various societies have been unwavering in backing her run for assembly. In August, Tan met with the East Coast Fujianese Association (Meidong Fujian Tongxianghui), where Fujianese community leaders voiced their support for her campaign. The day her Flushing office opened, Fujianese from all over the city showed up to congratulate her. The Changle Association (Changle Gonghui) contributed $5,000 towards her campaign. On September 19th, the Fujianese-American Council (Fujianqiao Tuan) organized a fund-raising dinner for her at the Jinfong Restaurant in Chinatown, which nearly all the major players of the community attended. She raised $12,888 that night.

The first to establish links with the Fujianese constituency, though, was candidate Ethel Chen (D). Months before Tan became visibly active, Chen had already met with the East Coast Fujianese Association while seeking support. On April 7th, the association had donated $15,900 to her campaign.

Meilin Tan only met up with this group on June 9th. The same association offered a pledge of support to Jimmy Meng on July 12th. The Fujianese Business Association (Fujian Gongshang Zhonghui) and the Minnan Association (Minnan Tongxianghui) also decided to back him up at the time.

Although all three of the Chinese candidates have friends within the community, Meilin Tan is undoubtedly the most popular among the Fujianese.

The number of Fujianese voters within the 22nd Assembly District is far lower than that of Chinatown, but their representation within the local Flushing community is substantial. Their level of support offers a convenient indicator to the candidates of their standing within the Flushing area at large, and their votes present a prize not to be overlooked. In addition, given the generosity of the community during this campaign season, it is obvious why the candidates must fight to garner as much support as they can from the members of this ethnic group.

From this assembly race, the high degree of political participation among the Fujianese citizens is evident. They know full well that their vote is worth more than their dollar. Come November 5th, we shall all know the true extent of their political strength.

Translated from Chinese by Kelvin Wu.

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