That’s the intriguing question posed by the candidacy of Dan O’Connor, one of the three candidates running against longtime Brooklyn/Manhattan Rep. Nydia Velazquez.
O’Connor, who stopped by our Manhattan office recently to discuss his campaign strategy, is basing his run around winning votes in the Asian-American neighborhoods of Chinatown in Manhattan (where he recently opened his campaign office) and Sunset Park in Brooklyn.
And though no one would confuse him for a person of Asian-American descent, O’Connor, 33, lived in China for six years, learning fluent Mandarin and Cantonese — neither of which is spoken by Velazquez.
O’Connor even has a Chinese name he often goes by – Dan Lee – and his first name translates, fittingly, to “egg.”
“Everyone jokes that I’m white on the outside and yellow on the inside,” O’Connor said. “I not only speak the language, but I know the customs. I bond with them. I get the humor.”
O’Connor, who has been working in the finance industry, has some demographic data to back up his aspirations. There are now three Hispanic candidates running for Velazquez’s seat: Councilman Erik Martin Dilan, Occupy Wall Street activist/hip hop artist George Martinez and Velaquez herself. Under new district lines proposed by Judge Roanne Mann, the Hispanic population makes up 43 percent of the district, while it’s 28 percent Caucasian and has grown to nearly 20 percent Asian-American. That’s a total of nearly 48 percent of the district.
On Thursday, when O’Connor opened his campaign office in Chinatown, the event was covered extensively by three Chinese-language papers: Sing Tao, World Journal, and China Press.
O’Connor charges that the Chinese community has been ignored by Velazquez, the first Puerto Rican woman elected to Congress, and says the community is itching for someone who will pay more attention.
“She’s been very much concerned with the Hispanic community, and only over the past few months, after I started running, has she become more active [in the Chinese community],” O’Connor charged.
It all sounds good on paper, but it also seems quite doubtful that much establishment support in the Asian-American community will go to an unknown challenger like O’Connor, unless he proves to be viable. That’s certainly an uphill battle for any unknown, especially one who has not yet raised much money.
Still, I know from talking to people close to Dilan that, at the very least, O’Connor is seen as helpful to them, since O’Connor could presumably cut into Velazquez’s vote in Manhattan.
Trackback from your site.