Cancel triumphs in Silver’s former district, says she’ll clean up Albany

New York City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez speaks to reporters with Alice Cancel

Cancel triumphs in Silver’s former district, says she’ll clean up Albany

Cancel triumphs in Silver’s former district, says she’ll clean up Albany
April 20, 2016

As her supporters threw confetti torn from campaign pamphlets on her, Alice Cancel thanked them for helping her clinch former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s district with what she called a $5,000, community-centric campaign that triumphed over a $140,000 bid by the Working Families Party’s Yuh-Line Niou and two other candidates.

“I have my community who did volunteer – none of these people took any breaks; they didn’t go out for lunch; they didn’t ask for any money,” Cancel said outside the Lower East Side Democratic Club’s headquarters Tuesday night. “You elected me, and you wanted me to be your representative and your voice in Albany to clean up the corruption – and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Cancel won with 39.21 percent of votes while Niou took 33.64 percent, Republican Lester Chang captured 18.95 percent and the Green Party’s Dennis Levy earned 3.56 percent, with 97.56 percent of scanners reporting, according to preliminary New York City Board of Elections statistics.

Cancel’s supporters were quick to criticize the media and her opponents for suggesting she was close to Silver, who was forced to forfeit his seat after he was convicted on corruption charges, or that he played a role in her securing the Democratic line. Pedro Cardi, a district leader, said the press belonged on the ballot because it had been more interested in creating a story than telling one, and had ignored his fellow district leader’s decades of work in the community.

“(Niou) raised $140,000 for herself – that’s all she’s done in this community,” said Cardi, who works as vice president of Teamsters Local 210, and also had harsh words for the Working Families Party. “They’re coming to my house, and nobody knocked on my door. They don’t represent the labor movement as far as I’m concerned.”

Those gathered on the Lower East Side thanked City Council members Rosie Mendez and Margaret Chin for backing Cancel, and suggested they stood up to pressure that other officials who backed Niou had caved to. Mendez said she endorsed early based on her familiarity with Cancel’s abilities, but she believed Chin and others heard from the Working Families Party as well as the Bronx and Queens Democratic parties.

“That was very brave and was a testament to my dear friend, who was looking at the realities and seeing what needs to be done,” Mendez said of Chin. “(Working Families) did like, eight mailings that were separate and apart from her campaign, so they put a lot of money into this. And at the end of the day, everything in politics is local.”

Bill Lipton, director of the Working Families Party, disputed the idea that Queens County got involved after some suggested Niou’s old boss, Queens Assemblyman Ron Kim, got the party behind her.

“Ask anyone who isn’t in la-la land, and they’ll tell you that there’s a lot of interesting dynamics in this race – the Queens machine was not one of them,” Lipton said.

Kim stood on stage with Niou as she gave her concession speech, as did U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, who represents a Queens district, state Sen. Daniel Squadron, New York City Councilman Carlos Menchaca and New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

“It’s not exactly all that we hoped that it would be, but we knew that it would be a tough race – standing up to the Sheldon Silver machine, pulling people out of the Democratic line during an intense presidential primary is difficult,” Niou said. “Tonight is not the end, it is the beginning.”

Cancel is likely to face a crowded field during the traditional primary cycle this September, when she will have to go through some of the same motions – for instance, neither Mendez nor Chin have endorsed in the traditional election yet. Several others plan to run for the district, which spans the Financial District, the Lower East Side and Chinatown, including district leaders Paul Newell and Jenifer Rajkumar, Community Board 3 Chairwoman Gigi Li and Christopher Marte.

The list of potential challengers did not phase Cancel, who noted early in the evening that, if she won, she would be the first Latina representative of the area; and if Niou succeeded, she would be the first Asian American in the seat – either would be the first woman.

“This is giving me the confidence to kick ass in September and November,” she said. “I am just beside myself because this is very historic.”

Sarina Trangle
Jeffrey Stein