Heard Around Town

GOP City Council candidate Ying Tan gets support from an unlikely donor

Democrat Susan Zhuang still leads fundraising in the three-way race for the southern Brooklyn City Council seat, with a $100,000 cash-on-hand advantage.

Republican New York City Council candidate Ying Tang

Republican New York City Council candidate Ying Tang Ying Tang for NY

Republican Ying Tan raked in more money than her opponents in the 43rd City Council District election in the most recent reporting period, partially helped along by a donation from a former Democratic candidate for the seat.

Democrat Wai Yee Chan, who lost in the June primary for the seat to Susan Zhuang, donated $175 to Tan’s campaign in September according to campaign finance filings. Though Chan ran as a Democrat and was backed by prominent Brooklyn Democrats in the primary, she said that she plans to cast her vote for the Republican candidate in the general election.

“I am donating to Ying Tan’s campaign because she was here during the pandemic. She never leaves our community,” Chan wrote in a text when asked about her donation to the Republican candidate. (Zhuang was living in Indiana when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and later moved back to New York.) “My donation is not about any party line,” Chan continued. “It is about the right candidate for the community.”

Zhuang, who has the overall fundraising advantage with more than $162,000 cash on hand, in turn referenced both Chan and Tan’s own out-of-district residence when asked about her former primary opponent’s donation. “The hypocrisy is not lost on me, but two Queens residents sticking together won’t distract nor deter me from focusing on what is most important to my fellow Southern Brooklyn voters, which includes public safety, quality education, clean streets, and opposing unsafe shelters,” Zhuang wrote in a text.

Bad blood between former primary opponents  is no rarity, but it often plays out behind the scenes. “For someone to have lost the Democratic primary to then donate on public record to the Republican nominee – that is almost unheard of,” said a Democratic strategist familiar with the area. 

The strategist said that frostiness stretches back to the longtime rift between Assembly Member Bill Colton and former Assembly Member Peter Abbate, both Brooklyn Democrats. Zhuang has served as the chief of staff to Colton, while Chan was backed by Abbate and his allies in the Democratic primary. 

Though Tan outpaced her opponents in the most recent fundraising period between Aug. 22 and Oct. 2 – bringing in $9,795 to Zhuang’s $1,545 – she still trails Zhuang in overall donations and has roughly $16,000 on hand compared to Zhuang’s roughly $163,000 on hand, with less than a month to go before the election. Vito LaBella, who is running on the Conservative Party line after losing the Republican primary to Tan in June, brought in $4,325 in the most recent reporting period and has more than $50,000 on hand. LaBella said that his campaign expects to receive more money soon and is focusing on a data-driven, grassroots campaign.

All three candidates in the general election also raised and spent in their competitive primaries. Altogether, Zhuang has spent nearly $270,000 so far, Tan has spent more than $255,000, and LaBella has spent almost $30,000.