Democrats in New York’s State Assembly are pushing to block an Asian Republican from taking office in January over alleged residency issues.
Lester Chang, a Lower East Side native born to immigrant Chinese parents, won the Nov. 8 election to represent District 49 in the State Capitol.
Securing 52 percent of the votes, Chang unseated Democratic incumbent Peter Abbate, who held the office for the last 36 years.
With “no discrepancies,” the state’s Board of Elections unanimously certified the results at 1:54 p.m. on Friday.
However, District 49’s future remains in question as the Democratic-led Assembly — led by Speaker Carl Heastie (District 83) — investigates Chang’s eligibility due to alleged residency issues. Reports say the GOP candidate registered to vote in Brooklyn in February but was previously registered in Manhattan. Candidates are required to have lived in the borough they are running in for at least a year prior to election.
The Assembly’s Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Dec. 19 to discuss the matter. A potential vote by the full chamber is also expected next year.
“The state legislature has an obligation to review the qualifications of its members when a serious challenge has been made,” Judiciary Committee member Thomas Abinanti (District 92) told the New York Post. “Given the facts of this case, it appears we have an obligation to review the allegations and make a report to the speaker, as he requested.”
Chang claims to live with his mother in Midwood, Brooklyn. In a press release on Monday, his spokesperson Bill O’Reilly said: “Refusing to seat Assemblyman-elect Chang in the State Legislature would be a resounding slap in the face to Asian American and other Brooklyn voters who proudly supported him in his historic election win.”
Protesters led by the Asian Wave Alliance held a rally in support of Chang on Tuesday.
“I think the time has passed when that needs to be called into question. We do not allow an entire Assembly district to go in on Nov. 8 and vote for someone that is on their ballot, and then say afterwards, ‘You know what, it’s not [the] election result we’d like to see,’” Asian Wave Alliance President Yiatin Chu, according to NY1.
“This community needs to be represented by the people that voted him in,” said Soya Radin of Borough Park, as per News 12. “He won. The people have spoken.”
If Chang is unseated, Gov. Kathy Hochul is expected to call for a special election.