In a newly drawn congressional district here that is now 40 percent Asian, state Assemblywoman Grace Meng is running to be the first Asian-American member of New York’s congressional delegation. Her main rival in the Democratic primary, Assemblyman Rory Lancman, has made support for Israel a central issue.
U.S. Representative Gary Ackerman’s sudden announcement in March that he would not seek re-election after 15 terms in Congress threw the race for New York’s 6th district wide open. The winner of the June 26 primary election will face Republican Dan Holloran in this heavily Democratic district in November.
The candidates agree on most issues, and stress the differences in their leadership styles: Meng, who is soft-spoken, calls herself a “voice for the voiceless.” Lancman likens his forceful liberal style to that of former Congressman Anthony Weiner, who resigned in a sex scandal last year.
Meng, who was born in Queens to Chinese parents and speaks Mandarin, has been campaigning with her husband, Wayne Kye, who speaks Korean. Kye calls it a “tag team” effort.
At Flushing senior center where most people spoke Korean, Kye, speaking in Korean, introduced Meng as his high school sweetheart and implored the crowd to vote.
Asians, including those of mixed race, make up nearly 13 percent of New York city’s population, according to the U.S. Census.
In Flushing, the Asian population increased by nearly 40 percent over the last decade, growing from about half the area’s population in 2000 to 69 percent in 2010, according to an analysis by the Center for Urban Research.
Meng said she is proud of the support, but expresses an uneasiness about being defined solely as Asian-American. She says the issues she talks about, like job creation and improving infrastructure and transportation, transcend ethnicity.