By Alexander Dworkowitz
For John Liu, it’s time to move on. But his former opponents feel differently.
Although proud to become the first Asian-American on the City Council, the 34-year-old Taiwanese immigrant and Democratic victor in the Nov. 6 election for Julia Harrison’s seat (D-Flushing) said he is not dwelling on the results.
“It’s an exceptional honor to be the first Asian-American to serve on the City Council,” said Liu. “I am extremely excited and proud that the people of Flushing have selected me to represent them in City Hall … but the election is over.”
Liu, who won 55 percent of the vote Nov. 6, defeated Republican Ryan Walsh with 33 percent of the vote, the Green Party’s Paul Graziano with 7 percent and Independent Martha Flores-Vazquez with 5 percent, according to unofficial Associated Press results.
Liu raised significantly more money than his opponents. According to the Campaign Finance Board’s report for the latest period ending Oct. 26, Liu raised $194,160 and $48,945 in matching funds. Walsh raised $6,525 with $6,425 in matching funds, Graziano raised $6,976 with $6,871 in matching funds and Flores-Vazquez raised $14,700 with $10,956 in matching funds.
While Liu is in the midst of planning his agenda as Flushing’s city council representative, many of his former opponents are not supporting the councilman-elect.
Flores-Vazquez said she, Graziano and Ethel Chen were forming the Coalition for Our Flushing, a group of civic leaders to investigate what they contended were irregularities in the Sept. 25 primary and the Nov. 6 election. In the Democratic primary, Liu, who had 31 percent of the vote, edged out Chen, who had 29 percent.
Flores-Vazquez alleged that members of the Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, who interviewed Asian-Americans at several polling sites in Flushing on Nov. 6, illegally suggested to voters that they choose John Liu.
“This is not personal,” said Flores-Vazquez. “But we cannot sit back and allow this to continue because it’s just unfair.”
AALDEF could not be reached for comment.
Liu did not give the charge against AALDEF nor the coalition much credence.
“She tends to think if someone looks Asian, she must be campaigning for me,” he said of Flores-Vazquez. “People have been talking about irregularities for months now.”
Outside the coalition, another Flushing political leader has also been hesitant to support Liu. Harrison, whom Liu is replacing, backed Chen in the Democratic primary. According to Walsh, Harrison later supported his Republican candidacy in the general election.
Liu said that despite the coalition and Harrison’s crossing party lines, he believes that with his 22-percentage point victory he has the backing of Flushing and its leaders.
“My support across the district is very thorough,” he said. “The primary was a competitive one, but people got past the primary.”
Meanwhile, according to James Wu, campaign adviser to Ethel Chen, Harrison’s office filed an ethics violation charge against Liu, which is still being looked at by the Department of Investigation.
The Department of Investigation would not release any information as to whether or not a charge against Liu had been filed with the agency.
“DOI policy is neither to affirm or deny investigations or complaints,” said Elise Hirschworn, spokeswoman for the department.
In August, Wu and John Watts, campaign manager for Harrison, cited a vote on a development that Liu had cast as a member of Community Board 7 as a possible ethics violation. They said Liu should have recused himself from the vote since the developer contributed to his campaign.
At the time, Evan Stavisky, a political consultant who managed the Liu campaign, dismissed the charge.
“This is nothing but a desperate, last-minute smear from two people with a political agenda,” said Stavisky in late August.
Now that he has won, Liu said he wants to concentrate on the issues facing him. Liu has campaigned to clean up downtown Flushing and increase the commitment to Flushing’s schools and police force, but he acknowledged that he will have to fight against the possibility of a shrinking budget in light of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11.
“I think the budgetary challenge will be more pronounced than in past years,” he said. “Harder choices will have to be made.”
Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.