By Joe Anuta
A former foe of city Comptroller John Liu helped emcee a Flushing campaign event this week for one of his rivals in the mayoral race: scandal-scarred Anthony Weiner.
Deep in Liu territory, neighborhood activist Ethel Chen defended Weiner’s recent revelations that he continued his sexting spree a year after resigning from office in June 2011, although more events continued to add fuel to the media firestorm in the days afterward.
“I think that’s personal — between he and his wife. He didn’t do anything against the law. He didn’t call for prostitute. He didn’t have affair,” Chen said Monday outside the Nan Shan Senior Center, where Weiner had just spoken. “We are looking for a can-do candidate. We are not looking for a priest.”
Chen said area residents would be making their decision Sept. 10 based on who would be the best mayor and would not blindly follow Liu because he is Chinese.
“I think [Weiner] is very charming, that is why a lot of people like him,” said Chen, who said she first met him before his election to Congress in 1999.
In the last citywide race, Liu crushed the competition in the downtown Flushing area. Running in a Democratic primary for comptroller in 2009, he received 3,807 votes out of 5,555 in the predominately Asian enclave, which translates to about 70 percent of the vote.
He netted more than five times the number of ballots than his closest competitor, who received only 720 pulls of the lever, according to data from the city Board of Elections.
Chen, who translated Weiner’s comments Monday, sued Liu in an attempt to invalidate his 2001 City Council race, but the comptroller eventually won. Chen has had a chilly relationship with him since, according to political sources.
Elderly voters at the senior center received Weiner, whose transliterated name in Mandarin is “Wei Nai Ah,” with a mixture of warmth and indifference.
“We have to make it safer for our seniors in their homes, but also safer for them when they cross the street,” said Weiner, who pledged to keep senior centers open and tackle thorny issues like affordable housing. “It’s getting more and more dangerous for them everyday. Crossing Main Street, you have to be an Olympic sprinter to get across safely.”
He even tried out a few Chinese phrases, netting laughs and applause.
While nailing “hello,” Weiner stumbled over more complicated sentences, at one point turning to Chen and asking her to translate.
“I didn’t understand,” she muttered in Mandarin.
Weiner found no respite from the headlines in the days after his visit. A woman he exchanged lurid messages with last summer — a year after resigning and while embarking on his apology tour with wife Huma Abedin — revealed she has not ruled out starring in a pornographic recreation of the steamy sext sessions.
The chorus of pundits calling for Weiner to resign also grew, with President Barack Obama’s former senior adviser, David Axelrod, and Bill Clinton’s former press secretary, Dee Dee Myers, who are both closely connected with the Clinton family, calling for a defiant Weiner to drop out.
“I don’t take my cues on policy from the Sunday talk shows and listening to pundits,” he said Monday, attempting to steer the conversation back to the city’s struggling middle class. “I don’t take my cues from the headline writers at newspapers. I never have.”
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.