By Sheldon Ranz
As the political chaos of redistricting finally, mercifully, comes to an end in New York State with the Democratic primaries for Congress and the State Senate on August 23, a new order of progressive leadership could emerge. There’s State Senator Alessandra Biaggi running for House District 17 (against Sean Maloney), Brittany Ramos DeBarros taking on Max Rose and possibly incumbent Nicole Malliotakis in House District 11; and Melanie D’arrigo running for House District 3 (Nassau County). There’s a rush of new enthusiasm for re-electing Rep. Jamaal Bowman because, with the albatross of his old Riverdale constituency no longer hanging around his neck, he was freed up to endorse the Palestinian Right of Return (BDS Demand #3) at the behest of Rep. Rashida Tlaib several months ago.
The most important August 23rd contest is the Democratic primary for U.S. House District 10. In a solidly blue new (no incumbent) district, the winner of the primary is all but certain to represent the District in Congress. The District reflects the 2020 Census results, consisting of Manhattan’s Chinatown, Greenwich Village, Wall Street and the Financial District, and the Lower East Side; as well as Brooklyn’s Park Slope, Sunset Park (Brooklyn’s Chinatown) and Borough Park. The latter two areas have large Latino and Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods. There are over 12 candidates vying for this seat, and Social Democrats USA endorses the only consistent progressive in the race, Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou.
She has been advocating for New Yorkers in government for over a decade, first as Chief of Staff to Assemblymember Ron Kim. In 2016, she was elected in a historic landslide victory to represent New York’s 65th Assembly District, becoming the first AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) woman in the NYS Assembly and the first Asian-American to represent Manhattan’s Chinatown in the State Legislature. Yuh-Line helped form New York State’s first-ever Asian Pacific- American Legislative Task Force.
As SDUSA noted in our prior endorsement of Assemblymember Niou in Nine for New York, she secured a record $550 million in funding for the NYC Housing Authority for capital repairs to its crippling infrastructure and voted for the successful repeal of Bill 50-A, which shielded police misconduct and police brutality from public scrutiny. As an Elizabeth Warren endorser in 2020, she helped maintain the working alliance between Warren supporters and Berniecrats within the sex work decriminalization movement. Niou was one of the first public figures to speak out against then-NY Governor Andrew Cuomo when news of his abusive conduct was revealed. In the past six years, she has been the prime sponsor of 15 bills that became law, including one establishing a toll-free hotline for complaints of workplace sexual harassment.
Niou advocates single-payer health care, the Green New Deal, investment in public housing and eliminating the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. If elected to Congress, she intends to make predatory lending a target, based on feedback from her constituents. Unlike her fellow Democratic candidates Carlina Rivera or Dan Goldman, she doesn’t take huge gobs of real estate contributions; unlike Liz Holtzman, she wants to cancel student loan debt. If she wins, Niou — whose parents emigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan when she was a child — would become only the second Asian-American elected to Congress from New York, after Grace Meng.
Of all the major candidates running for this Congressional seat, Niou is the only one who has brought up foreign policy in a serious manner – she didn’t have to, but she did anyway – by announcing her support for BDS. She did this not just in terms of supporting someone having a civil right to engage in a boycott per se, but stated her agreement with the overall stance of the movement in support of Palestinian human rights. Unsurprisingly, she has been deluged with attacks from the other candidates and the print media on this matter, but has stood firm. Both in her policies and in her outlook, Yuh-Line Niou is very much the social democrat. She has used government to direct resources toward the needy and the marginalized in order to achieve a more egalitarian society, and is willing to take risks on the diplomatic front to achieve the same goal on a more global scale.
Sheldon Ranz is Director of Special Projects for Social Democrats USA and the editor of Socialist Currents.