Yen Chou, a former aide to a state lawmaker and onetime candidate for city office, announced her campaign for the Flushing state Assembly seat last week with a kick-off celebration and promises of a well-funded operation.
Chou was flanked by supporters and a group of young volunteers, posters in hand and smiles plastered on their faces, as she offered her credentials and vision for the 40th District, which encompasses downtown Flushing.
“Here’s the promise,” she told a crowd of more than 100 people at her campaign headquarters on Main Street. “I will take your message to Albany. I strongly believe all the voters in this district will be well-represented.”
Chou’s campaign has collected more than 3,200 signatures, she said, more than six times the number needed to get onto the ballot, although candidates may still gather them through July 12.
She joined a field that is rapidly growing. The Queens Democrats endorsed Ron Kim, a former affiliate of the Parkside Group and regional director for two former New York governors.
In addition, Korean newspaper CEO Myungsuk Lee has also declared he will run as a Democrat, as has longtime Flushing civic leader Ethel Chen. Comic book store owner John Scandalios has also been collecting signatures in hopes of making it onto the ballot. All five could face off in a Democratic primary in September.
On the Republican side, Flushing activists Hank Yeh and Sunny Hahn will duke it out in a primary of their own.
Chou was formerly an aide to Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck), where she said she got political experience at the state level. She also cited her work fighting alongside the United Federation of Teachers and Local 1707 as practice for taking her community involvement to the next level.
“My aggressive fund-raising efforts have already begun,” she said, and alluded to July 15, when she will make the size of her war chest public.
When Chou ran for City Council in 2009, she raised more than $500,000.
Former Deputy NYPD Commissioner Hugh Mo endorsed Chou.
Mo, like many who attended, is a powerful figure in the Chinese-American community, although he is more closely associated with Chinatown in Manhattan than with Flushing.
In fact, nearly all of the big names on a list of supporters that Chou’s campaign distributed were representatives from organizations in Manhattan, not in Queens.
Jian Kuo Mei, director of the worldwide Chinese-language SingTao Newspapers, topped the list, as did Mo.
Eddie Chiu was also high on the list and sat with Mo in the front row at Chou’s news conference. Chiu helms the Lin Sing Association, an umbrella organization advocating for various business and cultural groups in Chinatown, and one that carries a large amount of political clout.
But Chou’s campaign pointed out many Flushing leaders were there along with supporters from various ethnic groups from China and Taiwan, including representatives from Fujianese and Hakka groups across the city.
But the memories of 2009, a tumultuous year for politics in Flushing, still cling to Chou for many in the community.
She surprised many when she won a five-way primary against fellow Chinese candidate James Wu, Korean candidates John Choe and S.J. Jung and Jewish candidate Isaac Sasson.
But she was defeated by Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing), a Republican at the time.