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Queens Chronicle

Five compete in District 20 race

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Posted: Thursday, September 10, 2009 12:00 am

The race for John Liu’s 20th District City Council seat has been a contentious one with five remaining Democratic candidates looking for the public’s votes on Tuesday.

In alphabetical order they are:

John Choe, 30, has the Queens Democratic Party endorsement. Until recently, he worked as chief of staff for Liu and cited his experience there as well as working for other city agencies as making him best qualified to get the job done. Born in South Korea, he moved here in 1980. He joined Liu’s staff as legislative director in 2001 and also serves as co-president of the Mitchell-Linden Civic Association and is a board member of the Democratic Organization of Flushing.

“I have connections with civic groups and my strength is in the community,” he said. “They know who I am and I will not need on-the-job training.”

A graduate of SUNY Binghamton, Choe earned his master’s degree at the University of Chicago. He worked for the city Department of Finance, Corporation for Supportive Housing, city Rent Guidelines Board and the Rainbow Center, a shelter and community center for Korean women in Queens.

Yen Chou, 46 , is an educator. The mother of two grown children, Chou was educated in Taiwan and moved to Queens 23 years ago. She earned her master’s degree at St. John’s University and went on to teach at Mary Louis Academy in Jamaica Estates and Queensborough Community College, where she is on leave of absence as an adjunct lecturer.

The educator established the Aim Tutoring Academy in 1996 and later founded and is president of the Chinese American Parent-Student Council of New York City, a group with 600 members.

Her resume includes numerous awards and working as a special assistant for two years for Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis). That experience with the City Council gives her a boost, Chou says.

A former resident of Bayside, she served on the District 26 school board for five years and later on the Community Education Council. She and her husband moved to Flushing last year.

S.J. Jung, 45, owns an import business in Flushing and previously lived in New Jersey.

Born in South Korea, Jung emigrated to the United States in 1986. He eventually became executive director of YKASEC, an Asian nonprofit advocacy group that promotes education, offers legal clinics, language classes and more.

He served as executive director for four years and currently is its board chairman. Jung also serves on the board of the New York Immigration Coalition.

Jung believes he is the man to beat because of his multi-ethnic coalition. The candidate calls himself “a bridge builder,” who can bring together groups and empower the community.

Isaac Sasson, at 68, is the oldest candidate and the only non-Asian one. He was able to get Greek-American Constantine Kavadas off the ballot for lack of signatures.

Sasson, a retired cancer researcher, won $13 million in the Lottery two years ago and since then has set up a charitable trust to help needy organizations, primarily ones from Flushing.

He served for several years on Community Board 7 and is president of the Holly Civic Association. Born in Syria, Sasson came with his parents and six brothers and sisters to Brooklyn from Lebanon at the age of 15.

He later served in the Army, got his undergraduate degree from City College, Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut and went on to teach chemistry at Queens College.

Sasson later worked at Einstein Medical College, did research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and ended his career as director of development for the Institute for Cancer Prevention.

He moved to Skyline Towers apartments on Kissena Boulevard 32 years ago and is proud of his accomplishments as president of its tenants association.

James Wu, 39, is the only candidate born and raised in Flushing. He is a Democratic district leader and longtime political consultant.

Wu thinks growing up in Flushing gives him a distinct advantage over his opponents. “I played stickball here; I saw ‘Star Wars’ at the RKO Keith’s Theatre and I remember when there was a book store here,” he said. “I have seen Flushing change into a diverse community, and you have to listen to everyone.”

He prides himself on working in the background in the past to get things done such as helping to downzone the Kissena Park neighborhood and getting traffic lights and stop signs on Northern Boulevard.

A graduate of Stuyvesant High School and NYU, Wu has worked in technology and owned his own companies. He now serves as a technology consultant.

Welcome to the discussion.