Grace Meng, one of four Democrats fighting for the 22nd Assembly seat in Flushing, has withdrawn from the race over residency issues.
Another candidate, Terence Park, 47, a Democratic district leader and member of Community Board 7, was removed from the Sept. 12 primary ballot due to a technical error found in his petition form. He has vowed to fight the decision and will appeal his case in court on Aug. 15.
“It was a stupid mistake of my attorney and I am optimistic that the decision to take me off the ballot will be overturned,” Park said. “I shall prevail.”
Meng denies the residency charges, but rumors have been circulating in the area for some time that she has not lived in the district for the required one year. The challenge was made by Ellen Young, who has the county Democratic organization’s support for the seat.
“Although I believe I have the required proof, i.e., tax forms, driver’s license, etc., I do not want my family, friends, neighbors and supporters to go through a lengthy trial. I also do not want my contributions to be used toward a legal battle,” Meng said in a prepared statement.
She later told the Queens Chronicle that her address is 147 14 45th Ave., which she moved to recently. Prior to that, Meng listed her residency as 142 05 Roosevelt Ave. She also owns property outside the district.
The primary reason she pulled out of the race was the time a trial would take in state Supreme Court. “A trial would take time and focus away from the 22nd Assembly election and that is really what I don’t want to do,” she said. “It’s not good for the community.”
Meng, 31, an attorney, had hoped to replace her father, Jimmy Meng, in the Assembly. He is not seeking re election, citing back problems. After dropping out of the race, Meng promised to continue serving the Flushing community through her legal skills and her volunteer organization, FOCUS. She currently works in her father’s Flushing office.
Corey Bearak, Meng’s campaign consultant, said he was satisfied as to her legal residency. “There is no question in my mind,” he added.
Bearak said that Meng did not want her family to be put to trial, because members had already been subpoenaed. “It’s always a tough decision to pull out of a race, but she made the judgment and we have to respect that,” he added, noting that Meng has “a great future ahead of her.”
Evan Stavisky, a political consultant representing Young, refused to comment directly on the residency challenge, but said: “We believe Grace’s statement speaks for itself. We respect her decision. Ellen looks forward to working with her in the years to come.”
Already sounding like Young has the election sewn up, Stavisky noted that his candidate has the support of all major Democrats and many labor unions as well as the Flushing Chinese Business Association.
But hold on, says Julia Harrison, 86, another candidate who made it through the challenge process to her ballot petitions. “I’m not afraid of Ellen,” she said. “She had to debate me, not the county Democrats.”
In a debate between the four Democratic candidates in late June, Harrison, 86, clearly outshowed Young, in her answers. Young, 54, formerly served as Councilman John Liu’s district administrator and pointed to her experience there.
Harrison served on the City Council for 16 years until term limited out in 2001. Prior to that she was in the Assembly. Always a political maverick, she called the county Democratic organization “sleazy” and said on Tuesday she has no respect for Young.
“Ellen has lied about her relationship with me,” Harrison said. “She never worked with me and never raised funds for me. She has no integrity.”
The veteran politician believes the more candidates, the better, and is saddened that Park, who owns a communications company, may also be out of the race. “He has a good lawyer and I hope he will be restored (to the ballot). It was his staff member who screwed up with the petition form,” Harrison said.
She added that “the knowledge on the street” was that Meng did not meet the residency requirement. Park indicated the court said Meng’s primary residence was in Bayside.
Harrison also noted that many Asian residents are distressed about two Asian candidates being taken off the ballot. “It’s not an easy process for anyone to survive,” Harrison said. “I had to fight like hell to stay on the ballot. But you have to respect the rules and regulations and master the process. It doesn’t encourage people to participate.”
Local political pundits have said all along that although Meng was a strong candidate and well liked, she lacked the experience to be elected. But her debating skills shined at the June debate and proved that she was a worthy opponent. The fact that she pulled out of the race so quickly without a fight left many believing that the charges were true.
Park, a Korean American, and others think that it was the intent of the county Democratic Party to ensure there was only one Asian candidate on the ballot to strengthen Young’s position. She is Chinese.
Outspoken Harrison has been criticized in the past for negative comments about Asians, although she says she was misquoted by the New York Times.
Meng is expected to endorse Harrison since there have been conflicts for years between the Liu camp, which supports Young, and Meng’s father.
Pat Dolan, vice president of the Queens Civic Congress, announced on Tuesday that her group and the Citizens Union would sponsor a political forum between Young and Harrison on Monday, Aug. 21 at 6:15 p.m. at the Flushing Library, 41 17 Main St.