Lawyer, community activist and new mother, Grace Meng, 32, defeated sitting Assemblywoman Ellen Young, 55, in an election that sent shock waves through the Democratic Party in Flushing.
The Democratic primary election for the 22nd Assembly District was held on Tuesday and was not even close. The unofficial voting was Meng, 2,733 and Young, 1,916.
The mood at Meng’s victory party, held at East Buffet Restaurant, located at 42-07 Main St., was triumphant, with every face in the dining room smiling.
After running a somewhat negative campaign, Meng proved a gracious victor, thanking Young for her service and telling supporters who booed Young that, “we all have to work together no matter what.”
Meng, whose husband, Wayne Kye, is Korean, attributed her victory to securing the Korean vote and to working hard for the community, providing what amounts to constituent services, four days per week, for they past two years from her Flushing volunteer community center. “Candidates shouldn’t come from nowhere and stand,” she said.
Meng’s candidacy was supported by Korean community activist Terence Park, who along with former Councilwoman Julia Harrison and others, formed the Proven Leadership and Strength in Unity Coalition.
The upset caused despair among Young’s supporters who, along with most observers, expected a close election with Young’s incumbency and her hard work and popularity carrying the day.
As the polling numbers came in, the mood at Young’s party turned dark and before long whispers of voter fraud and Meng buying votes began to circulate.
Councilman John Liu, standing by Young’s side, said, “Ellen has been through an incredibly difficult few months. The community will stay strong and go forward.”
Many were staggered by the result, especially because Young’s ticket for party officers won, with Liu and Martha Flores Vazquez securing district leader positions and party activists Donald Henton and Loretta Weiss voted in for state committee.
“I just don’t know what happened. Ellen bends over backwards to help people. She’s out there doing her job,” Henton said, adding that this is politics. He wished Meng well.
James Trikas, a member of Park’s coalition described Meng’s victory as “better change” and called the result a “good day.”
Park, speaking from the stage in the dining room said, “We planned. We worked hard and we won. We have brought back democracy to Flushing.”
Young, who is closely allied with Liu, has been criticized by Park for a lack of inclusiveness. He said previously that they represented only one ethnic group, whereas his coalition represented all ethnic groups living in Flushing.
Many of Young’s supporters were devastated by the news, with some standing in the street outside her party, held at Mei Shi Lin Restaurant, at 135-32 40th Rd., asking themselves and each other what went wrong. “Weren’t we open? Hasn’t she worked hard for her constituents?” one young man asked.
The contest turned nasty on election day, with both sides accusing the other of electoral law violations. Both sides claimed to have called the police to polling stations, although a spokesman from the 109th Precinct denied this, saying that there is always a police officer assigned to every polling station and no one had called the precinct to report violations in electoral law.
Meng, who is the mother of an eight-month-old boy, Tyler, is taking advice from other assemblywomen with children, on what to do with her son when she’s in Albany. She has made no decision yet as to whether she will take him with her or not.