John Liu vies to break away from the political pack

Mayoral candidate John Liu campaigning in Brooklyn. Credit: Bess Adler
Mayoral candidate John Liu campaigns in Brooklyn. Credit: Bess Adler

At a campaign stop outside the Church Avenue subway station in Brooklyn, an antsy John Liu, struggling to find hands to shake, asked a campaign worker, “This is the heaviest traffic? Not much traffic this way.”

Liu is the current city comptroller and one of the Democratic mayoral candidates in this year’s crowded race.

If elected, Liu would be New York City’s first Asian-American mayor.

The challenge is particularly meaningful to Liu, who says he got into politics late in life after the City Council member representing his neighborhood in Flushing, Julia Harrison, “proclaimed that Asians are always looking to invade, never assimilate, that Asians are nothing more than rude merchants, illegal aliens and criminal smugglers.”

“Front page of the New York Times, March 31, 1996,” Liu recalled. He said it was a day he will never forget.

He ran for her seat the following year and lost “because there were many opponents” — it turned out Harrison’s speech had a similar motivational effect on many. But he won the election four years later, becoming the first Asian-American member of the City Council. When he was elected comptroller in 2009, he became the first Asian-American to hold a citywide office.

Now it remains to be seen if he can garner the same political support from immigrants and the Asian community that got him into both those offices.

Out in Brooklyn trying to curry support with morning commuters, however, things looked bleak. Many people would not stop, and many who did expressed apathy at the very idea of voting. Liu campaign volunteers were at the ready with clipboards to register voters, though the deadline for voting in the Sept. 10 primary had passed a week prior.

Liu was undeterred, however. He and a campaign worker cajoled passers-by into holding campaign flyers and posing for photos with the candidate taken on the staffer’s iPhone, and Liu kept up spirited attempts to connect to transient potential voters on whatever issues might be most important to them.

“I need your vote Sept. 10 — for schools!” Liu exclaimed to a puzzled little girl with braids on her way down the subway stairs.

The platforms of the Democratic candidates are at this point largely the same: Everyone wants more hospitals, more cops, more schools and universal pre-K.

Liu also said that his universal pre-K plan is distinctive because he is calling for early education to start at the age of 3 instead of 4.

“Lots of 3-year-olds are sent to preschool. … But it’s only families who can afford to send their 3-year-olds to preschool that get there,” Liu said. “You’re starting kids off with huge disparities by the time they reach kindergarten and first grade.”

Liu has set himself apart on one major issue: stop-and-frisk. All of the candidates have been critical of the practice and called for its reform, but Liu is the sole candidate to call for abolishing it completely.

When asked if he believed crime could continue to go down as it has under the Bloomberg administration, Liu questioned the accuracy of the numbers provided by the administration, saying, “Unfortunately there are too many reports of people not being able to file police reports.”

He stopped just short of attributing the questionable numbers to corruption within the police department.

“Corruption is a strong word,” Liu hedged.

When asked about the corruption charges that have earned the majority of his campaign’s notoriety, Liu snapped, “What corruption charges? They’re not corruption charges.”

Liu’s campaign was denied matching funds by the Campaign Finance Board because of a federal investigation into the campaign’s fundraising activities. As a result of that investigation, a former campaign staffer and a fundraiser are facing federal charges of conspiring “to corrupt an election” by setting up “straw donors,” people who make campaign contributions and are later reimbursed, with the intention of defrauding the city of millions of dollars of public matching funds.

Liu remains adamant the charges are spurious, calling the FBI’s investigation “ridiculous and political.”

“No campaign can defend [itself] against an FBI sting operation intent on deceiving its way into the campaign and making the campaign believe that contributions are legitimate,” he said.

Testimony in the trial has indicated that the people involved were under no false impressions as to the illegality of their fundraising activities. Still, Liu insisted his campaign “doesn’t do anything different than other campaigns.”

“Except,” he added, “I’m the only candidate who doesn’t accept contributions from people who do business with the city.”

What to expect from Mayor John Liu

  • He would impose additional taxes on large corporations to fund tax breaks for small businesses.
  • Pushes for universal pre-K are more or less universal among the candidates, but Liu said that his plan is different: Early education would begin at the age of 3 rather than 4.
  • Liu is the only mayoral candidate who has called for a complete end to stop-and-frisk, rather than just “reform” of the practice.
  • In place of stop-and-frisk, Liu proposed community policing, involving “direct rapport” between cops, religious leaders, business owners and community activists.
  • Liu said that he plans to add 5,000 cops to the force over four years.
  • Liu praised some of Bloomberg’s health policies, particularly the anti-smoking ad campaign, but said he would not continue to push for the soda ban.
  • Liu said that he would continue to push for the legalization of marijuana.

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.