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
International

'Barack Obama cheats on Michelle' claims Japanese politician…

A senior Japanese politician has marred Barack Obama's official visit to Tokyo with bizarre claims that the President cheats on his wife Michelle. Kazuyuki Hamada,…

International

British Royal family devastated by freak NY death…

The British royals have been left devastated by the death of Mark Shand, younger brother of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, after a freak fall in…

Local

Philadelphia principal has President Obama's ear

The West Philadelphia head is gathering ideas to present to the White House.

Local

Neighbors testify at Overbrook roommate slaying trial

Neighbors and roommates were called to testify Wednesday in the trial of Renaldo Robichaw, 56, charged with murder for the death of roommate Albert Smith, 48.

Television

‘Survivor: Cagayan’ recap: Episode 9

It was only an hour-long episode, but there's a lot to cover this week. The drama of Survivor strikes again as the identity of the…

Television

TV watch list, Wednesday, April 23: 'Suburgatory,' 'Modern…

'Suburgatory' The men of "Suburgatory" go camping and Tessa mentors a social outcast in a Miss Chatswin contest, which brings her, once again, into conflict…

Movies

Latin culture highlighted at Filadelphia film fest

Get ready to have a “Bad Hair” day at the upcoming Filadelphia Latin American Film Festival. We mean that in the best possible way. The…

The Word

The best lines from Oprah's ex-stepmother's Daily Mail…

Oprah’s ex-stepmother, Barbara Winfrey, is out for revenge.

NFL

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24…

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24 version

NFL

Eagles will spend Thanksgiving in Dallas, play four…

The Eagles have an impressive, challenging and exciting schedule in 2014.

NFL

NFL releases Eagles 2014 schedule

The Eagles have four primetime games, face the Cowboys on Thanksgiving and host the Seahawks in a dynamic, challenging and impressive schedule.

NHL

All signs suggest Steve Mason will start in…

Flyers head coach Craig Berube elected to put Steve Mason in net for the final minutes of Game 3.

Style

Pippa Middleton's Etsy pick: Golden Thread Jewelry

Get a look at the jewelry Pippa Middleton loves and find out how you can buy it too.

Parenting

What every parent needs to know to get…

Mom and author of "Small Talk," Tracey Blake, shares her five practical tips to help you develop your children's language skills.

Sex

Subway crush: Meet your soulmate on your commute

Read about a couple who has been 40 years after meeting on the train.

Tech

Happy birthday, Game Boy! The handheld console turns…

Nintendo's Game Boy turns 25 this week. To commemorate, we look at some of its better games, like "Tetris" and "The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening."