Assemblymember Felix Ortiz (D-Sunset Park, Red Hook) picked up an endorsement this week from members of a key demographic in the 38th Council District — the Asian American community.
“I am grateful to receive the endorsement of the New York City Asian American Democratic Club,” said Ortiz. “The club is known for promoting the needs of the Asian community, which includes improving opportunities for education, affordable housing, services for seniors and support of local businesses. I look forward to continuing to work with the club to improve access to city services and bring leadership to the City Council.”
The year-old political club issued the endorsement this week after its nearly 300 members reviewed candidate responses to a lengthy questionnaire on campaign goals and policy priorities.
“After discussing each candidate’s response to the questionnaire, each of our members were presented a candidate endorsement survey to select a candidate of their choice for each council district,” said ADC President Kenneth Chiu, referring to the fact that they also issued endorsements in the Lower Manhattan District 1 and Flushing, Queens-based District 20 races.
“In the coming days, the club will be meeting with the endorsed candidates and their campaigns to map out a winning plan so the people of Districts 1, 20 and 38 can elect a leader that listens to their needs and fight passionately for them,” Chiu added.
Ortiz has served in the State Assembly since 1994; his decision to throw his hat into the city politics ring came late in the game: he didn’t officially file paperwork with the Campaign Finance Board until mid July. But he has already raised over $75,000 in donations — putting him second in fundraising to incumbent Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, who has collected over $97,000 in donations.
Other candidates in the Democratic primary race include Menchaca’s predecessor, Sara Gonzalez, former assemblymember and long-time community activist Javier Nieves, Sunset Park attorney and business leader Delvis Valdes, newcomer real estate attorney Chris Miao, and Green Party candidate Carmen V. Hulbert.
Menchaca’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the endorsement as of press time.
However, the freshman councilmember already has endorsements from Congressmembers Nydia Velazquez and Jerrold Nadler, as well as the New York State Nurses Association and the Transportation Workers Union.
The ADC joins the United Federation of Teachers and Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association in endorsing Ortiz.
In the insular, but steadily influential world of southern Brooklyn politics, the decades-old and fast-growing Chinese American immigrant community has been slow to gain political traction. Spread across Sunset Park, Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Gravesend, and Sheepshead Bay, the community is also divided amongst different assembly and council districts. But as the population grows, so does the push for representation and the pool of viable and enthusiastic candidates for elected office.
Both Sunset Park candidate Miao and District 47 Assembly Democratic district leader Nancy Tong — who is vying for the neighboring District 43 City Council seat — hope to become Brooklyn’s first Asian American lawmaker.
On not getting the Asian American political club’s support, Miao said “it’s unfortunate, but I don’t expect anybody to issue endorsements based on race, so it’s not a given that the ADC would have to issue their endorsement for me.”
However, he noted that he considers the Club’s endorsement of Ortiz to be “a horrible move. . . if we’re talking about candidates that support rights for Asian Americans and to protect Asian American interests.”
Of particular concern for Miao is what he claims is Ortiz’s support of efforts to change admissions standards to the city’s specialized high schools, from a single entrance exam to what supporters of reform describe as a more holistic approach, including middle school teacher evaluations, interviews, and extracurriculars. Asian Americans make up a majority of the student populations at many specialized high schools, including Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Tech.
Ortiz did not respond to requests for comment regarding his stance on the issue.
The next candidate debate between District 38 City Council candidates is set for 6:30 p.m., Friday, September 8 at 245 23rd Street in Sunset Park/Greenwood Heights.