BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Has Yuh-Line Niou been dumped by the very same political club that played a major role in her political rise?
The United Democratic Organization, Chinatown’s main political club, recently snubbed Niou, instead endorsing Carlina Rivera in the race for the Aug. 23 Democratic primary election for Congressional District 10. The newly drawn district includes all of Manhattan south of 14th Street, plus parts of Brooklyn.
City Councilmember Rivera tweeted the news on June 22, hailing the club’s support of her candidacy as an “honor” and touting her relationship with Chinatown.
What an honor to have @udonyc’s endorsement 🤗 I’ve spent much of my life in Chinatown, from the @cpc_nyc Broome St daycare to stops for dumplings and treats with mom. To represent this community would be an incredible privilege, and having UDO’s support makes it all the better. pic.twitter.com/PjtqQHTtkn
— Carlina Rivera 利華娜 (@CarlinaRivera) June 22, 2022
An e-mail to U.D.O. asking what caused the falling-out with Niou was not returned.
Six years ago, during the special election to fill Lower Manhattan’s then-empty Assembly seat after Shelly Silver’s fall from power, Virginia Kee, the longtime leader of U.D.O. — currently the club’s president emeritus — wholeheartedly championed Niou’s candidacy. Niou had been Queens Assemblymember Ron Kim’s chief of staff and had only just recently moved into the Financial District. Having the key Chinatown political club in her corner was critical for her path to victory.
As for what went wrong between Niou and the club, the assemblymember shrugged it off — though admitted she was surprised.
“I think U.D.O. made a decision as a club and there are many reasons for their decision,” she told The Village Sun. “I don’t know them but we are all still friends.
“But I think everyone has their reasons and this race is hard for lots of people and it is open and there are no hard feelings.”
Niou noted she personally likes Rivera, as well as other candidates in the race, including Jo Anne Simon, Mondaire Jones “and even Bill,” she said, referring to Bill de Blasio.
Niou added that she had “a lot of support” among the Downtown Independent Democrats, even though that club is backing Simon, and that she doesn’t spend her time trying to “stack the vote” at political clubs.
“But all the clubs are easily stacked and votes happen differently,” she said. “I honestly don’t think clubs have much impact except for [campaign] lit and some bodies.
“I don’t need to win every vote,” she said. “I mean, let’s not forget that I won all my races without almost any clubs. And I spend my time doing other kinds of calls and doing door-knocks and meeting people and I think it has paid off.”
Niou noted with satisfaction that she “raised a good $20,000” at a fundraiser Thursday night. She also recently scored a major endorsement when the Working Families Party backed her candidacy. In her camp, as well, are Cynthia Nixon, state Senator Julia Salazar, New York Communities for Change, the Sunrise Movement, Churches United for Fair Housing (CUFFH) Action and the Muslim Democratic Club of New York.
Chinatown activist Karlin Chan, who is not a U.D.O. member, said Niou’s bid to unseat Brian Kavanagh, no doubt, did not sit well with local politicos.
“Something about her running against a party candidate for state Senate. They backed Brian for Senate,” he said of U.D.O. “Politics is a sea of turmoil. Friendships don’t last but a fleeting moment.”
Before recently pivoting to the congressional primary, Niou had been angling for Kavanagh’s seat, running in the state Senate primary election, in a move that raised some political eyebrows.
Another local political club member, requesting anonymity, said, “What happened? That’s a good question. I wish I knew for sure.
“Yuh-line is mercurial, free-spirited and her own woman,” he said. “U.D.O. is what we call a ‘regular’ Democratic club. That means its leadership selects the candidates for the membership, unlike ‘reform’ clubs, where the members vote who will be the candidate.
“So Yuh-line and a regular club would be like oil and water. I cannot see her taking orders from Virginia Kee or Jenny Low.
“It was only a year or two after she got elected that Yuh-line formed that new club with Scott Stringer when he moved down here, the New Downtown Democrats,” the veteran political observer noted. “So for her to form her own club was likely the final straw.
“I don’t know whether U.D.O.’s endorsement of Carlina was to inflict a slap in the face to Yuh-line or a pragmatic gamble on whom they thought would be the one most likely to win.”
According to one source, however, one of the biggest factors in the club’s supporting Rivera boils down to “Nydia squeezing” — as in, Congressmember Nydia Velazquez allegedly pressuring U.D.O. to back the councilmember for Congress.