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The Race Is Over


Candidate David Cohen during the campaign
by Yori Yanover

Juda Engelmayer of Judge David Cohen’s campaign conceded last night, at 11 PM, his candidate’s narrow loss (“under a hundred votes”) to Chinatown-based immigration lawyer Margaret Chan. It’s time, then, to assess the new political map in our neck of the woods, where voters appeared entirely unmoved by the challenge of picking a new Civil Court Judge in Manhattan’s Second District (only about 12 thousand of us bothered to show up election day).

The Daily News' Errol Louis offered a candid and deeply anguished insight into the race. "This political squabbling over a judgeship, with ethnic and party factions squaring off, could become the norm in New York," he wrote in his column last Tuesday, explaining, "For decades, only Civil Court races like Chan's have been run as open primaries, while the more coveted and more powerful Supreme Court justice slots were filled by bosses in back-room deals. But a federal judge recently ruled that, unless the state Legislature invents a new selection method, Supreme Court positions must be filled by open primaries, too. That means the Manhattan mud fight could be repeated all over the city, year after year.”

LoHo10002 began reporting on the mudslinging almost as soon as the first heap of fecal matter hit the ceiling-suspended rotating air-cooling system. We told you to Expect the story to be picked up by the major news sources in town by Monday, when the paper and absentee ballots were counted. And, indeed, it was picked up right on schedule by the post’s City Hall Bureau Chief David Seifman, who burst out with a victorious Dark Horse Boasts of Melting Silver.

Giddier than a schoolgirl, Seifman was only too eager to announce that Sheldon Silver, long his paper’s favorite nemesis, backed Housing Court Judge David Cohen in the three-way race. Chan, for her part, told the Post her victory was much more than a coupl’a’ vote squeaker – “I beat Shelly Silver and his machine," she declared.

“Normally, candidates for judge run sedate races under special rules that ban them from endorsing other candidates or making promises about how they might rule on cases,” commented Louis. “But those restraints sailed out the window this year in the Second Judicial District, which includes Chinatown, Cooper Square and the lower East Side.”

He reports a Chinatown rally that drew 300 supporters, in which Chan, who says she’s the first Chinese-American candidate from Chinatown to win elected office, attacked Silver directly. "We are having this rally to show the politicians and back-room dealers that they have awakened us as a people, and we will now stand as one," she said. "Now we are going to fight back."

Last week I was at the Dinner for Gouverneur’s Hospital which took place in the most gold-dragon-laden heart of Chinatown. It looked to me like a lavish celebration of one of the success stories of the local political machine. Many hundreds of Chinese locals – perhaps more than a thousand – were gathered around heaping tables to celebrate a great, and growing, institution which, like our other social-service agencies, is our barrier before the sweeping tides of government-induced poverty and neglect.

There’s something particularly shrill about Chan’s lording over Silver, undoubtedly an irate reaction to the machine’s earlier attempt to disqualify her candidacy, and the allegations against her of vote fraud, which will probably be biting at her ankles for some time to come. But I doubt very much that her own constituency is as vehemently eager to dispose of the most powerful advocate of this area’s bottom-line needs in Albany. Clearly, the people who benefit most from Silver’s accomplishments are Chan’s own.

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