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Long IslandPoliticsSpin Cycle

NY candidates wooing the Asian-American vote

Tim Wu, who ran for state lieutenant governor

Tim Wu, who ran for state lieutenant governor in the Democratic primary, is igniting political interest in Asian-American voters. Photo Credit: AP / Seth Wenig

ALBANY — In April, Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino turned political heads when he picked The Lin Sing Association, one of Chinatown's oldest community groups, for one of his first political events.

In late August, when polls showed Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Kathy Hochul was facing a tough challenge in the Democratic primary against law professor Tim Wu, the Cuomo-Hochul campaign organized an event in which a dozen elected Asian-American politicians and groups endorsed Hochul.

"A few years ago, the Quinnipiac University poll was called by the Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund," said pollster Maurice Carroll. "They used to call me up and say, 'You guys are skipping the Asian vote.' And I said there aren't enough of them. But there are enough of them now and they matter."

The Asian-American vote in New York isn't yet a critical swing bloc as Latinos and African-Americans can be, but it's growing in numbers and in the political attention it receives.

The MinKwon Center for Community Action in Queens this year began reaching out to Asian-American voters by knocking on doors, staffing phone banks and providing voter education brochures, said James Hong, director of civic engagement.

Wu, whose father was Taiwanese, reached out to fellow Asian-Americans in his underfunded primary campaign with law professor Zephyr Teachout.

"The Asian community in New York is large, important and underrepresented," said Wu, a Columbia Law School professor. "Reaching out during the campaign we immediately felt a lot of interest."

Candidates are calling on Asian-American leaders sooner and more vigorously this year.

"We have efforted to spend time in the Asian community," said David Catalfamo, a veteran Republican operative and spokesman for Republican candidate for attorney general John Cahill. "And we plan on doing more."

The U.S. Census Bureau reported more than 1.4 million Asians in the state, a figure that has grown to more than 7 percent of the state population.

Asian-Americans in New York turned out to vote at a rate of 86 percent in 2012, which was a higher rate than the national average, according to a survey by the Asian-American Justice Center and Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote.

"The Asian vote is starting to move up and it's moving up dramatically in New York City," said Bruce Gyory, a Democratic consultant who researches and teaches about voter trends at the University at Albany. He said pockets on Long Island and in Queens are already influencing races.

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