ALBANY — Assembly Democrats say Republican Lester Chang must provide proof of his Brooklyn address or they could vote next month to prevent him from taking the seat he won.
“Credible and serious issues have been raised,” spokesman Carl Heastie said in a statement released Thursday night about Chang, who may not meet residency requirements under the state constitution.
The Assembly’s Judiciary Committee will complete a “review” of the matter by the end of the month, which the full Chamber could consider next January, he added.
Attempts to keep Chang out of office have drawn derision over the Democrats, who control all three branches of the state government, trying to “hog” the will of the electorate.
“Democrats never questioned his residency until they lost the election,” Assembly Minority Leader William Barclay (R-Pulaski) ranted Thursday of the potential move to oust Chang.
Chang — who beat incumbent incumbent Rep. Peter Abbate, Jr. 48.6% to 47.49% — voted in Manhattan last year, giving him just days to move to Brooklyn in time to meet the residency requirement in time to be fulfilled for November 8, Election 2022.
“Lester Chang grew up in Brooklyn and lives at his parents’ house. There is a tax return and other documents that confirm this,” he further claimed, without offering any evidence.
The state constitution requires lawmakers to live in the same county as their districts for at least a year in the election cycle after redistribution, with the Democrat-dominated assembly ultimately having the power to reject by majority any winner it deems questionable.
“There must be laws/rules [upheld] for all people running for public office,” said Rep. Inez Dickens (D-Manhattan), who voted against Chang’s inauguration. “The same must be required of all candidates.”
“He can make this a non-issue if he provides evidence, right?” Rep. John MacDonald III (D-Albany) said about Chang.
Chang, a Navy veteran, did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, meanwhile, said Barclay had not provided any documentation supporting Chang’s whereabouts issue. “Nothing – we have repeatedly asked Leader Barclay for evidence,” Michael Whyland said on Thursday.
“It appears, based on the preliminary information received so far, that Mr. Chang has not complied with the provisions of [the state Constitution]’ the Brooklyn Democrats argued in a Nov. 29 letter to Heastie, first released by NY1 on Wednesday.
And while Chang has yet to prove he meets the residency requirements, some say it would be an ironic twist for Democrats to bar him from taking office at this point, given how they have campaigned in other contexts against vote-waivers on the other fought side of the aisle.
“They just won’t put him, which means, ‘You know, we don’t care if voters want someone and vote for them. We’re just going to override that,'” said Yiatin Chu, president of the non-partisan group Asian Wave Alliance, which supported Chang in the election to Abbate.
“And to me, that’s election denial,” she added.
Voting law experts said the assembly has a solid legal basis to challenge his eligibility as there is no evidence Chang lives in Midwood with his mother, as he claims.
But attorney Sarah Steiner noted that Democrats should have challenged Chang’s stay last spring to bar him from running in November’s elections.
Abbate, meanwhile, claimed Thursday he had no idea Chang could have been an official Manhattan resident until months later, which he says leaves the convention itself as the only remaining avenue to tip the will of voters in his favor.
“How do you challenge someone in September?” Abbate, who has been in office for 35 years, said coyly, ignoring the many residence and ballot challenges that take place before Election Day. He has not committed to running again in a possible special election for his seat, which he first won in 1986, if Chang is ousted.
But Republicans say any move at this point to remove Chang’s seat will backfire no matter who Democrats might name to represent the newly drawn Assembly District 49, which covers parts of Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst and Dyker Heights .
“There is no precedent for a candidate who has won an election fairly being required to prove residency in order to be elected to the State Assembly,” Barclay said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, it seems that after losing the election, the Democrats are looking for a way to deny the will of the people.”
And even some Democrats inside and outside the assembly say they could agree with the Republican leader voting against efforts to keep Chang from taking office.
“New Yorkers are struggling and we’re wasting time usurping the will of the people of this borough?” A member of the Democratic Assembly told the Post, noting that Chang can fix the problem by proving he’s in live just outside the district borders from his parents’ house.
Chang unexpectedly won the race against Abbate, who had about $1 million to spend, partly with the help of an Asian-American voter — disgusted by crime, discrimination and poor education — who leaned toward Republicans this year, despite having a past history supported the Democrats.
The contentious election is one of several contests in traditionally Democratic-run New York, where it is still unclear who could represent voters in the Legislature next January.
Democrats are taking legal action over dozens of disputed ballots in a Queens race in which a Republican challenger is three votes ahead of Rep. Stacey Pheffer Amato, while a few dozen votes could decide who wins a Syracuse State Senate race.
Depriving Asian Americans of seeing one of their own inaugurations in Albany, a state capital with few of its own in electoral offices, could push more of such voting demographics toward the GOP in the future, members of the community warn.
“Every voter wants to feel that their vote counts. OK? And I know that this time, a lot of people in our Asian communities came out and voted no matter what time it was,” said Rosanne Li of Bensonhurst.
https://nypost.com/2022/12/01/democrats-demand-gop-assembly-winner-show-bk-residency-or-risk-losing-seat/ New York Democrats are demanding that the winner of the GOP convention show residency in Brooklyn — or risk losing his seat