Residency issues could cost the GOP Brooklyn Assembly seat despite a major election victory
Democrats say they could block Republican Lester Chang from taking office next January unless he can show he was a veteran prior to his shock victory earlier this month over longtime Congressman Peter Abbate, Jr. (D-Dyker Heights) has met the residency requirements.
“The state constitution requires candidates to reside in the county in which they are running for office for a year prior to the election. We are looking into the matter,” Michael Whyland, a spokesman for congregation spokesman Carl Heastie, told The Post.
Chang — who City & State recently reported voting in Manhattan last year — must prove he moved to Kings County in time to run against Abbate, or the convention could effectively nullify his election by a chamber majority decision.
This could open up a way for Abbate to retake the seat, which he first won in 1986, if Gov. Kathy Hochul called a special election to fill the seat if Chang Abbate next January, despite his disgruntled 48.6%-47 victory .49% could not replace .
Chang, who did not respond to a request for comment Monday, has listed his mother’s Midwood address and claims he is a true Brooklynite and not a Manhattan interloper.
“The onus is on Lester to show that he lives here,” said a longtime Abbate ally and a Democrat official. “If he can, that’s fine — but he needs more than a message from his mother.”
Abbate said in an interview that he has discussed the matter with congregation leaders and their attorneys and expects them to take action if evidence shows Chang failed to enter the district as required a year before the election draw.
The deposed Brooklyn Democrat wasn’t sure he would run for his current seat – but Democratic sources said they would be stunned if he didn’t.
“I’m happy with the results, but if [Chang] should not be able to serve in the State Assembly, then I would have to make a decision as to whether I would run, or if someone else should run instead,” he told the Post.
Rep. Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn (D-Flatbush), who also chairs the Brooklyn Democratic Party, said she would support Abbate “100%” if he ran again to represent newly drawn Assembly District 49, which includes parts of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and includes Bensonhurst.
“The Brooklyn Democratic Party is reviewing all relevant facts on this matter to determine what are the next appropriate steps to ensure the rule of law is upheld,” Bichotte Hermelyn said of Chang, who may not meet such requirements.
Election rules require parliamentary candidates to live in the same county as their districts in years of redistribution like 2022, when new lines were introduced as part of the decade-long mapmaking process.
The Senate and state assembly have a lot of discretion in deciding who can serve in their ranks, and Chang would have little legal recourse if he were booted for violating residency requirements, according to voting rights expert Sarah Steiner.
“They would have to follow the rules set out in the constitution and so on. They couldn’t just decide, ‘Oh, we don’t like you,'” she said.
Michael Fraser, a spokesman for assembly GOP minority leader William Barclay (R-Fulton), told The Post that Democrats should have challenged Chang’s eligibility months ago instead of waiting until after the election.
“The people of Brooklyn elected Lester Chang to represent them in Albany,” Fraser added. “Any attempt to erase these results would mark a new low.”
Democrats who successfully defended their assembly’s supermajority despite the Abbate loss would be “committing political suicide” with key groups like Asian American voters if they blocked their preferred candidate from taking office, according to Brooklyn Republican leader Ted Ghorra.
“They don’t have a legal leg to stand on,” Ghorra said of Democrats questioning the residency of Chang, who Ghorra says lives with his mother just outside the district lines.
“Democrats will challenge the stay of a decorated 24-year-old Navy vet caring for his 95-year-old mother?” Ghorra added. “There is no there, there.”
https://nypost.com/2022/11/21/residency-questions-could-cost-gop-brooklyn-assembly-seat-despite-big-election-win/ Residency issues could cost the GOP Brooklyn Assembly seat despite a major election victory