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Chen kicks off run for Meng state seat

Ethel Chen (c., in white blazer) is surrounded by supporters at her campaign kickoff event at New World Mall in Flushing. Photo courtesy Friends of Ethel Chen
TimesLedger Newspapers

Ethel Chen, a longtime Flushing Democrat and retired librarian, kicked off her campaign last week for the Flushing state Assembly seat currently represented by Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing).

Chen held the celebration at her campaign office in New World Mall, at Roosevelt Avenue and Main Street, where she was joined by supporters.

“I think the main thing is they want to support someone who doesn’t talk about empty promises and has a track record they can trust,” Chen said in an interview. “That is why they can choose me.”

Chen said she is campaigning on many issues, including stricter gun control and reformed practices for issuing driver’s licenses.

She was born in China, but educated in Taiwan and the United States, she said. She has a law degree from the National Taiwan University.

At her kickoff, she was joined by Peter Tu, head of the Flushing Chinese Business Association, along with members of the Chinese community.

Chen does not have a website, but has raised $112,480 that has mostly gone to wages for her campaign staff, according to records from the state Board of Elections.

That money included a loan from a Las Vegas man named Thomas Wu, whom Chen identified as her son.

Wu loaned the campaign $90,000, which Chen said was necessary to get operations started on short notice.

“There was no time to do a fund-raiser in the beginning. I have confidence we can raise a lot of money later,” said Chen, who is planning an event to raise money for early August.

Chen decided to run in late May, just before the June 5 start of the petitioning period and had to rent an office and hire lawyers to fend off any possible challenges to her petitions, although Chen was confident her campaign would land a spot on the ballot.

She, along with the other hopefuls, is running in a district with no incumbent, since Meng is currently running for Congress.

Chen is one of two Chinese Democratic candidates in the race, the other being Yen Chou, but she is not phased by the potential split in the vote.

“I think competition is good,” she said.

Meng has not decided to endorse anyone, according to her campaign.

“Assemblywoman Meng has yet to decide if she will issue an endorsement in the race, but she may choose to weigh in at a later date,” a spokesman said.

Chen unsuccessfully ran for office in 2001, when she took on Jimmy Meng for a Flushing Assembly seat, although the lines have since been redrawn.

Her son, James Wu, has also taken a foray into politics, running unsuccessfully for the Flushing City Council seat in 2009.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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