Queens GOP makes push to recruit Asian candidates

Sunny Hahn attends the Queens GOP's candidate school last month.
TimesLedger Newspapers

The Queens Republican Party is making it no secret they are looking for an Asian candidate to run in the upcoming 2012 elections.

The political organization has been disseminating a flier advertising a “special Asian candidate workshop” set for Feb. 25.

The flier is topped with a picture of Uncle Sam saying “The Queens Republican Party wants you!” followed by “With the new State Assembly and Senate lines, there are more opportunities than ever for Asian Americans to get elected to public office.”

A member of the Queens Democratic Party who spoke on condition of anonymity said the advertisement does not leave anything to the imagination: Republicans are looking for candidates to ride the red elephant into races for two potential majority Asian districts: the 16th state Senate District currently held by Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) and the 40th state Assembly District currently held by Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck).

“They will not be winning any Academy Awards for subtlety,” he said.

“Majority Asian” means at least 51 percent of the population identifies themselves as coming from anywhere on the Asian continent, including east Asians populations like Chinese and Korean, and also South Asians like residents of Indian or Bangladeshi backgrounds.

The two districts were carved out during the first round of the ongoing redistricting process, which means they are not set in stone.

The Democratic Party member contended it is an effort to diversify the GOP’s membership, a point that was disputed by the executive director of the Queens County Republican Party, Robert Hornak.

“If you look [at our executive committee], our district leaders are as diverse as Queens,” he said. “This evolved naturally over time, whereas the Democratic Party has always prided itself on racial bean-counting and defining people in groups, which is not really our thing.”

Another member of the Queens Republican Party, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the flier is simply a way to reach out to a population that is often underrepresented in politics, the GOPer said, and since Flushing is in the heart of the two new districts, it is only natural to reach out to the population there.

That is a point the Democratic Party member agreed upon, although he said the Queens Republicans still have their work cut out for them.

“The Republican Party in Queens actually deserves credit for reaching out to the county,” he said. “The problem is that they are part of the national Republican Party.”

And that means local GOPers can be associated with Republicans around the country that are tough on new immigrants, like Arizona Gov. Janice Brewer, who signed a law allowing police officers to stop anyone they suspect of being an illegal alien, the democrat said.

But Sunny Hahn, an longtime Flushing activist of Asian descent who participated in the GOP’s last candidate workshop along with other women and minorities called the charges absurd.

“This is such a ridiculous accusation,” she said. “The Republican Party is welcome and open.”

Hahn said anyone who wants to get involved is welcome at their meetings, regardless of their racial background, although she said that the flier did not necessarily have to single out Asians.

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

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