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Asian American Assemblywoman Vies to Make History in Queens Congressional Race

Friday, October 26, 2012

Assemblywoman Grace Meng (Colby Hamilton/WNYC)

If elected to Congress, Grace Meng would be the first Asian American in Congress from a state east of the Pacific coast.  But to win, she has to overcome Dan Halloran, a Republican with ties to the district that date back a century.

Meng’s campaign is focused on the other minority group she’d be joining: women. Fewer than 20 percent of the 435 members of the House of Representatives are women.

"I believe that's a huge reason why we're hearing so much rhetoric against women, against equal pay, against childcare, against pro-choice decisions,” she said recently.

But Republican City Councilman Dan Halloran traces his family in Queens back five generations. He says his great-great-great grand uncle helped build many of the homes in parts of his district. It's the sort of origin story that helped him land the job representing this council district in the far northeastern portion of Queens in 2009.

"This is a suburban district. No matter how you slice it, it still has a lot of those apple-pie, mom-and-pop shop values," Halloran said in an interview.

Neither candidate entirely fits their respective partisan mold. Halloran is to the left of most Republicans with his support of higher taxes on the wealthy and his support of labor agreements. And Meng has pushed for mandatory English language on signs in her heavily Asian district. She's also welcomed the endorsement of Mayor Bloomberg, who is someone most New York City Democrats would run away from.

Despite internal poll numbers showing Halloran within striking distance, political observers believe he’ll need to overcome more than just an enrollment advantage to beat Meng in next month’s election. The Assemblywoman has pulled in more than $1.5 million from predominantly Asian donors in the tri-state area. Halloran has managed to raise less than $75,000 — or just one-twentieth of his opponent.

Halloran's campaign says they've steadily been raising money, and have the resources they need.

 

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