By Chris Fuchs
Voters appear to have given the New York State Senate its first two Asian-American lawmakers Tuesday — one of whom would be the first Indian American to ever serve in either house of the state legislature.
John Liu, a Democrat and New York City’s first Asian-American city councilman, apparently defeated Republican candidate Vickie Paladino, conservative candidate Simon H. Minching, as well as incumbent Tony Avella, who lost the Democratic primary to Liu in September, according to unofficial results.
Avella, whose state Senate district encompasses neighborhoods in the New York City borough of Queens, still ran in the general election, though not as a Democrat.
Meanwhile, unofficial results out on Long Island showed that attorney Kevin Thomas, an immigrant from India, appeared to eke out a victory against Republican incumbent Kemp Hannon, whose district covers parts of Nassau County.
Come January, assuming the results stand, Liu and Thomas will join Democratic assembly members Ron Kim and Yuh-Line Niou as the state legislature’s four Asian-American lawmakers.
Asians make up around 9 percent of the state’s total population, according to census figures.
“The goal was to inject a voice that had been absent prior,” Liu said in a phone interview. “And the goal is also to vigorously represent the needs of this community that I’ve lived in my whole life, and grown up in, and am raising my own family in.”
As of Thursday morning, unofficial results from the New York City Board of Elections had Liu with around 54 percent of the vote, Paladino at 24 percent, Avella at 21 percent and Minching at 1 percent with close to 97 percent of scanners reporting.
The race between Thomas and Hannon was much tighter. Unofficial results from the Nassau County Board Of Elections Thursday reported that Thomas had captured 50.6 percent of the vote and Hannon 49.3 percent.
Just over 1,300 votes separated the two candidates, with 100 percent of precincts reporting, the results showed.
Thomas, an attorney for the consumer protection unit of the New York Legal Assistance Group and appointee to the New York State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, claimed victory and said he was humbled and proud to be elected the first Indian American to the New York State Senate.
“I ran to represent everyone in my district and that is what I intend to do,” Thomas said in a statement through a spokesman. “But I will also be bringing the issues of the Asian-American community to the state legislature along, I’m sure, with senator-elect John Liu.”
Hannon did not respond to an NBC News request for comment.
Liu, a former actuary and immigrant from Taiwan, is regarded as a trailblazer for Asian Americans seeking elected office. His return to public office comes after serving two terms as a city councilman, beginning in 2002, followed by four years as the city’s comptroller.
In 2013, Liu ran unsuccessfully for mayor, losing in the Democratic primary to now Mayor Bill de Blasio. Liu’s defeat came amid a campaign finance scandal in which he was never charged. After leaving citywide office, Liu took up posts at the City University of New York and Columbia University, teaching municipal finance and public policy.
Liu and Avella squared off against each other for State Senate in 2014, with Avella defeating Liu in the Democratic primary. But September brought with it a reversal of fortune, this time Liu besting Avella.
A state senator since 2011, Avella still made a bid in the general election under the Independence and Women’s Equality parties, though that wasn’t enough to pull off a victory against Liu.
Some, including progressives, had criticized Avella for being a member of the former Independent Democratic Conference, a small group that broke with their party to support Republican control of the state Senate.
With Democrats poised to take control of both the state Senate and Assembly, Liu said fair funding for all public schools and passing the Reproductive Health Act are among his top legislative priorities.
“I’m honored to be the voters’ choice,” Liu said. “The message it sends is that people want change and people favor the Democratic platform with an eye towards a more progressive government in New York State, in view of what’s happening in this country.”
Nigel Farage says his party will FIGHT next General Election
‘They have to get the shot’
By Dartunorro Clark
President Donald Trump on Friday urged parents to get their children vaccinated after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week record-high cases of measles since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000.
“They have to get the shot. The vaccinations are so important,” Trump said outside the White House on his way to Indianapolis to address the NRA. “This is really going around now, they have to get their shot.”
New cases of measles reported in New York, New Jersey and California bring the total number of infections in the U.S. to at least 695 so far in 2019 according to new numbers released by CDC.
Nearly 300 students and employees at two Los Angeles universities were under quarantine Thursday and Friday after possible exposure to measles.
Trump’s comments on Friday differed from his past remarks on vaccinations.
At a 2015 Republican presidential candidate debate hosted by CNN, Trump said that he wanted to change the vaccine schedule for children, erroneously linking autism to vaccines.
“Autism has become an epidemic…I am totally in favor of vaccines. But I want smaller doses over a longer period of time,” he said.
In a March 2014 tweet, Trump questioned why a child “gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines.”
“Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes — AUTISM. Many such cases!” he tweeted.
On Wednesday, New York City and suburban Rockland County confirmed an additional 37 measles cases, and California reported seven new cases. The second-highest number for measles cases in the U.S. was 667 in 2014, according to the CDC.
In New York City and Rockland County, there have been 590 cases since the measles outbreak began in October 2018. Los Angeles reported its first five cases on Monday.
Trump says no money paid to North Korea to have Otto Warmbier returned
By Adam Edelman
President Donald Trump on Friday denied that his administration had paid any money as part of a deal to get North Korea to return Otto Warmbier, whom the regime had detained.
“No money was paid to North Korea for Otto Warmbier, not two Million Dollars, not anything else,” Trump tweeted.
The tweet came in response to a Washington Post report on Thursday that North Korea had issued a $2 million bill to the U.S. for the medical care of Warmbier, who was returned to the U.S. in an unconscious state.
The regime, The Post reported, demanded that a U.S. official sign a pledge to pay the bill before Warmbier was allowed to be returned to the U.S.
State Department official Joseph Yun, who had traveled to North Korea in 2017 to help retrieve Warmbier, was instructed to sign the agreement by Trump and did so, The Post said. The bill was sent to the U.S. Treasury Department and remained unpaid throughout 2017. The Post said it was not clear whether the bill was later paid.
Responding to questions from NBC News about the report, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Thursday, “We do not comment on hostage negotiations, which is why they have been so successful during this administration.”
Warmbier, 22, was arrested for taking a propaganda banner from a hotel while on a visit to Pyongyang in January 2016. The University of Virginia student from Ohio was later sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.
The North Korean government released him in June 2017, and when he returned to U.S. soil, doctors found him to be in a state of unresponsive wakefulness. He died days later; the exact cause of death is still not known.
His parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, were told he had been in a coma since shortly after being sentenced.
In February, Trump was slammed by politicians on both sides of the aisle after he absolved North Korean Kim Jong Un of blame in the death of Warmbier. Following a summit with Kim, Trump said at a press conference in Hanoi, Vietnam, that it “just wasn’t to (Kim’s) advantage to let that happen.” He added: “He tells me that he didn’t know about it, and I will take him at his word.”
The president later tweeted that his comments had been misinterpreted and said, “Of course I hold North Korea responsible.”
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