March 20, 2023
Assembly Democratic majority probing Republican member-elect’s Brooklyn residency

Assembly Democratic majority probing Republican member-elect’s Brooklyn residency

ALBANY — The state Assembly is launching a probe into whether a Republican voted into a seat from south Brooklyn seat is eligible to hold office.

Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) is directing the Assembly’s judiciary committee to determine whether member-elect Lester Chang established residency in Brooklyn for at least a year prior to last month’s election, as, required by law.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx)

Chang defeated longtime Democratic incumbent Peter Abbate Jr. in a tight race to represent the 49th Assembly District, which covers Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst.

Questions have been raised about whether Chang is eligible to represent the area, since he voted in Manhattan in 2021.

“We have an obligation to ensure that all members adhere to these constitutional residency requirements,” Heastie said in a statement Thursday. “The completed review will be forwarded to the new Assembly for consideration when it convenes in January.”

In typical election cycles, candidates must live in the district they seek to represent for at least a year. Due to redistricting, those running for legislative offices this year only had to live within same borough as the seat they were running for.

Chang, a Navy veteran, previously ran an unsuccessful bid for a state Senate seat in 2020 and lost a special election for a Manhattan Assembly district in 2016.

His campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Assemblyman Peter Abbate Jr.

Assemblyman Colin Schmitt (R-Goshen), who lost a close Hudson Valley House race last month, slammed Democrats over the probe.

“It’s unacceptable that Assembly Dems are preparing a floor vote to refuse to seat an Asian American & Afghanistan war veteran who was duly elected,” he tweeted. “The time to dispute eligibility was during petitioning. I will stand with Lester until the bitter end.”

Last month, Chang was part of a red wave that swept over south Brooklyn as several Republicans unseated incumbent Democrats.

In addition to Abbate, Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz lost to Republican challenger Michael Novakhov and Assemblywoman Mathylde Frontus was narrowly defeated by Dem-turned-Republican Alec Brook-Krasny.

Republicans campaigned hard on crime as well as cashless bail reforms enacted under Democrats in Albany. Despite the Republican gains, Dems maintained control of both the state Senate and Assembly.

Meanwhile, in Queens, a too-close-to-call race between Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway Beach) and Republican challenger Thomas Sullivan is going to a recount.

Sullivan leads Pheffer Amato by just three votes, which has prompted an automatic hand recount. The incumbent Dem, however, has filed a lawsuit in a bid to allow an additional 94 absentee ballots deemed invalid and rejected by the city Board of Election to be counted.

The drawn out process has led Sullivan to repeatedly question the integrity of the election.

“My faith in the political process diminishes with each passing day,” he tweeted earlier this week.

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