Yuh-Line Niou, a progressive Manhattan state Assembly member who narrowly lost a crowded primary for the rare open seat in New York’s 10th Congressional District, is considering a general election re-match as the candidate of the Working Families Party against Democratic nominee Dan Goldman.
Goldman, a former Trump impeachment prosecutor and heir to the Levi Strauss & Co. fortune, won last week with just over 16,000 votes, about a quarter of the total cast in a crowded Democratic field and about a thousand more than Niou, after putting $4 million of his own fortune into the race.
That narrow margin and Goldman’s massive spending has led some progressives to publicly call on Niou, who gave up her Assembly seat to run against an incumbent Democrat for a state Senate seat before jumping into the open Congressional race, to again challenge the former prosecutor.
NY-10 is one of the most reliably blue districts in the country, which would shield Niou and the progressive Working Families Party — which generally uses its ballot line in New York to push Democrats to the left in primaries — from concerns about potentially opening a path to victory for a Republican candidate.
‘That’s a Problem for Him’
“We believe that the voters will choose a progressive candidate,” said Allen Roskoff, president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, one of the groups encouraging the outgoing assemblywoman to run.
Roskoff and other Niou allies argue that she only lost to Goldman because of the over-packed primary field.
“You had five so-called progressive candidates and one moderate, and I think even with some slippage… most of the voters would vote for Yuh-Line,” he continued.
Likewise, Bill Neidhardt, a former consultant for Rep. Mondaire Jones, asserted that Goldman’s wealth and centrist policy stances could open him up to attack.
“Dan Goldman opposes Medicare for all. Healthcare is one of the biggest issues in New York,” he said. “I think that’s a problem for him.”
On Monday, Jones signed a statement of declination removing himself from the Working Families Party’s general election ballot line, fueling further speculation that it would tap Niou to challenge Goldman.
(Jones maintained the party’s ballot line when he moved from NY-17 to NY-10 to avoid a primary fight against powerful DCCC chair Sean Patrick Maloney, who moved his campaign into Jones’ district after a special master redrew the election lines. But the WFP eventually endorsed Niou, rather than Jones, in NY-10’s Democratic primary.)
Roskoff, a veteran New York City activist, argued Niou’s dual identities as a Asian-American and member of the LGBTQ community — as she identified herself in a candidate survey — could help her in areas where neither she nor Goldman cleaned up, like Sunset Park and the East Village.
“The Asian community is obvious because there’s a lack of elected Asians nationwide, particularly in New York,” he said. “And electing a member of the LGBTQ community is a plus and will get members of our community out. It’s going to be a battle of the community activists versus a zillionaire.”
Political consultants for other primary candidates previously in the race and those that helped Goldman win point out, however, that Niou’s camp can’t just assume that the other candidates’ voters will shift over to her.
Jeff Liszt, who did internal polling for Goldman’s campaign, claimed on Twitter that his early August numbers suggested that a solid number of the other progressive candidates’ voters could well view Goldman as their second choice.
A New York City political consultant who worked for another candidate in the race agreed with that assessment, noting that voters may have chosen Carlina Rivera because of her focus on New York City issues, or Mondaire Jones because of his focus on national legislation, rather than because of a progressive label.
“The idea that there was Dan Goldman, the moderate, plus three progressives splitting the vote is a misunderstanding,” the consultant said. “It’s not a dichotomy between moderates and progressives, but more alternatives on character, style, and priority.”
“I think they are misinterpreting Yuh-Line’s ceiling as her floor,” she said.
Likewise, Diana Gonzalez, a political consultant with the Democratic political consulting firm Blue Tiger Strategies, pointed out that the larger pool of less politicized general election voters are more likely to go for the Democratic party’s official pick.
“It’s hard to convey to people, ‘Look all the way down to the WFP line and vote for me there,’” said Gonzalez, who worked with an independent expenditure committee supporting Goldman in Borough Park. “It would require a lot of voter education for many voters who don’t even vote in primaries.”
‘A Decision Shortly’
During the primary, Niou struggled with fundraising, and political observers say she would likely have to raise millions of dollars from donors across the country to compete with Goldman’s personal piggy bank.
And while some prominent progressive organizations and activists, including actress and former WFP gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, have been publicly urging Niou to run, the outgoing assemblymember has yet to commit.
Niou did not respond to questions from THE CITY on Tuesday, though her campaign provided a statement repeating one it issued Friday.
“I’m currently speaking with WFP and my community about how we can best represent the needs of this district,” Niou’s statement said. “Because what we can do together is too important to give up this fight, we must count every vote. I’m so grateful for the outpouring of support and all of the people who showed up and turned out. Our people need and deserve a voice.”
Ravi Mangla, a spokesperson for the Working Families Party, said the organization “is still making a decision about what is best both for our party and for the district.”
According to Mangla, WFP has until Sept. 6 to decide what to do with their ballot line, but promised that the group would “be making a decision shortly.”
A spokesperson for Goldman declined to comment for this story.
Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the Working Families Party had not endorsed Niou. They did.