Asian Americans have typically formed a reliable voting bloc for Democrats, helping the party maintain its political dominance in liberal states like New York. Republicans in New York shattered that presumption in November when they came within striking distance of winning the governor’s race for the first time in 15 years, buoyed in part by a surge of support among Asian American voters in southern Brooklyn and eastern Queens, reports the New York Times. Democrats are trying to determine how they can stem the growing tide of Asian American voters drifting away from the party, believing their concerns are being overlooked. Interviews with more than 20 voters of Asian descent, many of them Chinese Americans who had historically voted for Democrats but did not last year, found that many went with the Republican candidate for governor, Lee Zeldin, even if begrudgingly, largely because of concerns about crime.
A lifelong Queens Democrat, Karen Wang, 48, who is Chinese American, said she had never felt as unsafe as she did these days. “Being Asian, I felt I had a bigger target on my back,” she said. “My vote was purely a message to Democrats: Don’t take my vote for granted.” Democratic leaders, including Gov. Kathy Hochul, have acknowledged their party’s failure to offer an effective message about public safety to counter Republicans’ tough-on-crime platform, which resonated not just with Asian Americans, but with many voters statewide. In Flushing, Queens, home to a vibrant Chinatown, homespun leaflets posted on walls in English and Chinese encouraged passers-by to “Vote for Republicans” before the November election, blaming Democrats for illegal immigration and a rise in crime. One flier portrayed Hochul as anti-police and sought to link her to the death of Christina Yuna Lee, who was fatally stabbed more than 40 times by a homeless man inside her apartment in Manhattan’s Chinatown last February. For Democrats, repairing ties with Asian American voters, who account for about 15 percent of New York City’s population, may be a difficult challenge given the significant role such voters are poised to play in future elections.