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Race for Silver's Assembly Seat Continues After Special Election

 Alice Cancel, flanked by her supporters at the LES Democratic Club, celebrates her win.
Alice Cancel, flanked by her supporters at the LES Democratic Club, celebrates her win.
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DNAinfo/Irene Plagianos

LOWER MANHATTAN — Less than two weeks ago, Alice Cancel won a close race for the former state Assembly seat of a once seemingly all powerful, now convicted, Sheldon Silver — but the campaign for the 65th Assembly District spot has only just begun.

Let us explain.

Cancel, a longtime Democratic district leader — which is a volunteer, elected position for the district — won an April 19 special election, called by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. 

Cuomo called the election — held on the same day as the closely watched New York presidential primary — to fill the seat left vacant by Silver, who represented Lower Manhattan for more than 35 years before he was found guilty of corruption charges related to two separate bribery schemes.

The term Cancel won is only through January 2017, the remainder of Silver's term. So there will be a primary vote on Sept. 13, and a general vote for the position the same day as the presidential election, Nov. 8. Cancel will have to run in both to keep her seat beyond January.

Looking back at the special election:

Not everyone was so keen about this special election, and there was controversy swirling around Cancel as the pick for the Democratic candidate. Because it was a special election, just about 200 Democratic party leaders in Lower Manhattan, including people like Sheldon Silver's wife and his longtime chief of staff Judy Rapfogel, chose Cancel as the Democratic pick for the seat in February.

There was some splintering in the Democratic party after it was clear Cancel would be the candidate for the special election. Yuh-Line Niou, the chief of staff for Queens Assemblyman Ron Kim, withdrew from the Democratic Party candidate race after calling the process flawed, and instead ran in the special election as the Working Families Party candidate.

Niou, who's lived in the Financial District for two years, positioned herself as the candidate of reform, while painting Cancel as the old-guard choice, and playing up Cancel's connection to Silver.

Cancel, a longtime activist who lived in the Lower East Side and now lives in Financial District housing complex Southbridge Towers, had always maintained that her loyalty was to her work for the community. 

Niou racked up several endorsements, including from state Sen. Daniel Squadron and Comptroller Scott Stringer. Cancel, meanwhile, had the support of Lower Manhattan City Councilwoman Margaret Chin.

Niou launched a strong campaign, raising more than $133,000, while Cancel raised just $5,000. In the end, it was a tight race. Lower Manhattan, which is overwhelmingly Democratic, cast 39.21 percent of its vote for Cancel compared to Niou's 33.64 percent. 

In the special election, Republican Lester Chang, a businessman and naval reservist who grew up in Chinatown, earned 15.04 percent of the vote.

Moving ahead:

Moving forward to the primary will bring new candidates facing off to be the Democratic contender.

Along with Cancel, Lower Manhattan district leader and lawyer Jenifer Rajkumar, who lost her campaign against City Councilwoman Margaret Chin in 2013, has announced her run for the Democratic candidacy.

Paul Newell, a community organizer and district leader, is also vying for the Democratic spot. Newell, who has long called for reform in Albany, ran a grassroots campaign to unseat Silver in 2008.

Gigi Li, the chairwoman of the Lower East Side and Chinatown's Community Board 3, who serves as the director of Neighborhood Family Services Coalition, is also running for the Democratic candidacy.

Niou has not officially said yet if she will stick with the Working Families Party or try for a Democratic bid.

The Republican candidate, Lester Chang has not yet said if he will run again, but expects to decide by June.