Onetime Lower Manhattan Candidate Who Won Brooklyn Elective Race Faces Questions About When He Left
An erstwhile Lower Manhattan resident and candidate for elective office Downtown recently won a bid to represent a Brooklyn district in the State Assembly, but is facing a probe by the lower house of the State legislature to determine whether he meets legal requirements for living in the community he seeks to represent.
Starting in 2016, Lester Chang ran multiple times for the 65th Assembly District seat, representing Lower Manhattan, under the banners of the Republican and Conservative parties. Each time, he was unsuccessful. Earlier this year, however, amid the chaos created by court-ordered redistricting, he chose to run again—but this time in the newly created 49th District, which includes several heavily Asian communities in southern Brooklyn. In November, Mr. Chang scored an upset victory, besting longtime Democratic incumbent Peter Abbate at the polls, garnering slightly more than 52 percent of the 13,000-plus votes cast.
This victory raised questions about when Mr. Chang moved to Brooklyn. Concerns were amplified with the disclosure of public records indicating that he had voted in Manhattan as recently as 2021. Mr. Chang insists that he has for decades maintained homes in both Brooklyn and Manhattan, and began using the Brooklyn address as his primary residence years ago. This defense hinges on ambiguous technical issues as to what constitutes a genuine legal residence, versus an address of convenience.
The New York State Constitution says, “no person shall serve as a member of the legislature unless he or she is a citizen of the United States and has been a resident of the state of New York for five years, and… of the assembly or senate district for the twelve months immediately preceding his or her election.”
The laws of the State of New York allow that in a redistricting year, the candidate “must have been a resident of the county in which the senate or assembly district is contained for the twelve months immediately preceding his or her election.”
Assembly speaker Carl Heastie said in a statement that, “credible and serious questions have been raised regarding the status of Assembly member-elect Lester Chang’s eligibility to assume office given the residency requirements for service in the New York State Assembly…. We have an obligation to ensure that all members adhere to these constitutional residency requirements. I am directing the Assembly Judiciary Committee, under the leadership to begin a review and to complete its work by the end of the month. The completed review will be forwarded to the new Assembly for consideration when it convenes in January.”
Mr. Chang did not respond to a request for comment before deadline.