Dems Won’t Expel GOP Assemblyman Lester Chang Despite Residency Concerns

Assemblymember Lester Chang, R-Brooklyn, takes the oath of office on the opening day of the 2023 legislative session, Wednesday, Jan. 4. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

(AP/Hamodia) — Democrats in control of New York’s Assembly said Friday they would not expel a new Republican lawmaker “at this time,” despite their questions over whether he met residency requirements.

Democrats raised the issue after Lester Chang became the first Asian American elected to represent Brooklyn’s Chinatown in the state Assembly by defeating longtime Democratic incumbent Peter Abbate on Nov. 8. They questioned whether Chang lived in Brooklyn for a year prior to Election Day, as required by law, or in Manhattan. Issues over Chang’s residency were first uncovered by City & State following his election.

Chang maintains his current residence is his Brooklyn childhood home. He was formally seated as an Assembly member on Wednesday despite rumblings from Democrats that they might block him.

“After careful review, the vast majority of our members have significant concerns about the truthfulness of Mr. Chang’s documentary evidence and testimony regarding his compliance with the New York State Constitution,” Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said in a prepared statement.

“By operation of law, as Mr. Chang was certified the winner in the 49th Assembly District election, he has been seated as a member of the New York State Assembly.

“Although it is clear that there were more than enough votes to expel Mr. Chang, we will not do so at this time. However, given the totality of the evidence we have decided to forward the materials gathered pursuant to the committee’s subpoenas and from Mr. Chang’s own submissions to relevant criminal, civil and administrative authorities for further review and any action they deem necessary.

“As a reminder, the New York State Constitution gives the Assembly the authority to revisit this issue at any time.

“Further, this matter has brought to light electoral issues and we will be introducing a legislative remedy in the near future.

“Let this be a warning to anyone who tries to dupe voters – the political manipulation of residency will not go unchecked.”

In an interview with Hamodia in late November, Chang said he has been living in Brooklyn “continuously” but declined to answer further questions on the topic, saying, “I’ve been advised by my lawyer not to make any more comment on that, because all I can say is, I’m living in Brooklyn.”

Chang’s attorney on Friday called the Assembly statement outrageous and accused them of playing politics.

“The Democrats are running away from this problem because they know it’s a hot potato,” said Hugh Mo. “They don’t know how to end this thing.”

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