As a New Yorker, I’m always happy when I hear about New York-based feminist political candidates. Luckily, a new one is on the scene: Grace Meng.
Meng (D-NY) is a native New Yorker who grew up in a political family, since her father, Jimmy Meng, was a New York State Assemblymember. He was the first Asian-American to be elected to the New York State Legislature.
Before going into politics, Meng was a Yeshiva University-educated public interest attorney. Meng first ran for her father’s Assembly seat in 2008, where she won with 86% of the vote. She ran uncontested in 2010. She is now running in the Democratic primary election for a seat in US Congress.
Like her father, Grace Meng is no stranger to breaking racial barriers: she’s the youngest Asian-American ever elected to the New York State Legislature, the only Asian-American currently serving, and the first Asian-American appointed to hold a Cabinet position in the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Caucus. If she wins the upcoming primary and general election, she will be the first Asian-American to represent New York in Congress (or anywhere on the East Coast), as well as the first female Representative since Geraldine Ferraro.
Her time in the Assembly was extremely fruitful. Eight of the bills that she wrote have been passed, and six have already been signed by the governor into law. These bills help the unemployed and the elderly, provide affordable housing, make it easier for parents to access product recall information, and eliminate the word “Oriental” from all government documents.
Meng is certainly a candidate with feminist leanings. While she practiced law, she served as a pro bono attorney for Sanctuary for Families, a domestic violence legal service provider. She is endorsed by the feminist organization EMILY’s List. Meng is proudly pro-choice, and considers women’s healthcare an important issue. As an Assemblymember, she fought to have health insurance companies cover baby formula for sick infants, allow employees to inquire about unequal pay without being liable to lose their jobs (a big obstacle when it comes to battling the wage gap), require public universities to dispense emergency contraception to any student, and help working parents attend their children’s school functions during business hours. She is also a member of the New York State Legislative Women’s Caucus, Governor Cuomo’s Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprise Team, and was president of the Queens Chinese Women’s Association.
Happily, Meng is also fiercely pro-Israel. She is endorsed by Assemblymember David Weprin, an Orthodox Jew who is also pro-Israel. (My mom went to school with him, so I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for him.) City Councilperson Mark Weprin, David’s brother, also endorses Meng, and said that “I wanted to mention, as a Jewish American, that Grace Meng in Washington will immediately be the most visible advocate for the state of Israel that we’ve had in Washington in a long time.” As the district she’s running for has a large Jewish presence, I hope that the constituents take Weprin’s words to heart when they enter the voting booth.
The Democratic primary takes place on June 26. I can’t wait to hear the results! Regardless of what happens, I dub Grace Meng an inductee into the Shining Stars of Davida - strong women and men who make us feminists proud.
UPDATE: Meng won the Democratic primary. She'll be up against a Republican opponent in November for election. Best of luck!