John Liu
Liu in 2019
Member of the New York State Senate
from the 11th district
Assumed office
January 1, 2019
Preceded byTony Avella
43rd Comptroller of New York City
In office
January 1, 2010 – December 31, 2013
MayorMichael Bloomberg
Preceded byBill Thompson
Succeeded byScott Stringer
Member of the New York City Council
from the 20th district
In office
January 1, 2002 – December 31, 2009
Preceded byJulia Harrison
Succeeded byPeter Koo
Personal details
Chun Liu

(1967-01-08) January 8, 1967 (age 54)
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Jenny Liu
EducationBinghamton University (BS)
WebsiteState Senate website

John Chun Yah Liu (born January 8, 1967) is an American politician in New York City. A member of the Democratic Party, he is a member of the New York State Senate for the 11th district in northeast Queens. He previously served as the 43rd New York City Comptroller from 2010 to 2013, and as a member of the New York City Council from 2002 to 2009, representing the 20th district in northeast Queens. He was the first Asian American New York City Council member and Comptroller, and one of the first two Asian American New York State Senators, as well as the first elected to legislative or citywide office in New York.[1][2][3][4] He was also a candidate in the 2013 New York City mayoral election.

Liu currently teaches municipal finance and policy at Baruch College and Queens College of the City University of New York, and at Columbia University.[5][6]

Early life and education

Chun Liu was born in Taiwan, and moved to the United States at age five. His father, Chang Liu, was an MBA student and bank teller.[7] In honor of John F. Kennedy, Liu's father changed his sons' names to John, Robert, and Edward, and his own name to Joseph.[8]

Liu attended PS 20 in Queens and Hunter College High School. He graduated from Bronx High School of Science in 1985,[9][10] doing community organizing and volunteer work in his spare time.[7]

During his years attending Binghamton University, he majored in mathematical physics and rose his way up to executive vice president of the University's Student Association.[9] He worked as a manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers and served as president of the North Flushing Civic Association before his election to the City Council.[9][11]

New York City Council (2002–2009)

Liu in 2009
Liu in 2009

Liu was elected to the New York City Council in 2001, representing northeast Queens in the 20th district as its first Asian American member.[7] He also served as the Chairperson of the New York City Council's Transportation Committee, and served on the committees on Education, Consumer Affairs, Health, Land Use, Contracts, Oversight & Investigations as well as Lower Manhattan Redevelopment.[12] Liu was known for his outspoken and confrontational demeanor.[13]

Comptroller (2010-2013)

In March 2009, Liu announced that he was running for the post of New York City Comptroller.[14] Liu had raised $3 million for his political run.[15]

In May, Liu picked up several endorsements from several different organizations: The Village Independent Democrats,[16] The Queens County Democratic organization,[17] the local Americans for Democratic Action chapter[18] and the Working Families Party,[19] 1199 SEIU union local and the Uniformed Firefighters Association.[20]

Later, in September 2009, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) began endorsing Liu. In the September 15 Democratic primary, Liu was the front-runner, ending up with 133,986 votes (38% of the vote), but because he did not manage to reach 40% of the vote, a run-off election was required between Liu and David Yassky, who received 30 percent of the vote in the primary,[21] but Liu later won the run-off by taking 55.6% of the vote.[22][23]

In the general election on November 3, Liu won the comptroller election with a total of 696,330 votes (76% of votes). Republican candidate Joseph Mendola came in second with 19.3% of the vote.

During his tenure as New York comptroller, Liu claimed to have saved New York City more than $3 billion by cracking down on wasteful expenditures and cutting inefficiencies. He spearheaded Checkbook 2.0, the initiative to upgrade the city's current online transparency system.[24]

Liu is a leader of the Asian Political Leadership Fund, a federally designated 527 fund whose purpose is to promote political leadership from within the Asian American community.[25]

Mayoral run

Liu ran as a candidate for Mayor of New York City in the 2013 election, losing in fourth place in the Democratic Party's primary election.[26]


Liu's platform in the primary included:

  1. Improving air quality and clean water by improving the city's transit system, pressuring the MTA to modernize their transit systems in order to reduce greenhouse gas emission and improve energy efficiency.[27]
  2. Greatly improve energy efficiency by supporting large-scale energy alternatives such as solar and wind energy as opposed to the usage of fossil fuels which would quickly deplete the Earth's natural resources as well as release about 10 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases every year.[28]
  3. Create opportunities to source food locally, which would improve New York's economy and further distribute capital throughout the City in an environmentally sound way.[29]
  4. Expanding safe streets for Senior Citizens by creating shorter crosswalks, implementing more countdown timers, and creating larger signs to reduce the risk of injury from careless drivers, inattentiveness, etc.[29]
  5. Support revitalizing brownfields, abandoned areas which were previously used as industrial centers for factories and mass production.[29]
  6. Advocating to increase minimum wage from $7.25/hour to $11.50/hour to increase the standard of living in New York City.[24]
  7. Legalizing, regulating and taxing the production and sale of recreational and medicinal marijuana to adults of age 21 and older, and directing the tax revenues and savings to university education.[30]

Denial of matching funds

On August 5, 2013, the Campaign Finance Board denied Liu matching funds worth $3.53 million for his campaign. His supporters disagreed with the decision, saying they had legitimately donated funds to Liu's campaign, and were being denied their rights.[31]

Investigation into fundraising

Investigations into Liu's election fundraising revealed that two of his former associates used straw donors to contribute to his campaign, a discovery that rattled his 2013 mayoral campaign[32][33]

On November 17, 2011, Oliver Pan was arrested on charges of wire fraud from illegal donations.[34][35] Pan was approached by an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation agent posing as someone who wanted to donate $16,000 to Liu, well over the city donation limit of $4,950 for individual contributions, and agreed to arranged for 20 fictitious donors.[36]

In February 2012, campaign treasurer Jia "Jenny" Hou was arrested for using straw donors to circumvent campaign finance laws and gain more matching funds from taxpayers.[37] In October 2013, Hou was sentenced to ten months in prison after her conviction for attempted wire fraud, obstruction of justice and making false statements.[38] Pan was sentenced to four months in jail.

Liu was never accused of any wrongdoing in connection with his staffers.[39] On the eve of their trial, he expressed frustration with the U.S. Attorney's office for what observers have described as an "extraordinarily intrusive and exhaustive investigation," and was critical of the lengthy three-year long process and the interrogation of thousands of his supporters.[40][41]

2014 State Senate bid

In September 2014, Liu ran in the Democratic primary race for New York State Senate District 11 (which includes some of the same neighborhoods as City Council District 20), losing to incumbent Tony Avella 47-52%.[42][43][44] Liu and Avella had previously served together in the City Council, representing neighboring districts, and the two had a strained relationship.[13]

Liu criticized Avella for joining the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), a group of senate Democrats that allied themselves with the Senate Republican Conference, creating a coalition that controlled the Senate. At the time, Democrats held a numerical majority in the Senate, but the IDC-Republican coalition prevented Democrats from holding power, while allowing Avella and other IDC members to gain committee chairships.[45] Avella criticized Liu over the latter's campaign finance scandal, Liu's failure to pay fines from his earlier campaign for Comptroller, and Liu's record as Comptroller.[46][47][48] Liu was initially supported by the Working Families Party, by the Queens County Democratic Party and by several unions,[6] but these organizations largely dropped their support of Liu when Jeff Klein, leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, announced that its members would rejoin the mainline Democratic Conference after the 2014 elections.[49][50][51] However, after Republicans gained an outright majority in the State Senate in the 2014 elections, the Independent Democratic Conference continued to caucus with the Republicans.[52][53]

In 2014, Liu rejoined Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, where he has taught public finance.[54][6] He also began a teaching position at Baruch College.[55]

2018 State Senate bid

Liu initially stated he had no plans to run for office after his 2014 loss to Avella and declined offers to do so, but was inspired after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's upset victory over incumbent Congressman Joe Crowley in the June 2018 Congressional primary elections. He was then convinced to run for state senate by activists looking to defeat former IDC members.[6] Liu was initially doubtful that the grassroots campaigners that approached him could gather enough signatures to place him on the ballot so close to the July filing deadline, but he received more than three times the number of signatures needed. New York's 14th congressional district, which Crowley represented, partially overlaps with State Senate District 11.

Unlike in 2014, the Queens County Democratic Party, which Crowley chaired at the time, endorsed Avella instead of Liu. In the September 2018 Democratic primary, Liu once again challenged Avella. In a reversal of their 2014 race, Liu defeated Avella 53-47%, attributed to backlash against the former members of the Independent Democratic Conference, which had dissolved earlier in 2018.[56][57][58][59]

In the November 2018 general election, Liu won a four-way race with 54% of the vote, defeating Republican Vickie Paladino with 24% of the vote, Avella, running on two third-party lines with 21% of the vote, and third-party candidate Simon Minching with 1% of the vote,[60][61][62][63] becoming one of the two first Asian Americans in the New York Senate.[4][3]

See also


  1. ^ "2009 Election Results". The New York Times. November 4, 2009. Archived from the original on November 7, 2009. Retrieved November 4, 2009.
  2. ^ Victoria Cavaliere (November 4, 2009). "Liu Becomes First Asian-American in City-Wide Office". NBC. Retrieved November 4, 2009.
  3. ^ a b Yam, Kimberly. "2 Immigrants Become First Asian-Americans Elected To New York State Senate". HuffPost. Oath, Inc. Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  4. ^ a b Fuchs, Chris. "Two Asian Americans apparently elected to New York State Senate in historic first". NBC News. NBC Universal, LLC. Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  5. ^ "Mayoral Candidates: Where Are They Now?". New York Observer. March 26, 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d William Neuman (July 13, 2018). "John Liu Plots a Comeback Trail, Targeting a Renegade Democrat". The New York Times. Retrieved September 14, 2018.
  7. ^ a b c Janet Dang (May 25, 2000). "Building Trust: Candidate vies to become first API New York City Council member". AsianWeek. Archived from the original on October 15, 2007. Retrieved November 8, 2007.
  8. ^ O'Donnell, Michelle (April 22, 2006). "Political Trailblazer Is Quick to a Microphone". The New York Times. Archived from the original on January 30, 2013. Retrieved September 9, 2007.
  9. ^ a b c Official Biography of John C. Liu on the NYC Council website Archived 2012-03-24 at the Wayback Machine; accessed September 30, 2009.
  10. ^ Official Opening of Bronx Science's New Foreign Language Laboratory on December 3, 2008: Queens Councilman John C. Liu, a Bronx Science alumnus, Class of 1985, was instrumental in procuring the funding for this Laboratory. Found at The Bronx High School of Science official website; accessed September 30, 2009.
  11. ^ "About John Liu". People for John Liu. Archived from the original on October 6, 2011. Retrieved March 20, 2009.
  12. ^ "Council Member - District 20 (biography)". New York City Council. Archived from the original on 2009-04-08. Retrieved August 13, 2013.
  13. ^ a b Fahim, Kareem. "A Reputation for His Outspokenness". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 November 2018.
  14. ^ Pete Davis (March 11, 2009). "John Liu now running for City Comptroller". The Queens Courier. Archived from the original on September 27, 2011. Retrieved March 20, 2009.
  15. ^ JONATHAN P. HICKS (September 25, 2008). "Queens Councilman Leaning Toward Comptroller Run". New York Times City Page Blog. Retrieved July 9, 2009.
  16. ^ "Village Independent Democrats". Retrieved November 18, 2011.
  17. ^ Queens Chronicle, May 28, 2009 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-07-15. Retrieved 2009-09-30.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^ The Daily Gotham "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-12-02. Retrieved 2009-09-30.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  19. ^ Liu endorsement Archived 2009-07-15 at the Wayback Machine,, April 23, 2009.
  20. ^ Fahim, Kareem; Bosman, Julie (August 31, 2009). "Liu and de Blasio Gain Key Endorsements". The New York Times. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
  21. ^ "Community Newspaper Group". Retrieved November 18, 2011.
  22. ^ "De Blasio, Liu Claim Victory In Primary Runoff". NY1. September 29, 2009. Archived from the original on October 3, 2009. Retrieved September 30, 2009.
  23. ^ Bosman, Julie; Fahim, Kareem (September 29, 2009). "De Blasio and Liu Win in N.Y. Democratic Runoffs". New York Times. Retrieved September 30, 2009.
  24. ^ a b Office of the New York City Comptroller John C. Liu Archived 2013-01-26 at the Wayback Machine; accessed November 4, 2014.
  25. ^ Sam Yoon. "About Us". Asian Political Leadership Fund. Retrieved March 20, 2009.
  26. ^ Oh, Inae (2013-09-10). "John Liu Election 2013: NYC Comptroller Defeated In NYC Mayor Primary". Huffington Post.
  27. ^ "John Liu 2013: Going Green & Sustainability". Archived from the original on September 13, 2013.
  28. ^ Biello, David. "How Much Is Too Much?: Estimating Greenhouse Gas Emissions". Scientific American. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  29. ^ a b c Reference A Archived 2013-01-26 at the Wayback Machine,; accessed November 4, 2014.
  30. ^ Liu, John (August 17, 2013). "Legalise marijuana, tax it – and end NYC's wrongheaded war on pot". The Guardian. Retrieved August 19, 2013.
  31. ^ Katz, Celeste (August 4, 2013). "In Crushing Blow, NYC Campaign Finance Board Denies John Liu Millions For Mayor's Race". New York Daily News. Retrieved August 13, 2013.
  32. ^ Raymond Hernandez and David Chen, "Doubts Raised on Donations to Comptroller", New York Times, October 11, 2011.
  33. ^ Lentz, Jon (18 July 2018). "John Liu on why taking on state Sen. Tony Avella is different this time". CSNY. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  34. ^ "John Liu fundraiser Xing Wu Pan charged with campaign fraud". Retrieved November 18, 2011.
  35. ^ William Rashbaum, "Fund-Raiser for Liu is Accused of Role in Illegal Donations", New York Times, November 16, 2011.
  36. ^ Katz, Celeste. "John Liu Fundraiser Oliver Pan Busted In Sting". Daily News. Retrieved November 16, 2011.
  37. ^ Jonathan Dienst, John Liu Campaign Treasurer Arrested, WNBC, February 28, 2012; accessed February 28, 2012.
  38. ^ Beekman, Daniel. "John Liu's mayoral campaign fundraiser and treasurer sentenced to less than year in jail for straw donor scheme". NEW YORK DAILY NEWS. New York. Retrieved December 30, 2013.
  39. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2018-08-01. Retrieved 2018-08-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  40. ^ Weiser, Benjamin (10 October 2013). "Former Liu Associates Are Sentenced". Retrieved 28 January 2019 – via
  41. ^ GEARTY, Tina Moore, ROBERT. "Controller John Liu's mayoral candidacy threatened by trial of his campaign's ex-treasurer and an ex-fund-raiser - NY Daily News". Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  42. ^ "New York Primary Election Results". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 November 2018.
  43. ^ "State Sen. Avella beats Liu in Democratic primary", Associated Press, September 10, 2014; accessed November 4, 2014.
  44. ^
  45. ^ Thomas Kaplan (May 23, 2014). "Liu Announces Bid to Unseat Queens State Senator". New York Times. Retrieved November 4, 2018.
  46. ^ Katz, Celeste. "Tony Avella: John Liu sugarcoating his track record as NYC controller". Daily News. New York Daily News. Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  47. ^ Velasquez, Josefa. "Liu, Avella debate turns contentious over I.D.C." Politico. Politico LLC. Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  48. ^ Barkan, Ross. "John Liu Concedes to Tony Avella". Observer. Observer. Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  49. ^ "Senate's Independent Democratic Conference announces end to alliance with Republicans - UPDATED". New York Daily News. Retrieved September 14, 2018.
  50. ^ King, David Howard. "2016 A Far Different Election Year for Independent Democrats". Gotham Gazette. Retrieved September 14, 2018.
  51. ^ Ross Barkan (July 18, 2014). "Steve Israel Endorses Tony Avella Over John Liu". Observer. Retrieved September 14, 2018.
  52. ^ "Klein, diminished but still desired, sides with power". Capital New York. Archived from the original on April 24, 2016. Retrieved September 14, 2018.
  53. ^ "GOP takes full control of NY Senate, but retains 'coalition' with Valesky, IDC". The Post-Standard. Syracuse, New York. Retrieved September 14, 2018.
  54. ^ "– Tim Wu, John Liu Rejoin Academia After Primary Defeats". Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  55. ^ Alex Robinson (January 30, 2014). "John Liu lands teaching gig at CUNY's Baruch College". TimesLedger Newspapers.
  56. ^ "New York Primary Election Results". The New York Times. Retrieved September 14, 2018.
  57. ^ Noah Manskar (September 13, 2018). "NY Election Results: John Liu Ousts Tony Avella In Senate Primary". Patch. Retrieved September 13, 2018.
  58. ^ Vivian Wang (September 13, 2018). "Democratic Insurgents Topple 6 New York Senate Incumbents". The New York Times. Retrieved September 14, 2018.
  59. ^ "New York State Unofficial Election Night Results". New York State Board of Elections. Archived from the original on 20 November 2018. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  60. ^ Brown, Nicole. "New York State Senate: New faces head to Albany to represent the 5 boroughs". AM New York. Newsday. Retrieved 10 November 2018.
  61. ^ Mohamed, Carlotta. "Liu defeats Paladino, Avella and Minching to clinch northeast Queens state Senate seat". TimesLedger. TimesLedger. Retrieved 10 November 2018.
  62. ^ Brandy, Ryan. "Liu brings it home in state Senate race". Queens Chronicle. Queens Chronicle. Retrieved 10 November 2018.
  63. ^ "New York Election Results". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 November 2018.
Political offices Preceded byJulia Harrison Member of the New York City Councilfrom the 20th district 2002–2009 Succeeded byPeter Koo Preceded byBill Thompson Comptroller of New York City 2010–2013 Succeeded byScott Stringer New York State Senate Preceded byTony Avella Member of the New York Senatefrom the 11th district 2019–present Incumbent