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Soho’s Version of Obama?

Submitted by on September 22, 2010 – 3:32 pm2 Comments
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Can a relatively unknown man mobilize the residents of downtown New York City and win the Democratic vote in District 64? Ed Chen is hoping so. The relatively unknown NYC resident is gunning for New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver‘s job and he’s taking a page out of President Barack Obama‘s new-media campaign playbook to make it happen.

The Columbia University grad student recently sent an email to 30,ooo Columbia alumni detailing how he plans to run against Silver in the 2012 election “and how his group—Real Deal Democracy—was looking for other candidates who wanted to “form a caucus to reform the procedure of the assembly, so that the 151 members of the Assembly do not have their voting power concentrated into a single man….”

While an email in this day and age seems like no big deal, Columbia University was nonplussed. Chen’s email account was shut down by the university and the candidate for a Ph.D. in environmental engineering has been called in for a meeting with the dean. To make matters worse, “Chen was unceremoniously fired from his internship with an Upper West Side assemblywoman, who was none too pleased to find out that her young charge was challenging her legislative leader, possibly the most powerful person in New York State government.”

But Mr. Chen is focused and he has a plan. ‘”My strategy is to get the Chinese vote and build up the hipster vote on the Lower East Side,’ said Chen. ‘The way we plan to do it is to hold these parties.” So with the sounds of DJ Rabbi Darkside and a cache of micro brews, a group of 70 friends gathered at Chen’s Lower Manhattan loft to hear his message and, quite possible, support his two-year campaign against a political mastodon some refer to as the “dictator.”

While Chen isn’t planning on running against Silver until 2012, just like Obama, he realizes the necessity of growing his grassroots campaign both electronically and in the public forum. As he prepares to run, Chen intends to hold a series of political meetings over the next few years, effectively turning his “roof deck into ground zero for a new movement for political reform.”

For now, Chen’s message is gaining traction in the media. Hong Kong newspaper Sing Tao Daily has blasted Chen’s story around the world and Columbia has returned his email account. While life an up-and-coming politician has is share of dramas, Chen is taking it all in stride.  “I’m not too worried about Columbia University.”

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