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Liu says he's the man that can

Nayaba Arinde | 4/12/2011, 4:40 p.m.

"I am running for comptroller because this is the office that is instrumental to change in this city," said John Liu. "And we are looking for change that affords everybody an economic fair shake."

Perhaps it seems like a no-brainer that a proud New Yorker with a degree in mathematical physics should be the one to steer the Big Apple out of the ongoing economic quagmire. John Liu thinks so--and he is one of two Democratic candidates for the comptroller's office.

After garnering 39 percent of the vote in last week's shocking primary, he now faces a runoff against David Yassky next week on September 29.

John Chun-Yah Liu, 42, wants New Yorkers to vote in him as the city's chief financial officer. Sitting in the AmNews offices on Tuesday, he proclaimed that if elected, he will be a CFO "who is very independent of [City Hall and Gracie Mansion] and a comptroller who is looking out for any waste in the city budget, protecting the pension fund that is essential to the futures of our workers and retirees, and approving contracts in a way that creates more economic opportunity, instead of locking communities out."

Born in Taiwan, Liu came to the U.S. in 1972 when he was 5 and learned English in kindergarten. He has two younger brothers, Robert and Edward, who, like himself, were named after the Kennedys. "And my dad is Joseph."

Despite a tabloid storm in a tea club [[ED: MEAN TO SAY "TEMPEST IN A TEA CUP" HERE?]] debating the voracity of Liu's story of working in a sweatshop as a child, Liu assured the AmNews, "I am very clear about what I went through as a kid and what my parents had to do to make a good living. My father worked all the time and my mom worked in a sweatshop, a garment factory, for many years in Queens. When there was no school, we all went to the factory. When school was in, my mom worked from home. She had to be there for us and home was certainly an extension of the sweatshop."

This was not unique, Liu further explained. "I don't claim to be special. This is a thing that a lot of kids my age in New York City have gone through. I don't put this out here to say have pity on me. No, I am just saying that this was my experience. And this is a perspective that I never lose, as I seek this office with a prime goal of seeking equal opportunity and a fair shake for everyone."

It also gives him empathy for the workers of the city, he said. His mother worked for years in the stifling factory, "but here's the stark contrast." His mother-in-law also worked in the garment industry, but she worked in a unionized factory, so now she has pension and benefits. "But my mother has nothing to show for all those years she worked in the factory."

Liu was elected to the New York City Council in 2001 and is the first Asian American to hold legislative office [[ED: IN THE CITY?]]. As his campaign data points out, from his time in the City Council, Liu has a record of advocating for labor and workers' rights, civil rights, higher education standards in public schools and improving healthcare and services to seniors.