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Former Bayside student Austin Cheng launches campaign to unseat Santos in Congress

Sep. 27, 2023 By Iryna Shkurhan

Queens-born Long Island native Austin Cheng declared that he is running as a Democrat for Congress in District 3 – a seat currently held by scandal-ridden Republican George Santos. 

According to his team, Cheng has already secured $600,000 to fund his campaign. He was able to raise $100,000 from individual donors so far and infused the campaign with $500,000 in personal funds. 

Bayside native Steve Behar is one of the numerous candidates that have also launched campaigns for the seat. Other contenders include Democrat Anna Kaplan, a former state senator who represented District 7 in Nassau County and Josh Lafazen, who is serving his third term in the Nassau County Legislature. Former Queens Republican district leader Philip Grillo, who was arrested in 2021 for storming the Capitol in the Jan. 6 insurrection, is also running. 

The district he hopes to represent encompasses a slice of eastern Queens, including Whitestone and Bay Terrace, and much of northern Nassau County. As one of the fastest growing demographic groups nationally, Asians also make up the second largest ethnic group in the district. Chinese and Korean were also the second and third most common non-English languages spoken at home. Cheng is currently the only Asian-American in the race. 

Cheng is running as a Democrat to represent Queens and Long Island in Congress. Screenshot from Austin for New York

“My parents immigrated to this country and worked to the bone to give my sister and I a better life– they found their American dream in New York, and they passed that dream onto us,” Cheng said in a statement. “I am running for Congress in the district where I was born and raised to protect that dream, and ensure that regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, if you work hard you can achieve that dream.”

With wide-ranging experience in the health care field, and as a criminal prosecutor in the military, Cheng is taking a moderate stance on issues such as public safety, health care and cost of living. He is also staunchly pro-choice, an advocate of immigration, including providing new arrivals with copious support through the hurdles of resettlement. He wants to make sure that action to combat climate change is prioritized and he supports congestion pricing, with “fair exemptions” to commuters.

The democratic candidate is pushing to lift the cap on State and Local Tax deduction which allows tax-payers in high tax states like New York to deduct state and local taxes from their federal taxable income. According to his campaign website, an “unjust cap” on deductions “disproportionately burdening middle-class families in NY-03 and communities like ours nationwide.”

He is also championing reforms to the insurance industry to make healthcare more accessible and affordable. But with the unique experience of running a surgical center, he does not go as far as to advocate for universal healthcare. 

Cheng is the current CEO of Gramercy Surgery Center, a multi-specialty surgical facility with locations in Gramercy Park and Flushing, which was founded by his late mother Katy Chiang over a decade ago. In 2019, he returned from active duty service with the U.S Army to provide care for his mother while she battled a terminal illness. He took over the company when she passed which coincided with the onset of the pandemic. 

His military experience began in college as a volunteer for the U.S. Army Reserve Officer Training Corps. After graduating from law school he began his service with the U.S. Army as a Judge Advocate prosecutor, later a Special Assistant U.S Attorney and then a criminal defense attorney. He is currently a Major in the U.S. Army Reserves. 

While he currently resides on Long Island in Glen Cove, Cheng attended Marie Curie Middle School and Benjamin Cardozo High School, both in Bayside. He also attended the college preparatory Portledge School in Locust Valley before collecting several higher education degrees. Cheng received a Bachelors in Political Science from Union College, graduated with a law degree from Brooklyn College and completed a Masters in Health Administration from Cornell University. 

Congressman George Santos has not stepped down despite being the center of a national scandal earlier this year. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

“Long before this district became a punchline on late-night shows, it was used by career politicians to advance their careers rather than advancing the needs of the people they claimed to represent. Austin Cheng is the leader that will serve the people with experience and with integrity, something that the district sorely needs,” said Peter Tu, Founder of the Kissena Democratic Club, in a statement. “Unlike our past and present representatives, Austin has always led by example.”

Congressman George Santos became embroiled in a national scandal shortly after getting elected for fabricating much of his biography and misleading voters. Despite wide-ranging calls to step down, and eventually stepping down from committees, he has held on to his seat in Congress. In April, Santos announced that he will run in the upcoming 2024 election as a “fearless champion of conservative values.”

In a political climate when more and more Americans and elected officials are talking past each other, I will return our district to an open, honest, and respectful way of governing that is focused on solutions over a clever soundbite,” added Cheng.  

In upcoming months, he plans to host small business roundtables and listening tours throughout Queens and Long Island. 

Editors Note: The article previously mentioned that Austin Cheng raised $500,000 for his campaign, a number initially provided and later corrected by his team. They confirmed that he has raised $100,000 thus far.

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