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    New York State Assembly

The first Asian-American woman to represent Chinatown in New York State’s legislature (and the first Asian-American assemblywoman in Manhattan) is currently in a battle to save her district, which has felt the impacts of COVID-19 particularly hard, largely owing to racism and xenophobia, but also because of the extraordinary number of small, independent businesses that operate there. She’s worked tirelessly to make sure anyone who needed help applying for loans had it, along with providing warm meals for those who can’t afford food and distributing bundles of masks to neighbors. She’s more than willing to grab constituents’ phones and enter her personal number just in case anyone needs to reach her. And through it all, she successfully navigated a primary campaign against Grace Lee, who entered the race with record-breaking funds.

Niou is part of a New York version of “the squad,” a group consisting of young, progressive women who are attempting to break into the largely white, male-dominated, and often stuck-in-its-ways, world of state politics. And she is breaking through: Her impassioned speeches from the assembly floor have garnered national attention, and she was invited to campaign with Sen. Elizabeth Warren during her presidential run earlier this year.