Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/idc 2018-11-19T03:16:49+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com After Primary Wins, Progressive Activists Eye Flipping State Senate Seats, and Wide Majority 2018-09-19T04:00:00+00:00 2018-09-19T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7945-after-primary-wins-progressive-activists-eye-flipping-state-senate-seats-and-wide-majority Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/true_blue_rally.jpg" alt="true blue rally" width="600" height="308" /></p> <p>A 'True Blue' rally (photo: @indivisibleny13)</p> <hr /> <p>Prior to September 13, primary day, the True Blue coalition, made up of progressive activists from about 60 individual groups across the state, had one main goal: to depose all eight state Senators of the erstwhile Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) and another rogue Democratic Senator from Brooklyn, Simcha Felder, all of whom have bolstered and voted with the Republican majority. But after emerging victorious in six of those races, most of which came as a surprise, the activist network is turning its newfound influence and experience to the bigger objective of bringing the state Senate under outright Democratic control through November’s general election.</p> <p>“The plan only was the ‘No IDC’ races until Thursday,” said Harris Doran, a steering committee member of No IDC NY and an activist at Rise and Resist, two groups that are part of the larger coalition. “Right now, we’re all having conversations about what to do.” That conversation kicked off in earnest on Tuesday night, Doran said, with an initial meeting that occurred just 48 days before Election Day, November 6.</p> <p>Progressive activists have long blamed the IDC and Felder for allowing Republicans to hold the state Senate and block a slate of progressive legislation. Though the IDC rejoined the mainline Democrats earlier this year, activists sought to and succeeded in replacing many of them with Democrats who the activists saw expressing truer progressive bonafides. Even as those candidates seem set to win in the November 6 general, it would still leave the Democratic conference with 31 members in the 63-member Senate. Republicans have 32 seats including Felder, who handily beat his Democratic primary opponent, Blake Morris, and is expected to be easily reelected in November.</p> <p>On Tuesday evening, dozens of True Blue coalition activists met to strategize about how they can carry their efforts forward. “What you have right now is the entire anti-IDC movement researching, analyzing, looking at all the candidates and deciding who we want to support and how, and how many,” Doran said, before previewing an exceedingly ambitious goal. “One thing that was decided was that we don’t just want to flip one seat, we want to flip nine...We want to get to 40 Democrats. We want more than just a majority.”</p> <p>He continued, “With the IDC races, a lot of people were new activists. Some people, it was the first time they ever door-knocked, the first time they did a lot of things. So now the entire movement is experienced and has won six really difficult races. So everyone’s really excited to apply what we’ve learned and also grow and move forward.”</p> <p>A top Democratic party operative who wished to remain unnamed to discuss races candidly pointed to several districts where Democrats see an opening against Republican incumbents -- District 4, where Louis D’Amaro is challenging Sen. Phil Boyle; District 5, where Jim Gaughran is challenging Sen. Carl Marcellino; District 6, where Kevin Thomas is challenging Sen. Kemp Hannon; District 7, where Anna Kaplan is challenging Sen. Elaine Phillips; District 22, where Andrew Gounardes is challenging Sen. Marty Golden; District 41, where Karen Smythe is challenging Sen. Sue Serino; District 46, where Pat Strong is challenging Sen. George Amedore Jr.; and District 56, where Jeremy Cooney is challenging Sen. Joseph Robach.</p> <p>There are also a few open seats that have become competitive battlegrounds. Those include District 3, where Monica Martinez, a Democrat, is facing off against Dean Murray, a Republican; District 39, where James Skoufis faces Republican candidate Tom Basile; District 43, where Democrat Aaron Gladd is going against Republican Daphne Jordan; and District 50, where Democrat John Mannion is taking on Republican Bob Antonacci.</p> <p>The only race where the party may have to play defense, according to the source, is in District 8, where incumbent Democratic Sen. John Brooks is being challenged by Massapequa Park Mayor Jeff Pravato. Republicans also seem intent on challenging Sen. David Carlucci, a former IDC member who survived his primary challenge last week and is facing C. Scott Vanderhoef, a Republican, in the general.</p> <p>On Tuesday, State Republican Party Chair Ed Cox <a href="https://twitter.com/NYNOW_PBS/status/1042213103876943872" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told New York Now</a>, “We’ve got a good chance with the Brooks seat in Nassau County and I think we have got a good shot where Scott Vanderhoef, the five-time elected county [executive] of Rockland County is running for the state Senate seat there. Of course, Senator Carlucci has had a tough primary and is wounded to begin with and that’s a seat we’ve held before and I think we can win that one again.”</p> <p>All but the Golden race are outside New York City.</p> <p>The True Blue activists, who engage in a variety of campaign tactics including door-knocking and phone-banking, have yet to settle on which races they’ll jump into. “There are a lot of metrics involved, like the district’s partisan lean and the issues that they support, and of course there are other aspects like where they are geographically and where we can have the most impact,” said Mia Pearlman, co-leader of True Blue NY, an individual group from which the larger coalition drew its name. “Once the coalition groups decide where they want to put their energy, then we’ll work on sort of helping each campaign,” Pearlman said. “What we tried to do with the IDC challengers...is to get groups in the coalition to adopt a campaign and then put all their resources directly into the campaign.”</p> <p>Since these races span the state, the activists will look to get involved largely remotely, Pearlman said, including through phone-banking, text-banking, postcards, and fundraising. “Hopefully we’ll also be going to some of these districts to help out,” she said. In past cycles, volunteers have boarded buses from the city to spend days in swing districts canvassing, but a lot can be done remotely. The involvement of New York City-based activists can be used against the candidates they are seeking to help, as Republicans outside the city often tell suburban and upstate voters that a GOP Senate majority is the only thing keeping taxes from skyrocketing and city liberals from taking over all of state government.</p> <p>True to recent form, the activists aren’t looking to simply back any Democrat and, both Doran and Pearlman said, will be closely scrutinizing candidates to see who matches their priorities.</p> <p>“It’s very important to the coalition that we support true progressives so we will be vetting candidates based on their policy positions and where they’ve raised money and their endorsements,” Pearlman said. “And we’re also excited to find candidates who have a lot of grassroots support in their districts, if there is a grassroots, because I think that that shows the strength of the candidate who may be able to win regardless of what the metrics might seem to predict.”</p> <p>Pearlman emphasized that the decisions would be made independent of the state Democratic establishment, even if the coalition seeks advice on candidates. “While we are of course happy to talk to the establishment forces about who they would recommend, we have a great track record of helping candidates win who no one thought could possibly win in districts that people had completely written off.”</p> <p>“We have no interest in having potential Cuomo lackeys elected to office to do his bidding,” Doran said, noting for example that Cuomo had urged certain candidates to run including Monica Martinez, and Peter Harckham, who is running against Republican Sen. Terrence Murphy in District 40. Doran didn't preclude the possibility of supporting those three candidates, noting that the coalition would evaluate each of them to see if they share their progressive values. “We don't want to risk having Senators that may not be called the IDC but could be IDC-lite Democrats in the State Senate," he said.</p> <p>The Working Families Party, which was also instrumental in helping the various insurgent challengers against the IDC as well as Julia Salazar’s defeat of incumbent Democratic Senator Martin Dilan, will also be heavily involved in the effort. “There are at least three of four top-tier Senate races that we think are very flippable,” said Joe Dinkin, WFP campaign director, earlier this week. “I think the surge in turnout in the primary and the energy we’re seeing on the ground is indicative of the fact that the blue wave is very real. We’re gonna see a lot of Democrats turning out to vote and we have a really good shot to pick up seats in the state Senate.”</p> <p>Doran said, no matter the race, the effort will boil down to a robust ground game and voter contact campaign. “Nothing is stronger than going out and meeting people in the districts. People, not money, are the power,” he said, echoing a line regularly used by Alessandra Biaggi, who defeated former IDC leader Jeff Klein in the marquee race of the Senate primaries. And though he wouldn’t elaborate on specific tactics, he promised, “Obviously we will have some new fun surprises.”</p> <p>[Read:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7939-how-insurgent-forces-activated-educated-and-brought-the-idc-down">How Insurgent Forces Activated, Educated and Brought the IDC Down</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated to clarify Doran's comments related to three Democratic state Senate candidates.&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/true_blue_rally.jpg" alt="true blue rally" width="600" height="308" /></p> <p>A 'True Blue' rally (photo: @indivisibleny13)</p> <hr /> <p>Prior to September 13, primary day, the True Blue coalition, made up of progressive activists from about 60 individual groups across the state, had one main goal: to depose all eight state Senators of the erstwhile Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) and another rogue Democratic Senator from Brooklyn, Simcha Felder, all of whom have bolstered and voted with the Republican majority. But after emerging victorious in six of those races, most of which came as a surprise, the activist network is turning its newfound influence and experience to the bigger objective of bringing the state Senate under outright Democratic control through November’s general election.</p> <p>“The plan only was the ‘No IDC’ races until Thursday,” said Harris Doran, a steering committee member of No IDC NY and an activist at Rise and Resist, two groups that are part of the larger coalition. “Right now, we’re all having conversations about what to do.” That conversation kicked off in earnest on Tuesday night, Doran said, with an initial meeting that occurred just 48 days before Election Day, November 6.</p> <p>Progressive activists have long blamed the IDC and Felder for allowing Republicans to hold the state Senate and block a slate of progressive legislation. Though the IDC rejoined the mainline Democrats earlier this year, activists sought to and succeeded in replacing many of them with Democrats who the activists saw expressing truer progressive bonafides. Even as those candidates seem set to win in the November 6 general, it would still leave the Democratic conference with 31 members in the 63-member Senate. Republicans have 32 seats including Felder, who handily beat his Democratic primary opponent, Blake Morris, and is expected to be easily reelected in November.</p> <p>On Tuesday evening, dozens of True Blue coalition activists met to strategize about how they can carry their efforts forward. “What you have right now is the entire anti-IDC movement researching, analyzing, looking at all the candidates and deciding who we want to support and how, and how many,” Doran said, before previewing an exceedingly ambitious goal. “One thing that was decided was that we don’t just want to flip one seat, we want to flip nine...We want to get to 40 Democrats. We want more than just a majority.”</p> <p>He continued, “With the IDC races, a lot of people were new activists. Some people, it was the first time they ever door-knocked, the first time they did a lot of things. So now the entire movement is experienced and has won six really difficult races. So everyone’s really excited to apply what we’ve learned and also grow and move forward.”</p> <p>A top Democratic party operative who wished to remain unnamed to discuss races candidly pointed to several districts where Democrats see an opening against Republican incumbents -- District 4, where Louis D’Amaro is challenging Sen. Phil Boyle; District 5, where Jim Gaughran is challenging Sen. Carl Marcellino; District 6, where Kevin Thomas is challenging Sen. Kemp Hannon; District 7, where Anna Kaplan is challenging Sen. Elaine Phillips; District 22, where Andrew Gounardes is challenging Sen. Marty Golden; District 41, where Karen Smythe is challenging Sen. Sue Serino; District 46, where Pat Strong is challenging Sen. George Amedore Jr.; and District 56, where Jeremy Cooney is challenging Sen. Joseph Robach.</p> <p>There are also a few open seats that have become competitive battlegrounds. Those include District 3, where Monica Martinez, a Democrat, is facing off against Dean Murray, a Republican; District 39, where James Skoufis faces Republican candidate Tom Basile; District 43, where Democrat Aaron Gladd is going against Republican Daphne Jordan; and District 50, where Democrat John Mannion is taking on Republican Bob Antonacci.</p> <p>The only race where the party may have to play defense, according to the source, is in District 8, where incumbent Democratic Sen. John Brooks is being challenged by Massapequa Park Mayor Jeff Pravato. Republicans also seem intent on challenging Sen. David Carlucci, a former IDC member who survived his primary challenge last week and is facing C. Scott Vanderhoef, a Republican, in the general.</p> <p>On Tuesday, State Republican Party Chair Ed Cox <a href="https://twitter.com/NYNOW_PBS/status/1042213103876943872" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told New York Now</a>, “We’ve got a good chance with the Brooks seat in Nassau County and I think we have got a good shot where Scott Vanderhoef, the five-time elected county [executive] of Rockland County is running for the state Senate seat there. Of course, Senator Carlucci has had a tough primary and is wounded to begin with and that’s a seat we’ve held before and I think we can win that one again.”</p> <p>All but the Golden race are outside New York City.</p> <p>The True Blue activists, who engage in a variety of campaign tactics including door-knocking and phone-banking, have yet to settle on which races they’ll jump into. “There are a lot of metrics involved, like the district’s partisan lean and the issues that they support, and of course there are other aspects like where they are geographically and where we can have the most impact,” said Mia Pearlman, co-leader of True Blue NY, an individual group from which the larger coalition drew its name. “Once the coalition groups decide where they want to put their energy, then we’ll work on sort of helping each campaign,” Pearlman said. “What we tried to do with the IDC challengers...is to get groups in the coalition to adopt a campaign and then put all their resources directly into the campaign.”</p> <p>Since these races span the state, the activists will look to get involved largely remotely, Pearlman said, including through phone-banking, text-banking, postcards, and fundraising. “Hopefully we’ll also be going to some of these districts to help out,” she said. In past cycles, volunteers have boarded buses from the city to spend days in swing districts canvassing, but a lot can be done remotely. The involvement of New York City-based activists can be used against the candidates they are seeking to help, as Republicans outside the city often tell suburban and upstate voters that a GOP Senate majority is the only thing keeping taxes from skyrocketing and city liberals from taking over all of state government.</p> <p>True to recent form, the activists aren’t looking to simply back any Democrat and, both Doran and Pearlman said, will be closely scrutinizing candidates to see who matches their priorities.</p> <p>“It’s very important to the coalition that we support true progressives so we will be vetting candidates based on their policy positions and where they’ve raised money and their endorsements,” Pearlman said. “And we’re also excited to find candidates who have a lot of grassroots support in their districts, if there is a grassroots, because I think that that shows the strength of the candidate who may be able to win regardless of what the metrics might seem to predict.”</p> <p>Pearlman emphasized that the decisions would be made independent of the state Democratic establishment, even if the coalition seeks advice on candidates. “While we are of course happy to talk to the establishment forces about who they would recommend, we have a great track record of helping candidates win who no one thought could possibly win in districts that people had completely written off.”</p> <p>“We have no interest in having potential Cuomo lackeys elected to office to do his bidding,” Doran said, noting for example that Cuomo had urged certain candidates to run including Monica Martinez, and Peter Harckham, who is running against Republican Sen. Terrence Murphy in District 40. Doran didn't preclude the possibility of supporting those three candidates, noting that the coalition would evaluate each of them to see if they share their progressive values. “We don't want to risk having Senators that may not be called the IDC but could be IDC-lite Democrats in the State Senate," he said.</p> <p>The Working Families Party, which was also instrumental in helping the various insurgent challengers against the IDC as well as Julia Salazar’s defeat of incumbent Democratic Senator Martin Dilan, will also be heavily involved in the effort. “There are at least three of four top-tier Senate races that we think are very flippable,” said Joe Dinkin, WFP campaign director, earlier this week. “I think the surge in turnout in the primary and the energy we’re seeing on the ground is indicative of the fact that the blue wave is very real. We’re gonna see a lot of Democrats turning out to vote and we have a really good shot to pick up seats in the state Senate.”</p> <p>Doran said, no matter the race, the effort will boil down to a robust ground game and voter contact campaign. “Nothing is stronger than going out and meeting people in the districts. People, not money, are the power,” he said, echoing a line regularly used by Alessandra Biaggi, who defeated former IDC leader Jeff Klein in the marquee race of the Senate primaries. And though he wouldn’t elaborate on specific tactics, he promised, “Obviously we will have some new fun surprises.”</p> <p>[Read:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7939-how-insurgent-forces-activated-educated-and-brought-the-idc-down">How Insurgent Forces Activated, Educated and Brought the IDC Down</a>]</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated to clarify Doran's comments related to three Democratic state Senate candidates.&nbsp;</p>
How Insurgent Forces Activated, Educated and Brought the IDC Down 2018-09-17T04:00:00+00:00 2018-09-17T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7939-how-insurgent-forces-activated-educated-and-brought-the-idc-down Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/biaggi_victory_first_pump.jpg" alt="biaggi victory first pump" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Alessandra Biaggi celebrates (photo: @Biaggi4NY)</p> <hr /> <p>Hit the ground early. Educate the electorate. Reach new voters. Go viral.</p> <p>Those are a few of the strategies that propelled insurgent candidates to victory in last week’s primary elections, wherein six challengers prevailed over sitting Democratic state senators who were once members of the Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway faction that caucused with Republicans for seven years, creating or padding the GOP majority in the chamber.</p> <p>The upsets in the state Senate races instantly shook up New York politics and painted a picture of a more engaged Democratic electorate that would no longer tolerate party officials who don’t pass a particular purity test imposed by a progressive base angered by the election of Donald Trump and a lack of action on favored legislation in Albany.</p> <p>The eight-member IDC, which dissolved in April amid mounting criticism of its role in keeping the state Senate in Republican hands, saw six of their own defeated on Thursday despite outspending their opponents and leveraging broad institutional support. Their conventional campaign tactics failed to overcome a coordinated crop of candidates backed by a vast network of grassroots activists who employed guerilla tactics to get their message heard and were, in several instances, bolstered by key established players.</p> <p>In early 2017, in the aftermath of Trump’s election, a disparate movement focused on the IDC had begun to take shape. Under a Trump presidency, the IDC members and their power-sharing agreement with Republicans became unacceptable to these activists, who insisted on being represented by “true blue” Democrats. After a raucous townhall in early February 2017 where IDC Senator Jose Peralta met the fury of some, one grassroots group, Rise and Resist, began to hold regular protests against IDC members. Then, in May 2017, the incipient anti-IDC movement held simultaneous rallies across New York City, protesting outside the offices of the senators. By then, only one candidate had emerged, Robert Jackson, who beat Senator Marisol Alcantara in Manhattan’s 31st District by a wide margin. “The beginning of the real grassroots energy behind getting rid of the IDC started then,” said Lisa DellAquila, an anti-IDC activist turned campaign manager for John Liu, the last of the challengers to declare and who handily defeated IDC Senator Tony Avella in the primary.</p> <p>It was the first volley in a broader, longer game that crescendoed to a fever pitch ahead of primary day. In interviews, the organizers, activists, and strategists behind the effort portrayed a campaign that laid the groundwork long before other candidates had even emerged. “Our strategy from day one was run nine challengers against nine traitors,” said Gus Christensen, chief strategist for No IDC NY, a grassroots group, referring to the IDC senators and Senator Simcha Felder, a rogue Brooklyn Democrat who was not part of the IDC but votes with Republicans. The activists eventually coalesced into the True Blue coalition, made up of about 60 groups, many local ones based in the districts represented by IDC senators, where organizing and education efforts increased awareness of the IDC over the course of 2017 and into this year. The coalition marshalled its resources, encouraging candidates to run while informing voters more broadly about the existence of the IDC.</p> <p>“What the IDC did violated the public trust in a visceral, almost biblical way,” Christensen said. “The cynics of the political establishment could never see that, because caucusing with the other party isn't illegal, while Albany is full of actual illegal activities about which voters don't seem to care. But once enough voters understood that the IDC really did caucus with the GOP, that it wasn't ‘fake news,’ they were revolted, and they voted that way.”</p> <p><strong>Hitting the ground running</strong><br />“One really important piece of this was just good old-fashioned organizing,” said Heather Stewart, co-founder of Empire State Indivisible, who later went on to work for Liu’s campaign doing communications. Stewart said the coalition began educating voters about the IDC last year through town halls, leafleting, phone banks, and on-the-ground outreach. “So there was a good deal of tracks laid through the education piece. This was over a year ago...it was a coalescence of great candidates, good organizing, people who wanted more than anything from the bottom of their heart to oust the IDC.”</p> <p>The groups gathered every month to discuss strategy, and began to circle possible candidates who had expressed interest while actively recruiting others such as Liu, who entered the fray at the eleventh hour after having lost to Avella four years ago but with stronger name recognition in his district than most of the other challengers had in theirs at the start of their campaigns.</p> <p>The groups also partnered with The Creative Resistance, a volunteer collective of documentary filmmakers, and released a video, titled “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mESf-kjuSI" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Lulu Land</a>” and narrated by actor Edie Falco, about the IDC and its highly scrutinized arrangement for its members to inappropriately receive extra stipends. The video raised much-needed awareness for their effort. “By and large, people were enraged about the IDC,” said Stewart, who has acknowledged she only learned of the IDC in recent years, spurring her to action. “They were mad that they had voted for a Democrat who wasn’t upholding Democratic values.”</p> <p>Different groups were assigned to different districts under one umbrella. “We borrowed a strategy from Virginia activists who flipped the House of Delegates,” Stewart said, “which was basically that each group adopted a campaign and a candidate. So then, each group could begin to engage their members in one consistent campaign...It worked very well...There was essentially a captain who captained the grassroots efforts in each campaign that talked with other captains of the grassroots effort.”</p> <p>The overall effort was bolstered by the likes of the Working Families Party, Make the Road Action, and Citizen Action of New York, some of the organized left’s longer-standing infrastructure, groups that share similar progressive goals and sent hundreds of volunteers into the nine districts, relying on a robust ground game to activate voters.</p> <p>“We started working as far back as spring of 2017, way before there even were candidates running, to start organizing in the districts of the IDC members, doing really aggressive voter contact and community organizing to help people understand what was actually going on,” said Joe Dinkin, WFP’s campaign director. “That helped till the soil, build a grassroots base of anger and energy and a volunteer base from which it was a lot more appealing for candidates who would think about running to be able to get into the race.”</p> <p>Dinkin said the WFP, which endorsed all the candidates, provided campaign expertise, helping them strategize, hire staff and consultants, and dispatch volunteers. By February and into March of this year, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7512-conflict-escalates-between-working-families-party-and-independent-democratic-conference" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the WFP had endorsed</a> the full slate of challengers to the IDC senators, establishing clear battle lines within the Democratic Party and setting the stage for the essential stretch of the primary campaign well in advance.</p> <p>The WFP was also behind the two insurgent statewide candidates who failed in the primary -- Cynthia Nixon lost to Cuomo by a wide margin and City Council Member Jumaane Williams failed to unseat Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul in a closer race. Zephyr Teachout, who the WFP said it was supporting along with eventual winner Letitia James in the attorney general Democratic primary, was unsuccessful in her race but amplified anti-IDC sentiment. Nixon was vocal about the IDC and when Cuomo moved to reunite the faction with the mainline Senate Democratic Conference, she claimed credit.</p> <p>“Cynthia Nixon was able to broadcast in a way that the entire media and the political class and voters noticed about the problems with the IDC and how they were roadblocking progressive legislation,” Dinkin said.</p> <p>The candidates themselves had also been beating the anti-IDC drum in their districts. “Typically campaigns run a eight-week, sometimes 12-week field operation,” said Andre Richardson, campaign manager for Zellnor Myrie, who defeated former IDC Senator Jesse Hamilton in Brooklyn. “We’ve been canvassing, paid and volunteer, and candidate canvassing for eight months. In politics, folks have these archaic strategies of ‘this is too soon, this is too early.’ We proved all of that to be inaccurate and we proved that if you run a consistent and aggressive ground game, you can win.”</p> <p>Each of the candidates managed fairly robust fundraising operations, and focused mostly on individual small donors throughout their campaigns as they critiqued their opponents for receiving funds from corporate donors. There was, of course, a fair share of spending by the coalition groups to augment each campaign’s own operations. No IDC NY formed its own multi-candidate campaign committee and tapped hundreds of small donors as well, and spent nearly $150,000, across the Senate races.</p> <p><strong>Depending on digital</strong><br />In order to build name recognition against the IDC members, some of whom have been incumbents for several terms, the broader coordinated campaign, individual candidates, and activist groups decided to focus their efforts on digital and social media, hyper-targeted to specific populations within each district.</p> <p>All the campaigns and their allies outspent the IDC senators on Facebook, said Jim Casteleiro, digital director for No IDC NY, who coordinated efforts with The Creative Resistance to craft ads across all the campaigns.</p> <p>“We started early in the summer conceiving of a plan to run digital ads in all the districts that we were targeting,” Casteleiro said. “Our sort-of guiding principle in this whole process was, ‘Yes, people are outraged about what’s happening with Trump. Yes, people are outraged about the IDC. But if we don’t talk to them about what this actually means for their lives, then no one’s gonna care’...All of the content that we created, it was all issue-focused.”</p> <p>The ads focused on everything from the state’s housing crisis, immigrant protections, and health care to education funding and abortion rights, while introducing the slate of progressive challengers as individual people. Another round of more negative ads <a href="https://www.thecreativeresistance.us/videos" target="_blank" rel="noopener">portrayed</a> each of the IDC senators as a gas station tube man, full of hot air. All told, the 38 videos they created received more than a million views.</p> <p>“Obviously, digital isn’t new necessarily,” Casteleiro said. “But what I say is kinda unprecedented is this: you have an all-volunteer organization that raises $250,000, we partner with an all-volunteer group of creative professionals who create agency-level content, and we deploy that across the state in a coordinated fashion…That has to be absolutely unprecedented in New York State.”</p> <p>Activist Sean McElwee, writing in HuffPost, <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/opinion-new-york-primaries_us_5b9b0adce4b046313fb96421" target="_blank" rel="noopener">noted that</a> grassroots group Vote Tripling got 474 volunteers to convince three friends each to vote for the IDC challengers, and national group Postcards to Voters sent 283,857 handwritten notes to get out the vote in those districts.</p> <p>Eric Rockey, co-founder of The Creative Resistance and director of the “Hot Air” ads, said they were inspired by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s viral campaign ad when she beat Democratic giant Joe Crowley in a June congressional primary that shocked the city, state, and country. The ad was like a “short documentary film about a candidate and less like a slick political ad,” he said, noting that his group skyped with the makers of that ad and also consulted with the team behind Cynthia Nixon’s campaign launch video.</p> <p>“The strategy was really to find those unique issues that would be wedge issues between our candidates and IDC members and really hammer on those,” Rockey said. “It was really burnishing the progressive bonafides of these candidates. But also trying to show them as people.”</p> <p><strong>Convincing Candidates</strong><br />No message is complete without its messenger and the anti-IDC movement was no different. The candidates they backed, most of them young progressives running for the first time, presented an alternative to the calcified establishment to a Democratic primary electorate that showed it was hungry for change.</p> <p>By and large, the candidates were charismatic, energetic, and able to talk policy -- some with youthful exuberance, some with seasoned perspective.</p> <p>Some were also backed by prominent elected officials, including City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Comptroller Scott Stringer, both of whom brought organizing and fundraising with them. Myrie, in particular, received tremendous support from city, state, and federal elected officials, including many in Brooklyn. The powerful labor union 32BJ also played a prominent role in a few races, especially where Alessandra Biaggi defeated Klein, who once led the IDC and was, until Thursday, one of the state's most powerful elected officials. Stringer and Johnson and their teams were also all-in for Biaggi.</p> <p>“We proved through heart and hustle and just organizing that it was possible,” she said in a phone interview. “I worked tirelessly and I’m unrelenting, and also a fighter and I’ve always been that way. And every time that somebody told me ‘no’ I worked double as hard and every time somebody told me ‘yes’ I worked triple as hard.”</p> <p>Klein spent more to try to push back Biaggi’s challenge than Nixon did in her statewide race against the governor. “This race proved that the political currency is people, not dollars,” Biaggi said.</p> <p>“They were all really great. They were easy to work for and easy to get people excited about. And that’s where the magic was if you ask me,” said Empire Indivisible’s Stewart about the IDC challengers.</p> <p>In July, once Liu declared he would challenge Avella, the district was ready to hear from him. “A lot of work had already been done in his district. We already had boots on the ground there who were really fiercely committed to the IDC resistance and so it was essentially bringing in a great candidate,” Stewart said.</p> <p>While Liu, Jackson, Biaggi, Myrie, Jessica Ramos, and Rachel May were successful in defeating former IDC members, other former IDC Senators Diane Savino and David Carlucci held onto their seats. Felder defeated Blake Morris. (Another insurgent leftist, Julia Salazar, unseated Senator Martin Dilan, though that race was not a focus of the same progressive, anti-IDC coalition.)</p> <p>The primary winners are all-but-certain to win their general elections, if they have an opponent. The main remaining question is whether the anti-IDC efforts that toppled rogue Democrats can now help flip Republican-held seats and give the next Senate Democratic Conference, infused with new blood, an elusive majority. That answer will be known on November 6.</p> <p>Again in the general, candidates and campaigns will both matter greatly.</p> <p>Richardson, from Myrie’s campaign, explained some of the energy behind his candidate’s success. “Zellnor is in the top five of the most fearless candidates I’ve ever worked for,” he said. “In terms of his aggressiveness to talk to a voter, to hear a problem, his ability to immediately respond or to follow through, is pretty phenomenal…We had a pool of over 400 volunteers. And some of that was outreach. A lot of that was just organic because Zellnor was such a great candidate. Folks would just walk in the door or read an article about him and just wanna help.”</p> <p>“We were really inspired by these candidates,” said Rockey. “It wasn’t a stretch for us. We were genuinely inspired by them. It felt like something new in New York politics...It was really about these personal connections with these candidates and our passion for these candidates.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note- This article has been updated to note the correct name of the True Blue coalition, which is distinct from True Blue NY, a grassroots group that is part of the coalition.&nbsp;</p> <p>Note- This article has been updated to reflect the early role of Rise and Resist, a grassroots groups, in the anti-IDC movement.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/biaggi_victory_first_pump.jpg" alt="biaggi victory first pump" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Alessandra Biaggi celebrates (photo: @Biaggi4NY)</p> <hr /> <p>Hit the ground early. Educate the electorate. Reach new voters. Go viral.</p> <p>Those are a few of the strategies that propelled insurgent candidates to victory in last week’s primary elections, wherein six challengers prevailed over sitting Democratic state senators who were once members of the Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway faction that caucused with Republicans for seven years, creating or padding the GOP majority in the chamber.</p> <p>The upsets in the state Senate races instantly shook up New York politics and painted a picture of a more engaged Democratic electorate that would no longer tolerate party officials who don’t pass a particular purity test imposed by a progressive base angered by the election of Donald Trump and a lack of action on favored legislation in Albany.</p> <p>The eight-member IDC, which dissolved in April amid mounting criticism of its role in keeping the state Senate in Republican hands, saw six of their own defeated on Thursday despite outspending their opponents and leveraging broad institutional support. Their conventional campaign tactics failed to overcome a coordinated crop of candidates backed by a vast network of grassroots activists who employed guerilla tactics to get their message heard and were, in several instances, bolstered by key established players.</p> <p>In early 2017, in the aftermath of Trump’s election, a disparate movement focused on the IDC had begun to take shape. Under a Trump presidency, the IDC members and their power-sharing agreement with Republicans became unacceptable to these activists, who insisted on being represented by “true blue” Democrats. After a raucous townhall in early February 2017 where IDC Senator Jose Peralta met the fury of some, one grassroots group, Rise and Resist, began to hold regular protests against IDC members. Then, in May 2017, the incipient anti-IDC movement held simultaneous rallies across New York City, protesting outside the offices of the senators. By then, only one candidate had emerged, Robert Jackson, who beat Senator Marisol Alcantara in Manhattan’s 31st District by a wide margin. “The beginning of the real grassroots energy behind getting rid of the IDC started then,” said Lisa DellAquila, an anti-IDC activist turned campaign manager for John Liu, the last of the challengers to declare and who handily defeated IDC Senator Tony Avella in the primary.</p> <p>It was the first volley in a broader, longer game that crescendoed to a fever pitch ahead of primary day. In interviews, the organizers, activists, and strategists behind the effort portrayed a campaign that laid the groundwork long before other candidates had even emerged. “Our strategy from day one was run nine challengers against nine traitors,” said Gus Christensen, chief strategist for No IDC NY, a grassroots group, referring to the IDC senators and Senator Simcha Felder, a rogue Brooklyn Democrat who was not part of the IDC but votes with Republicans. The activists eventually coalesced into the True Blue coalition, made up of about 60 groups, many local ones based in the districts represented by IDC senators, where organizing and education efforts increased awareness of the IDC over the course of 2017 and into this year. The coalition marshalled its resources, encouraging candidates to run while informing voters more broadly about the existence of the IDC.</p> <p>“What the IDC did violated the public trust in a visceral, almost biblical way,” Christensen said. “The cynics of the political establishment could never see that, because caucusing with the other party isn't illegal, while Albany is full of actual illegal activities about which voters don't seem to care. But once enough voters understood that the IDC really did caucus with the GOP, that it wasn't ‘fake news,’ they were revolted, and they voted that way.”</p> <p><strong>Hitting the ground running</strong><br />“One really important piece of this was just good old-fashioned organizing,” said Heather Stewart, co-founder of Empire State Indivisible, who later went on to work for Liu’s campaign doing communications. Stewart said the coalition began educating voters about the IDC last year through town halls, leafleting, phone banks, and on-the-ground outreach. “So there was a good deal of tracks laid through the education piece. This was over a year ago...it was a coalescence of great candidates, good organizing, people who wanted more than anything from the bottom of their heart to oust the IDC.”</p> <p>The groups gathered every month to discuss strategy, and began to circle possible candidates who had expressed interest while actively recruiting others such as Liu, who entered the fray at the eleventh hour after having lost to Avella four years ago but with stronger name recognition in his district than most of the other challengers had in theirs at the start of their campaigns.</p> <p>The groups also partnered with The Creative Resistance, a volunteer collective of documentary filmmakers, and released a video, titled “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mESf-kjuSI" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Lulu Land</a>” and narrated by actor Edie Falco, about the IDC and its highly scrutinized arrangement for its members to inappropriately receive extra stipends. The video raised much-needed awareness for their effort. “By and large, people were enraged about the IDC,” said Stewart, who has acknowledged she only learned of the IDC in recent years, spurring her to action. “They were mad that they had voted for a Democrat who wasn’t upholding Democratic values.”</p> <p>Different groups were assigned to different districts under one umbrella. “We borrowed a strategy from Virginia activists who flipped the House of Delegates,” Stewart said, “which was basically that each group adopted a campaign and a candidate. So then, each group could begin to engage their members in one consistent campaign...It worked very well...There was essentially a captain who captained the grassroots efforts in each campaign that talked with other captains of the grassroots effort.”</p> <p>The overall effort was bolstered by the likes of the Working Families Party, Make the Road Action, and Citizen Action of New York, some of the organized left’s longer-standing infrastructure, groups that share similar progressive goals and sent hundreds of volunteers into the nine districts, relying on a robust ground game to activate voters.</p> <p>“We started working as far back as spring of 2017, way before there even were candidates running, to start organizing in the districts of the IDC members, doing really aggressive voter contact and community organizing to help people understand what was actually going on,” said Joe Dinkin, WFP’s campaign director. “That helped till the soil, build a grassroots base of anger and energy and a volunteer base from which it was a lot more appealing for candidates who would think about running to be able to get into the race.”</p> <p>Dinkin said the WFP, which endorsed all the candidates, provided campaign expertise, helping them strategize, hire staff and consultants, and dispatch volunteers. By February and into March of this year, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7512-conflict-escalates-between-working-families-party-and-independent-democratic-conference" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the WFP had endorsed</a> the full slate of challengers to the IDC senators, establishing clear battle lines within the Democratic Party and setting the stage for the essential stretch of the primary campaign well in advance.</p> <p>The WFP was also behind the two insurgent statewide candidates who failed in the primary -- Cynthia Nixon lost to Cuomo by a wide margin and City Council Member Jumaane Williams failed to unseat Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul in a closer race. Zephyr Teachout, who the WFP said it was supporting along with eventual winner Letitia James in the attorney general Democratic primary, was unsuccessful in her race but amplified anti-IDC sentiment. Nixon was vocal about the IDC and when Cuomo moved to reunite the faction with the mainline Senate Democratic Conference, she claimed credit.</p> <p>“Cynthia Nixon was able to broadcast in a way that the entire media and the political class and voters noticed about the problems with the IDC and how they were roadblocking progressive legislation,” Dinkin said.</p> <p>The candidates themselves had also been beating the anti-IDC drum in their districts. “Typically campaigns run a eight-week, sometimes 12-week field operation,” said Andre Richardson, campaign manager for Zellnor Myrie, who defeated former IDC Senator Jesse Hamilton in Brooklyn. “We’ve been canvassing, paid and volunteer, and candidate canvassing for eight months. In politics, folks have these archaic strategies of ‘this is too soon, this is too early.’ We proved all of that to be inaccurate and we proved that if you run a consistent and aggressive ground game, you can win.”</p> <p>Each of the candidates managed fairly robust fundraising operations, and focused mostly on individual small donors throughout their campaigns as they critiqued their opponents for receiving funds from corporate donors. There was, of course, a fair share of spending by the coalition groups to augment each campaign’s own operations. No IDC NY formed its own multi-candidate campaign committee and tapped hundreds of small donors as well, and spent nearly $150,000, across the Senate races.</p> <p><strong>Depending on digital</strong><br />In order to build name recognition against the IDC members, some of whom have been incumbents for several terms, the broader coordinated campaign, individual candidates, and activist groups decided to focus their efforts on digital and social media, hyper-targeted to specific populations within each district.</p> <p>All the campaigns and their allies outspent the IDC senators on Facebook, said Jim Casteleiro, digital director for No IDC NY, who coordinated efforts with The Creative Resistance to craft ads across all the campaigns.</p> <p>“We started early in the summer conceiving of a plan to run digital ads in all the districts that we were targeting,” Casteleiro said. “Our sort-of guiding principle in this whole process was, ‘Yes, people are outraged about what’s happening with Trump. Yes, people are outraged about the IDC. But if we don’t talk to them about what this actually means for their lives, then no one’s gonna care’...All of the content that we created, it was all issue-focused.”</p> <p>The ads focused on everything from the state’s housing crisis, immigrant protections, and health care to education funding and abortion rights, while introducing the slate of progressive challengers as individual people. Another round of more negative ads <a href="https://www.thecreativeresistance.us/videos" target="_blank" rel="noopener">portrayed</a> each of the IDC senators as a gas station tube man, full of hot air. All told, the 38 videos they created received more than a million views.</p> <p>“Obviously, digital isn’t new necessarily,” Casteleiro said. “But what I say is kinda unprecedented is this: you have an all-volunteer organization that raises $250,000, we partner with an all-volunteer group of creative professionals who create agency-level content, and we deploy that across the state in a coordinated fashion…That has to be absolutely unprecedented in New York State.”</p> <p>Activist Sean McElwee, writing in HuffPost, <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/opinion-new-york-primaries_us_5b9b0adce4b046313fb96421" target="_blank" rel="noopener">noted that</a> grassroots group Vote Tripling got 474 volunteers to convince three friends each to vote for the IDC challengers, and national group Postcards to Voters sent 283,857 handwritten notes to get out the vote in those districts.</p> <p>Eric Rockey, co-founder of The Creative Resistance and director of the “Hot Air” ads, said they were inspired by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s viral campaign ad when she beat Democratic giant Joe Crowley in a June congressional primary that shocked the city, state, and country. The ad was like a “short documentary film about a candidate and less like a slick political ad,” he said, noting that his group skyped with the makers of that ad and also consulted with the team behind Cynthia Nixon’s campaign launch video.</p> <p>“The strategy was really to find those unique issues that would be wedge issues between our candidates and IDC members and really hammer on those,” Rockey said. “It was really burnishing the progressive bonafides of these candidates. But also trying to show them as people.”</p> <p><strong>Convincing Candidates</strong><br />No message is complete without its messenger and the anti-IDC movement was no different. The candidates they backed, most of them young progressives running for the first time, presented an alternative to the calcified establishment to a Democratic primary electorate that showed it was hungry for change.</p> <p>By and large, the candidates were charismatic, energetic, and able to talk policy -- some with youthful exuberance, some with seasoned perspective.</p> <p>Some were also backed by prominent elected officials, including City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Comptroller Scott Stringer, both of whom brought organizing and fundraising with them. Myrie, in particular, received tremendous support from city, state, and federal elected officials, including many in Brooklyn. The powerful labor union 32BJ also played a prominent role in a few races, especially where Alessandra Biaggi defeated Klein, who once led the IDC and was, until Thursday, one of the state's most powerful elected officials. Stringer and Johnson and their teams were also all-in for Biaggi.</p> <p>“We proved through heart and hustle and just organizing that it was possible,” she said in a phone interview. “I worked tirelessly and I’m unrelenting, and also a fighter and I’ve always been that way. And every time that somebody told me ‘no’ I worked double as hard and every time somebody told me ‘yes’ I worked triple as hard.”</p> <p>Klein spent more to try to push back Biaggi’s challenge than Nixon did in her statewide race against the governor. “This race proved that the political currency is people, not dollars,” Biaggi said.</p> <p>“They were all really great. They were easy to work for and easy to get people excited about. And that’s where the magic was if you ask me,” said Empire Indivisible’s Stewart about the IDC challengers.</p> <p>In July, once Liu declared he would challenge Avella, the district was ready to hear from him. “A lot of work had already been done in his district. We already had boots on the ground there who were really fiercely committed to the IDC resistance and so it was essentially bringing in a great candidate,” Stewart said.</p> <p>While Liu, Jackson, Biaggi, Myrie, Jessica Ramos, and Rachel May were successful in defeating former IDC members, other former IDC Senators Diane Savino and David Carlucci held onto their seats. Felder defeated Blake Morris. (Another insurgent leftist, Julia Salazar, unseated Senator Martin Dilan, though that race was not a focus of the same progressive, anti-IDC coalition.)</p> <p>The primary winners are all-but-certain to win their general elections, if they have an opponent. The main remaining question is whether the anti-IDC efforts that toppled rogue Democrats can now help flip Republican-held seats and give the next Senate Democratic Conference, infused with new blood, an elusive majority. That answer will be known on November 6.</p> <p>Again in the general, candidates and campaigns will both matter greatly.</p> <p>Richardson, from Myrie’s campaign, explained some of the energy behind his candidate’s success. “Zellnor is in the top five of the most fearless candidates I’ve ever worked for,” he said. “In terms of his aggressiveness to talk to a voter, to hear a problem, his ability to immediately respond or to follow through, is pretty phenomenal…We had a pool of over 400 volunteers. And some of that was outreach. A lot of that was just organic because Zellnor was such a great candidate. Folks would just walk in the door or read an article about him and just wanna help.”</p> <p>“We were really inspired by these candidates,” said Rockey. “It wasn’t a stretch for us. We were genuinely inspired by them. It felt like something new in New York politics...It was really about these personal connections with these candidates and our passion for these candidates.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note- This article has been updated to note the correct name of the True Blue coalition, which is distinct from True Blue NY, a grassroots group that is part of the coalition.&nbsp;</p> <p>Note- This article has been updated to reflect the early role of Rise and Resist, a grassroots groups, in the anti-IDC movement.</p>
A Closer Look at Democratic Primary Turnout, Margins and Geography 2018-09-16T04:00:00+00:00 2018-09-16T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7936-a-closer-look-at-democratic-primary-turnout-margins-and-geography Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/cuomo_voting_2018_primary.jpg" alt="cuomo voting 2018 primary" width="600" height="338" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo voting in Thursday's primary (photo: @NYGovCuomo)</p> <hr /> <p>The Democratic gubernatorial primary between Governor Andrew Cuomo and Cynthia Nixon saw a significant surge in voter participation, but turnout still stood at only 27 percent of active registered Democrats.</p> <p>Compared to the 2014 primary election, when Zephyr Teachout challenged Cuomo, who was then seeking a second term, turnout more than doubled, according to preliminary numbers. And, turnout spiked slightly more in New York City than elsewhere. Specifically, 28 percent of registered Democrats in New York City voted in the 2018 primary while 24.5 percent voted outside of the city — 2.8 and 2.3 times as many voted in 2014, respectively, when around 10 percent of those eligible cast a ballot.</p> <p>“As far as the race for governor goes, turnout was greatly improved in the city and throughout the state. That was very impressive,” said Steven Romalewski, director of the Mapping Service at CUNY’s Center for Urban Research, in an interview Friday. “It wasn’t just a modest increase compared with the somewhat anemic turnout statewide in 2014.”</p> <p>“The number of voters went from 575,000 to 1.5 million,” he added. There were 5,621,811 million active registered Democrats across the state as of April 1, <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/enrollment/county/county_apr18.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">according to</a> the State Board of Elections. Turnout was likely aided by a number of factors, including the high number of competitive races, including three statewide positions and the challenges to former members of the Senate Independent Democratic Conference and Democrats’ post-Trump awakening.</p> <p>Cuomo won this year’s primary with 978,138 votes to Nixon’s 512,585, as of the preliminary count, for 65.6 percent to 34.4 percent. In 2014, Cuomo received 361,380 votes (63 percent), and Teachout earned 192,210 votes (33.5 percent); comedian and activist Randy Credico picked up the remaining votes and about 3 percent.</p> <p>In Cuomo’s win, he captured broad support across the state, earning about 67 percent of the vote in New York City and 64 percent outside the city, with the exception of a few geographic regions. He performed particularly well in majority-black areas of the city, especially in the Bronx — he won 83 percent in the borough overall — Harlem, and Central Brooklyn. Nixon, for her part, received a good share of votes in whiter, gentrified parts of Brooklyn, competed better with Cuomo in Manhattan, where she earned 41 percent of the vote, her best borough, and the Queens waterfront, posting her best numbers, like Teachout four years ago, in areas of the city home to many white progressives. Nixon also performed fairly well in some upstate areas, such as Albany County, and also beat Cuomo in counties surrounding it, along with Tomkins and Lewis counties to its west and north, respectively.</p> <p>Turnout was so much higher that Nixon earned 320,375 more total votes than Cuomo did in 2014, but still won about the same percentage as Teachout did that year.</p> <p>Cuomo’s win was so solid, and the city’s share of the vote so significant, that the governor’s total votes from Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Bronx, and Queens eclipsed Nixon’s statewide total.</p> <p>The other two statewide Democratic primaries, for Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General, followed a similar pattern, with incumbent Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul again winning the party’s nomination and New York City Public Advocate Letitia James prevailing in a four-way Attorney General race with no incumbent.</p> <p>Specifically, James’ base was predictably in the city; Zephyr Teachout performed well in the Hudson Valley as well as parts of Brooklyn home to many white progressives, the Upper West Side, and Greenwich Village (places Nixon received a large share of votes); and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney performed best further upstate and in Western New York.</p> <p>In total, James won 40.6 percent of the vote, Teachout 31, Maloney 25, and Eve 3.4.</p> <p>Teachout’s and Maloney’s combined votes totalled 800,398 — 221,016 more votes than what James received, perhaps suggesting had only one of the candidates been in the race he or she would have had a strong chance. Given their similar voter base and James stranglehold on New York City, neither was likely to be able to pull off a victory given the other’s presence, as <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7930-teachout-maloney-battle-may-help-james-win-attorney-general-nomination" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Gotham Gazette last week reported looked likely</a>.</p> <p>In the Lieutenant Governor race Hochul unofficially received 733,591 votes, or 53.3 percent, to Williams’ 641,631 votes, or 46.7 percent.</p> <p>Williams received the lion’s share of his votes in New York City, particularly Brooklyn, where he is from and represents a City Council district. Twenty-six percent of his total votes were cast in his favor in Brooklyn, but he was defeated by Hochul nearly everywhere else save Manhattan, and Tompkins and Columbia Counties. In New York City, Hochul received more votes than Williams in the three other boroughs, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island, and she did slightly better than Williams throughout most of the state.<br /> <br />Vote totals were slightly lower in both the Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor primaries than the race for Governor, as evidently some voters chose Cuomo or Nixon but left their ballots blank in one or more of the two other statewide races.</p> <p>In unofficial totals, 1,375,222 votes were counted in the Lieutenant Governor race and 1,428,418 votes in the Attorney General race, compared to 1,490,723 in the gubernatorial race, leaving roughly 115,500 who voted in the Governor's race but did not pick either of the major candidates in the Lieutenant Governor race (some may have done write-ins), and about 62,300 who did the same in the Attorney General race.</p> <p>But while Nixon lost by a large margin, and fellow insurgents Teachout and Williams lost as well, the progressive energy appeared to have a massive effect down-ballot, as six candidates challenging former members of the Senate Independent Democratic Conference, a group of eight breakaway Democrats who caucused with Republicans in the state Senate, ousted the incumbents, and another insurgent, leftist candidate unseated another sitting senator representing part of the city.</p> <p>Challengers Alessandra Biaggi, Jessica Ramos, John Liu, Zellnor Myrie, Robert Jackson, and Rachel May defeated IDC Senators Jeff Klein, Jose Peralta, Tony Avella, Jesse Hamilton, Marisol Alcantara, and David Valesky, respectively. One-time IDC Senators Diane Savino and David Carlucci fended off their challengers. Five of the districts where the incumbent IDC senators were beaten are fully or mostly in New York City. Julia Salazar also beat Senator Martin Dilan, who is not an IDC member, in Brooklyn. The progressive energy did not push Blake Morris to victory over Senator Simcha Felder, a Democrat who is a member of the Republican conference.</p> <p>Turnout in those Senate primaries varied somewhat. Senate District 34, represented by IDC founder and former leader Jeff Klein, had 23.2 percent turnout for Biaggi’s win, while in District 22, where Salazar ran a scandal-plagued but winning race against Dilan, turnout was 24 percent. Biaggi won with an unofficial 53 percent to Klein’s 44.5 percent. She did very well in the western portion of the district, including Riverdale, while Klein did well in the eastern section, including parts that overlap with soon-to-be U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s district.</p> <p>Salazar, meanwhile, won with an unofficial 54 percent to Dilan’s 39 percent. She performed best in areas of the district that have seen widespread gentrification, like Bushwick, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint, while Dilan performed best in the comparatively lower-income eastern part of the district.</p> <p>Myrie beat Hamilton by roughly 20 points in District 20 in central Brooklyn and parts of Park Slope, relying heavily on votes from areas home to more white progressive. In Queens, Liu received 53 percent of the vote to Avella’s 47 percent, reversing the outcome of their 2014 primary race, and Ramos earned 55 percent of the vote to Peralta’s 45 percent.</p> <p>Jackson beat Alcantara on the west side of Manhattan with 53 percent of the vote to her 36 percent, while two other candidates combined for 5 percent. In that race, which includes parts of the always-active Upper West Side, turnout was an above-average 30 percent.</p> <p> </p> <p>Ben Brachfeld and Ben Max contributed to this article.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/cuomo_voting_2018_primary.jpg" alt="cuomo voting 2018 primary" width="600" height="338" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo voting in Thursday's primary (photo: @NYGovCuomo)</p> <hr /> <p>The Democratic gubernatorial primary between Governor Andrew Cuomo and Cynthia Nixon saw a significant surge in voter participation, but turnout still stood at only 27 percent of active registered Democrats.</p> <p>Compared to the 2014 primary election, when Zephyr Teachout challenged Cuomo, who was then seeking a second term, turnout more than doubled, according to preliminary numbers. And, turnout spiked slightly more in New York City than elsewhere. Specifically, 28 percent of registered Democrats in New York City voted in the 2018 primary while 24.5 percent voted outside of the city — 2.8 and 2.3 times as many voted in 2014, respectively, when around 10 percent of those eligible cast a ballot.</p> <p>“As far as the race for governor goes, turnout was greatly improved in the city and throughout the state. That was very impressive,” said Steven Romalewski, director of the Mapping Service at CUNY’s Center for Urban Research, in an interview Friday. “It wasn’t just a modest increase compared with the somewhat anemic turnout statewide in 2014.”</p> <p>“The number of voters went from 575,000 to 1.5 million,” he added. There were 5,621,811 million active registered Democrats across the state as of April 1, <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/enrollment/county/county_apr18.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">according to</a> the State Board of Elections. Turnout was likely aided by a number of factors, including the high number of competitive races, including three statewide positions and the challenges to former members of the Senate Independent Democratic Conference and Democrats’ post-Trump awakening.</p> <p>Cuomo won this year’s primary with 978,138 votes to Nixon’s 512,585, as of the preliminary count, for 65.6 percent to 34.4 percent. In 2014, Cuomo received 361,380 votes (63 percent), and Teachout earned 192,210 votes (33.5 percent); comedian and activist Randy Credico picked up the remaining votes and about 3 percent.</p> <p>In Cuomo’s win, he captured broad support across the state, earning about 67 percent of the vote in New York City and 64 percent outside the city, with the exception of a few geographic regions. He performed particularly well in majority-black areas of the city, especially in the Bronx — he won 83 percent in the borough overall — Harlem, and Central Brooklyn. Nixon, for her part, received a good share of votes in whiter, gentrified parts of Brooklyn, competed better with Cuomo in Manhattan, where she earned 41 percent of the vote, her best borough, and the Queens waterfront, posting her best numbers, like Teachout four years ago, in areas of the city home to many white progressives. Nixon also performed fairly well in some upstate areas, such as Albany County, and also beat Cuomo in counties surrounding it, along with Tomkins and Lewis counties to its west and north, respectively.</p> <p>Turnout was so much higher that Nixon earned 320,375 more total votes than Cuomo did in 2014, but still won about the same percentage as Teachout did that year.</p> <p>Cuomo’s win was so solid, and the city’s share of the vote so significant, that the governor’s total votes from Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Bronx, and Queens eclipsed Nixon’s statewide total.</p> <p>The other two statewide Democratic primaries, for Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General, followed a similar pattern, with incumbent Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul again winning the party’s nomination and New York City Public Advocate Letitia James prevailing in a four-way Attorney General race with no incumbent.</p> <p>Specifically, James’ base was predictably in the city; Zephyr Teachout performed well in the Hudson Valley as well as parts of Brooklyn home to many white progressives, the Upper West Side, and Greenwich Village (places Nixon received a large share of votes); and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney performed best further upstate and in Western New York.</p> <p>In total, James won 40.6 percent of the vote, Teachout 31, Maloney 25, and Eve 3.4.</p> <p>Teachout’s and Maloney’s combined votes totalled 800,398 — 221,016 more votes than what James received, perhaps suggesting had only one of the candidates been in the race he or she would have had a strong chance. Given their similar voter base and James stranglehold on New York City, neither was likely to be able to pull off a victory given the other’s presence, as <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7930-teachout-maloney-battle-may-help-james-win-attorney-general-nomination" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Gotham Gazette last week reported looked likely</a>.</p> <p>In the Lieutenant Governor race Hochul unofficially received 733,591 votes, or 53.3 percent, to Williams’ 641,631 votes, or 46.7 percent.</p> <p>Williams received the lion’s share of his votes in New York City, particularly Brooklyn, where he is from and represents a City Council district. Twenty-six percent of his total votes were cast in his favor in Brooklyn, but he was defeated by Hochul nearly everywhere else save Manhattan, and Tompkins and Columbia Counties. In New York City, Hochul received more votes than Williams in the three other boroughs, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island, and she did slightly better than Williams throughout most of the state.<br /> <br />Vote totals were slightly lower in both the Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor primaries than the race for Governor, as evidently some voters chose Cuomo or Nixon but left their ballots blank in one or more of the two other statewide races.</p> <p>In unofficial totals, 1,375,222 votes were counted in the Lieutenant Governor race and 1,428,418 votes in the Attorney General race, compared to 1,490,723 in the gubernatorial race, leaving roughly 115,500 who voted in the Governor's race but did not pick either of the major candidates in the Lieutenant Governor race (some may have done write-ins), and about 62,300 who did the same in the Attorney General race.</p> <p>But while Nixon lost by a large margin, and fellow insurgents Teachout and Williams lost as well, the progressive energy appeared to have a massive effect down-ballot, as six candidates challenging former members of the Senate Independent Democratic Conference, a group of eight breakaway Democrats who caucused with Republicans in the state Senate, ousted the incumbents, and another insurgent, leftist candidate unseated another sitting senator representing part of the city.</p> <p>Challengers Alessandra Biaggi, Jessica Ramos, John Liu, Zellnor Myrie, Robert Jackson, and Rachel May defeated IDC Senators Jeff Klein, Jose Peralta, Tony Avella, Jesse Hamilton, Marisol Alcantara, and David Valesky, respectively. One-time IDC Senators Diane Savino and David Carlucci fended off their challengers. Five of the districts where the incumbent IDC senators were beaten are fully or mostly in New York City. Julia Salazar also beat Senator Martin Dilan, who is not an IDC member, in Brooklyn. The progressive energy did not push Blake Morris to victory over Senator Simcha Felder, a Democrat who is a member of the Republican conference.</p> <p>Turnout in those Senate primaries varied somewhat. Senate District 34, represented by IDC founder and former leader Jeff Klein, had 23.2 percent turnout for Biaggi’s win, while in District 22, where Salazar ran a scandal-plagued but winning race against Dilan, turnout was 24 percent. Biaggi won with an unofficial 53 percent to Klein’s 44.5 percent. She did very well in the western portion of the district, including Riverdale, while Klein did well in the eastern section, including parts that overlap with soon-to-be U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s district.</p> <p>Salazar, meanwhile, won with an unofficial 54 percent to Dilan’s 39 percent. She performed best in areas of the district that have seen widespread gentrification, like Bushwick, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint, while Dilan performed best in the comparatively lower-income eastern part of the district.</p> <p>Myrie beat Hamilton by roughly 20 points in District 20 in central Brooklyn and parts of Park Slope, relying heavily on votes from areas home to more white progressive. In Queens, Liu received 53 percent of the vote to Avella’s 47 percent, reversing the outcome of their 2014 primary race, and Ramos earned 55 percent of the vote to Peralta’s 45 percent.</p> <p>Jackson beat Alcantara on the west side of Manhattan with 53 percent of the vote to her 36 percent, while two other candidates combined for 5 percent. In that race, which includes parts of the always-active Upper West Side, turnout was an above-average 30 percent.</p> <p> </p> <p>Ben Brachfeld and Ben Max contributed to this article.</p> 2018 New York State Primary Results: Cuomo, Hochul, James Prevail While Senate Upsets Abound 2018-09-13T04:00:00+00:00 2018-09-13T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7931-2018-new-york-state-primary-election-results Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/cuomo-james-hochul.jpg" alt="cuomo james hochul" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo: @andrewcuomo)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo won the Democratic nomination by a wide margin Thursday, with his running-mate Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul surviving a much closer race, Public Advocate Letitia James prevailing comfortably in a crowded Attorney General primary, and more than half a dozen upsets of sitting state Senators, including six of the eight former members of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC).</p> <p>Additionally, voter turnout was significantly higher than 2014, the last gubernatorial election year, perhaps owing to the combination of the number and intensity of the challenges to incumbents as well as the awakening spurred by the election of Donald Trump, which itself contributed to those challenges being waged.</p> <p>Cuomo, who spent more than $20 million in the campaign, defeated actor and activist Cynthia Nixon by about 30 percentage points; the governor seeking a third term earning more than 64% to Nixon’s 34.6%, with 96% of precincts reporting as of about 11:30 p.m. primary night.</p> <p>Hochul beat Williams by about 53% to 47% in what was a hard-fought Lieutenant Governor primary.</p> <p>James won the four-way Democratic primary for Attorney General, pulling in 40% to 31% for Zephyr Teachout, 25% for Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who will now seek reelection to the House of Representatives, and 3% for Leecia Eve.</p> <p>With the state party-backed candidates, including incumbents Cuomo and Hochul, winning those statewide primaries (Comptroller Tom DiNapoli was not challenged), perhaps the biggest storyline of the night was progressive upsets that occurred in state Senate primaries, including the complete demolish of the IDC, which had folded back into the mainline Democratic minority conference in April, in a deal brokered by Cuomo.</p> <p>The former leader of the IDC, Senator Jeff Klein, was defeated by Alessandra Biaggi in the Bronx and Westchester seat, despite Klein spending well over $1 million in the race.</p> <p>Other IDC races included Jessica Ramos unseating Senator Jose Peralta in Queens; Robert Jackson unseating Senator Marisol Alcantara in Manhattan; Zellnor Myrie unseating Senator Jesse Hamilton in Brooklyn; John Liu unseating Senator Tony Avella in Queens; and Rachel May unseating Senator David Valesky in the Syracuse area.</p> <p>Former IDC members who beat back challengers were Senator Diane Savino of Staten Island and Brooklyn, who defeated Jasmine Robinson, and Senator David Carlucci of Rockland, who defeated Julie Goldberg.</p> <p>In another upset, Julia Salazar unseated Senator Martin Dilan in Brooklyn.</p> <p>Senator Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat who has been part of the Republican conference, giving the GOP a one-seat majority, defeated challenger Blake Morris.</p> <p>In a Democratic primary to see who will take on Republican Brooklyn Senator Martin Golden in the general election, Andrew Gounardes defeated Ross Barkan.<br />There were far fewer storylines in Assembly races, but Catalina Cruz did unseat Assemblymember Ari Espinal in a Democratic primary in Queens. Democratic Assemblymember Brian Barnwell held off a challenge from Melissa Sklarz; As of Friday morning, votes were still being counted in the 46th Assembly district in Brooklyn where Mathylde Frontus is leading with 40.68 percent against Ethan Lustig-Elgrably, who has 39.75 percent of the vote; and Michael Reilly won the primary in the Republican Assembly stronghold on the South Shore of Staten Island, where no incumbent is running.</p> <p>Additionally, Nancy Sliwa won a three-candidate race for the Reform Party nomination for Attorney General.</p> <p>All of the primary winners will now move on to the general election, where a statewide slate of Republican nominees has been waiting -- the GOP strategically avoided any statewide primaries -- along with some minor party candidates. Along with the statewide races, the focus for the general election will be on which party can win the requisite seats to control the state Senate (the Assembly is overwhelmingly Democratic and will remain so), and battleground House races where New York swing seats could factor into whether Democrats can take control of that congressional chamber.</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note- This article has been updated to clarify that Ethan Lustic-Elgrably has not been declared the winner in Brooklyn's 46th Assembly district. Votes were still being counted as of Friday morning.&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/cuomo-james-hochul.jpg" alt="cuomo james hochul" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo: @andrewcuomo)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo won the Democratic nomination by a wide margin Thursday, with his running-mate Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul surviving a much closer race, Public Advocate Letitia James prevailing comfortably in a crowded Attorney General primary, and more than half a dozen upsets of sitting state Senators, including six of the eight former members of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC).</p> <p>Additionally, voter turnout was significantly higher than 2014, the last gubernatorial election year, perhaps owing to the combination of the number and intensity of the challenges to incumbents as well as the awakening spurred by the election of Donald Trump, which itself contributed to those challenges being waged.</p> <p>Cuomo, who spent more than $20 million in the campaign, defeated actor and activist Cynthia Nixon by about 30 percentage points; the governor seeking a third term earning more than 64% to Nixon’s 34.6%, with 96% of precincts reporting as of about 11:30 p.m. primary night.</p> <p>Hochul beat Williams by about 53% to 47% in what was a hard-fought Lieutenant Governor primary.</p> <p>James won the four-way Democratic primary for Attorney General, pulling in 40% to 31% for Zephyr Teachout, 25% for Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who will now seek reelection to the House of Representatives, and 3% for Leecia Eve.</p> <p>With the state party-backed candidates, including incumbents Cuomo and Hochul, winning those statewide primaries (Comptroller Tom DiNapoli was not challenged), perhaps the biggest storyline of the night was progressive upsets that occurred in state Senate primaries, including the complete demolish of the IDC, which had folded back into the mainline Democratic minority conference in April, in a deal brokered by Cuomo.</p> <p>The former leader of the IDC, Senator Jeff Klein, was defeated by Alessandra Biaggi in the Bronx and Westchester seat, despite Klein spending well over $1 million in the race.</p> <p>Other IDC races included Jessica Ramos unseating Senator Jose Peralta in Queens; Robert Jackson unseating Senator Marisol Alcantara in Manhattan; Zellnor Myrie unseating Senator Jesse Hamilton in Brooklyn; John Liu unseating Senator Tony Avella in Queens; and Rachel May unseating Senator David Valesky in the Syracuse area.</p> <p>Former IDC members who beat back challengers were Senator Diane Savino of Staten Island and Brooklyn, who defeated Jasmine Robinson, and Senator David Carlucci of Rockland, who defeated Julie Goldberg.</p> <p>In another upset, Julia Salazar unseated Senator Martin Dilan in Brooklyn.</p> <p>Senator Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat who has been part of the Republican conference, giving the GOP a one-seat majority, defeated challenger Blake Morris.</p> <p>In a Democratic primary to see who will take on Republican Brooklyn Senator Martin Golden in the general election, Andrew Gounardes defeated Ross Barkan.<br />There were far fewer storylines in Assembly races, but Catalina Cruz did unseat Assemblymember Ari Espinal in a Democratic primary in Queens. Democratic Assemblymember Brian Barnwell held off a challenge from Melissa Sklarz; As of Friday morning, votes were still being counted in the 46th Assembly district in Brooklyn where Mathylde Frontus is leading with 40.68 percent against Ethan Lustig-Elgrably, who has 39.75 percent of the vote; and Michael Reilly won the primary in the Republican Assembly stronghold on the South Shore of Staten Island, where no incumbent is running.</p> <p>Additionally, Nancy Sliwa won a three-candidate race for the Reform Party nomination for Attorney General.</p> <p>All of the primary winners will now move on to the general election, where a statewide slate of Republican nominees has been waiting -- the GOP strategically avoided any statewide primaries -- along with some minor party candidates. Along with the statewide races, the focus for the general election will be on which party can win the requisite seats to control the state Senate (the Assembly is overwhelmingly Democratic and will remain so), and battleground House races where New York swing seats could factor into whether Democrats can take control of that congressional chamber.</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note- This article has been updated to clarify that Ethan Lustic-Elgrably has not been declared the winner in Brooklyn's 46th Assembly district. Votes were still being counted as of Friday morning.&nbsp;</p>
One of the State's Most Powerful Unions Tries to Take Down One of Its Most Powerful Politicians 2018-09-09T04:00:00+00:00 2018-09-09T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7923-one-of-the-state-s-most-powerful-unions-tries-to-take-down-one-of-its-most-powerful-politicians Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/img-4741.jpg" alt="32BJ for Biaggi" width="600" height="308" /></p> <p>photo: @32BJSEIU</p> <hr /> <p>As Alessandra Biaggi, a first-time candidate for office, attempts to unseat Democratic state Senator Jeff Klein, once the powerful leader of a rogue faction of Democratic senators, a prominent labor union is pulling no punches to ensure that her insurgent campaign prevails in the September 13 primary.</p> <p>The property services workers union, 32BJ SEIU, which boasts more than 160,000 members and is a regular political heavyweight, has been aggressively courting voters and spending money to help Biaggi defeat Klein, a Democrat the union once backed. A force in state politics with allies at the highest reaches of government, 32BJ could put Biaggi over the top in what is increasingly being viewed, despite Klein’s significant advantages, as an unpredictable race given broader trends and recent upsets, Biaggi’s strengths as a campaigner, and the activism behind her bid.</p> <p>Klein represents Senate District 34, which covers parts of the Bronx and Westchester, and has been in office since 2005. Along the way, he acquired power and prestige, forming the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), an alliance that grew to eight senators who broke from the chamber’s mainline Democratic conference and formed a coalition majority with Senate Republicans, at times ensuring GOP leadership of the only Republican stronghold in state government. In turn, IDC members received leadership positions, additional stipends, more discretionary funding for their districts, and other benefits. The infamous “three men in a room” of state government decision-making -- the governor, Assembly speaker and Senate majority leader -- became four, with Klein joining to influence the fate of key legislation and the state budget.</p> <p>The IDC rejoined the mainline Democrats in April, after another state budget agreement and no shortage of criticism from progressive activists, unions, and elected Democrats who viewed their power-sharing agreement with visceral hatred and outright derision. A slate of challengers, including Biaggi, had already launched their campaigns to unseat the IDC members in the primary, promising “real” as opposed to “Trump Democrats.”</p> <p>The Democratic unity deal had its beginnings in <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/f/?id=0000015f-fffd-da42-a7ff-ffff88dc0000" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a letter</a> sent in November 2017 by leaders of the state Democratic Party, Congressional Rep. Joe Crowley and, notably, Hector Figueroa, an at-large member of the Democratic National Committee, the president of 32BJ, and an active and powerful voice in New York politics. They appealed to Klein and Democratic conference leader Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins to reunite the disparate factions of the same party. In April this year, the two sides finally came together, with Governor Andrew Cuomo literally in the middle at a press conference, expressing a newfound bonhomie that tried to erase years of bad blood. Both sides promised mutual support in the upcoming elections. Klein was appointed deputy conference leader under Stewart-Cousins and pledged that the IDC was dead forever as a conference.</p> <p>But, damage was already done. Following Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election, a wave of grassroots activists had vowed to oppose the IDC Senators and, one by one, challengers emerged to take on each senator in the primary. They shared similar policy platforms, pledging to support causes near and dear to progressives -- such as single-payer health care, criminal justice reform, enhanced rent regulations, voting, ethics and campaign finance reform, and increased education funding -- which they blamed IDC members for blocking. Among them was Biaggi, who formerly worked in Cuomo’s counsel’s office and was deputy national operations director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.</p> <p>In late June, two months after the unity compact, 32BJ <a href="http://www.seiu32bj.org/press-releases/32bj-seiu-endorses-biaggi/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">announced</a> its endorsement of Biaggi, which shocked the New York political world and many saw as the crumbling of the facade of a unified effort to keep Democratic incumbents, including Cuomo and Klein, in power. Figueroa, who remains a staunch Cuomo supporter, was accused by some of reneging on a commitment to not oppose the former IDC members, a charge he has repeatedly dismissed.</p> <p>“I think that Democratic unity was already broken,” Figueroa said in a phone interview on Thursday. “The efforts to fix it were not really sincerely driven, or even embraced when others were driving it, by the IDC.” He emphasized that the IDC had ample opportunity to return to the fold, and should have done so when the need for unity became clear. First was after the 2014 elections, when 32BJ had endorsed Klein after he promised to end the IDC alliance with Republicans. Klein subsequently broke that promise. Then came Trump’s election, after which Democrats saw a dire need to regain complete control of state government. Again, the IDC stuck with Republicans.</p> <p>“So the effort that we undertook throughout 2017, showing them the reality of where the country was and what it meant to be sharing power with Republicans, finally caught up with them when they were primaried,” Figueroa said, “When they experienced rejection in their own districts, then they decided that it was time to try to figure out how to come back.”</p> <p>The terms of the deal were also unacceptable, he said, noting that the former IDC members insisted on funding their campaigns with money raised with the Independence Party through the Senate Independence Campaign Committee (SICC), which received contributions from donors more friendly to Republican causes, such as real estate and charter school interests. (The committee was recently ruled by a judge to be illegal and the IDC members were directed by a Board of Elections official to return millions in campaign funds they had received, though they have refused to do so, while they took steps to get the SICC into compliance.)</p> <p>“Even when they accepted the offer, they kept the [SICC] money and they demanded what cannot be demanded, which is that everybody bow to their leadership and ignore their opponents,” Figueroa said. “So to me, this was already set to fail, unfortunately,...because of the attitude and arrogance of the head of the IDC and his minions in the conference.”</p> <p>He continued, “The roots of division were very, very deep and had they behaved in a different way, had they refunded the money, had they taken the attitude that they have to talk to voters, they have to talk to people in the district like we asked Klein to do with our members, had they been more humble, maybe they could have avoided the ferocity of the opposition. But they didn’t do that. They felt that institutional politics protects them and now they’re paying the price.”</p> <p>Endorsing Biaggi was an easy calculation for the union. Klein refused to be interviewed by its screening committee, which then unanimously voted for Biaggi, Figueroa said.</p> <p>Biaggi said the union’s support was “incredibly massive,” touting shared values and the union’s organizing efforts around progressive legislation in the state. “They were also the first union to come out and support me before any other union, and that’s something that I will absolutely never forget. It is incredibly politically courageous,” she said.</p> <p>The union had already committed to hitting the ground for Biaggi, traversing the district to knock on doors and canvass for votes. Then, just over a month after their endorsement of Biaggi, Klein pulled a stunt that left Figueroa “perplexed.”</p> <p>The senator hosted about a dozen rank-and-file members of Figueroa’s union and posted <a href="https://twitter.com/JeffKleinNY/status/1024066029683699712" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a video</a> to Twitter in which they held up signs for his campaign and chanted, “32BJ!” In a subsequent <a href="https://twitter.com/JeffKleinNY/status/1024068346998861824" target="_blank" rel="noopener">tweet</a>, Klein wrote, “These are the doormen, the superintendents, maintenance staff and security companies in our building and our public schools, who provide clean and safe environments for our families. This is a testament to loyalty, and I am truly honored by the rank and file support of @32BJSEIU.”</p> <p>“[It] doesn’t mean anything except that it revealed one of the personality flaws that we find in Klein - the vanity, the arrogance of doing that is really innovative and unique,” Figueroa said, having never experienced a candidate attempting to project support that he does not have from the union’s majority and endorsement vote. “And it’s that style of politics that we have to reject at this time. The politics of confusion and the politics of divisiveness and the politics of deceiving the electorate, which is what has been the trademark of Jeff Klein and the IDC. That only energized us more to support Biaggi.”</p> <p>The move also annoyed many union members and the next day, Figueroa said, 109 members volunteered to assist the effort behind Biaggi’s candidacy. They went to the Bronx in <a href="https://twitter.com/32BJSEIU/status/1030474032213368833" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a show of force</a>.</p> <p>Biaggi said the move was of a piece with Klein’s career, that he was attempting to fool voters just as he had done for years as part of the IDC, misleading “all of the voters of District 34 into thinking that they were voting for a Democrat when they were really voting for someone who was empowering Republicans. And now he’s trying to pretend that he has a union that did not endorse him...I would never in my wildest dreams do that. It kind of reduces his credibility as a leader.” (<a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/articles/politics/new-york-state/jeff-klein-idc-letter.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">City &amp; State reported that</a>, in late August, Klein’s campaign also sent a letter to constituents that made a few misleading claims about his record.)</p> <p>A spokesperson did not respond to a request for an interview with Klein for this article, and he has declined multiple Gotham Gazette invitations to make radio show appearances, though he has participated in at least two debates with Biaggi and other candidate forums.</p> <p>In one of the debates, <a href="https://bronxnet.org/your-bronx/articles/bronxtalk-34th-senate-district-debate-jeffrey-klein-alessandra-biaggi/?edit_off" target="_blank" rel="noopener">hosted by BronxTalk</a>, Klein downplayed the IDC’s role in empowering Republicans while touting its record passing progressive legislation including raising the age of criminal responsibility and a phased $15 minimum wage program. Klein said his opponent was playing “fast and loose” with the facts and he insisted that the IDC couldn’t have given Democrats a majority since the 32nd vote that gave Republicans control over the 63-member chamber came from Simcha Felder, a conservative Democrat from Brooklyn. That continues to be the case, which is why Democrats are hoping to notch victories in several swing districts outside New York City in November, while some eye unseating Brooklyn Republican Senator Marty Golden and others, including 32BJ, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7914-in-brooklyn-blake-morris-tries-to-upend-the-state-senate-power-balance-all-by-himself" target="_blank" rel="noopener">support Blake Morris in his primary challenge to Felder</a>.</p> <p>Klein insisted the IDC was a creation of necessity, pointing to the last time the Democrats won a majority in 2008. “The minute we won that majority, it was all downhill -- corruption, dysfunction,” he said, pointing to four Democratic state Senators who had attempted their own independent faction that year which plunged the chamber into chaos. “I originally decided to run for the state Senate to make sure we had a Democratic majority. And over the years, even though there wasn’t a Democratic majority, I was able to get a lot of things done,” Klein said in his closing statement.</p> <p>A Democratic consultant who lives in the district and requested anonymity to speak freely said Klein’s move to court union members made sense. “I can see it as a viable tactic by an elected official like Jeff Klein to have public meetings with union members even if he didn’t get support from their leadership,” the consultant said.</p> <p>Klein may not have 32BJ’s backing, but he does have a whole host of unions, some very powerful ones, that want to see him reelected including 1199 SEIU, DC37, the Hotel Trades Council, TWU Local 100, RWDSU, and several law enforcement unions. Klein has also raised and spent much more money than his challenger.</p> <p>“I am still the underdog in this race,” Biaggi acknowledged, “which means that I have double the amount of work that I have to do to make sure that people know who I am, that people understand what this race is about and what's at stake for really everyone in New York and why it’s so important for our community to actually have a real Democrat representing them.”</p> <p>Besides the hundreds of volunteers that 32BJ has put into the ground game week after week, the union has also put money behind Biaggi. It donated $7,000 to her campaign and its independent expenditure committee, Empire State 32BJ SEIU PAC, had spent $75,938 to support her campaign through mailers and social media through the most recent filing. Figueroa also signalled that more outside spending was on the way, and the PAC’s latest financial disclosure to the Board of Elections shows $43,861 in outstanding liabilities for expenditures both in favor of Biaggi and opposing Klein.</p> <p>Biaggi herself has raised more than $504,000 over the course of the race, and has, so far, spent $184,000, which pales in comparison to Klein’s campaign finances, but left her a solid chunk, with more surely coming in, to spend in the final 10 days of the race. In just this two-year cycle, however, the incumbent senator has raised $1.66 million and spent almost $2.4 million, dropping $836,000 in just three weeks in August. While Biaggi had about $263,000 in cash on hand, Klein had nearly $960,000 in the bank for the final stretch.</p> <p>The Democratic consultant said there has been an “insane amount of mail” going out from both campaigns and their surrogates. “At least one piece a week,” the consultant said. On the ground, the campaigns seem to have split the district in their approach, the consultant said. Klein’s campaign seems focused on holding his home turf in the east, in Morris Park and Wakefield, while Biaggi campaign workers have been hitting the ground hard in the west side of the district, in Riverdale, Van Cortlandt and Kingsbridge. “The farther west you go, prime voters are not getting door-knocked at all by Klein’s people,” the consultant said.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7917-candidates-in-contested-state-senate-primaries-file-final-pre-primary-financials" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Candidates in Contested State Senate Primaries File Final Pre-Primary Financials</a>]</p> <p>Biaggi said Klein’s outsize spending on the race is a clear signal of weakness. “It says that he is not certain that he’s going to win and that sends a signal to everybody who has supported him previously to say, am I on the right side of this?”</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/stringer_biaggi.jpg" alt="stringer biaggi" width="250" height="208" style="margin-right: 12px; float: left;" />Several Democratic elected officials have also declared for Biaggi, including U.S. Senator from New York Kirsten Gillibrand, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Comptroller Scott Stringer (pictured with Biaggi), Congressional candidate and progressive rising star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (whom 32BJ did not endorse in her primary win), former Mayor David Dinkins, Congressional Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn Maloney, and City Council Members Brad Lander, Ben Kallos and Carlina Rivera, Mt. Vernon City Council President Lisa Copeland, Catherine Parker, the majority leader of the Westchester County Board of Legislators, among others. The Working Families Party has also endorsed her and is providing similar on-ground support like 32BJ.&nbsp;</p> <p>Biaggi was also among four Senate candidates to receive the coveted endorsement of the New York Times editorial board, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/28/opinion/new-york-senate-primary-endorsements.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">which wrote</a>, “Alessandra Biaggi, who describes herself pointedly as ‘a real Democrat,’ is the kind of smart, dedicated reformer so desperately needed in Albany.” Biaggi was subsequently <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-edit-state-senate-endorsements-queens-bronx-manhattan-20180907-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">endorsed by</a> the New York Daily News editorial board.</p> <p>A side effect of 32BJ’s mobilization in the district, which is home to <a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/articles/politics/new-york-state/democrats-backing-idc-challengers-are-not-violating-truce.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">6,000 of its members</a>, said Figueroa, is a new awakening about the local issues and community that is unlikely to fade even if Klein retains his seat. “This is a district where we’re gonna be setting roots for years to come,” he said.</p> <p>“We have seen the process be hijacked year after year to put a break on what could effectively be the most progressive legislature in the country,” he added. “That is really what is behind the dynamics of this race. And that is only growing. If people feel that somehow if Klein wins, the opposition will go away, they are making a big mistake.”</p> <p>The next challenge is getting people to turn out to vote on a Thursday. “I am feeling great, I am feeling excited, I’m feeling motivated,” Biaggi said exactly one week before the September 13 primary. “I’m feeling that this next week is going to be incredibly critical to making sure that everybody gets out to vote, that is my number one goal for the next seven days.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated to note that Alessandra Biaggi has also been endorsed by the Working Families Party.&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/img-4741.jpg" alt="32BJ for Biaggi" width="600" height="308" /></p> <p>photo: @32BJSEIU</p> <hr /> <p>As Alessandra Biaggi, a first-time candidate for office, attempts to unseat Democratic state Senator Jeff Klein, once the powerful leader of a rogue faction of Democratic senators, a prominent labor union is pulling no punches to ensure that her insurgent campaign prevails in the September 13 primary.</p> <p>The property services workers union, 32BJ SEIU, which boasts more than 160,000 members and is a regular political heavyweight, has been aggressively courting voters and spending money to help Biaggi defeat Klein, a Democrat the union once backed. A force in state politics with allies at the highest reaches of government, 32BJ could put Biaggi over the top in what is increasingly being viewed, despite Klein’s significant advantages, as an unpredictable race given broader trends and recent upsets, Biaggi’s strengths as a campaigner, and the activism behind her bid.</p> <p>Klein represents Senate District 34, which covers parts of the Bronx and Westchester, and has been in office since 2005. Along the way, he acquired power and prestige, forming the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), an alliance that grew to eight senators who broke from the chamber’s mainline Democratic conference and formed a coalition majority with Senate Republicans, at times ensuring GOP leadership of the only Republican stronghold in state government. In turn, IDC members received leadership positions, additional stipends, more discretionary funding for their districts, and other benefits. The infamous “three men in a room” of state government decision-making -- the governor, Assembly speaker and Senate majority leader -- became four, with Klein joining to influence the fate of key legislation and the state budget.</p> <p>The IDC rejoined the mainline Democrats in April, after another state budget agreement and no shortage of criticism from progressive activists, unions, and elected Democrats who viewed their power-sharing agreement with visceral hatred and outright derision. A slate of challengers, including Biaggi, had already launched their campaigns to unseat the IDC members in the primary, promising “real” as opposed to “Trump Democrats.”</p> <p>The Democratic unity deal had its beginnings in <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/f/?id=0000015f-fffd-da42-a7ff-ffff88dc0000" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a letter</a> sent in November 2017 by leaders of the state Democratic Party, Congressional Rep. Joe Crowley and, notably, Hector Figueroa, an at-large member of the Democratic National Committee, the president of 32BJ, and an active and powerful voice in New York politics. They appealed to Klein and Democratic conference leader Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins to reunite the disparate factions of the same party. In April this year, the two sides finally came together, with Governor Andrew Cuomo literally in the middle at a press conference, expressing a newfound bonhomie that tried to erase years of bad blood. Both sides promised mutual support in the upcoming elections. Klein was appointed deputy conference leader under Stewart-Cousins and pledged that the IDC was dead forever as a conference.</p> <p>But, damage was already done. Following Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election, a wave of grassroots activists had vowed to oppose the IDC Senators and, one by one, challengers emerged to take on each senator in the primary. They shared similar policy platforms, pledging to support causes near and dear to progressives -- such as single-payer health care, criminal justice reform, enhanced rent regulations, voting, ethics and campaign finance reform, and increased education funding -- which they blamed IDC members for blocking. Among them was Biaggi, who formerly worked in Cuomo’s counsel’s office and was deputy national operations director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.</p> <p>In late June, two months after the unity compact, 32BJ <a href="http://www.seiu32bj.org/press-releases/32bj-seiu-endorses-biaggi/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">announced</a> its endorsement of Biaggi, which shocked the New York political world and many saw as the crumbling of the facade of a unified effort to keep Democratic incumbents, including Cuomo and Klein, in power. Figueroa, who remains a staunch Cuomo supporter, was accused by some of reneging on a commitment to not oppose the former IDC members, a charge he has repeatedly dismissed.</p> <p>“I think that Democratic unity was already broken,” Figueroa said in a phone interview on Thursday. “The efforts to fix it were not really sincerely driven, or even embraced when others were driving it, by the IDC.” He emphasized that the IDC had ample opportunity to return to the fold, and should have done so when the need for unity became clear. First was after the 2014 elections, when 32BJ had endorsed Klein after he promised to end the IDC alliance with Republicans. Klein subsequently broke that promise. Then came Trump’s election, after which Democrats saw a dire need to regain complete control of state government. Again, the IDC stuck with Republicans.</p> <p>“So the effort that we undertook throughout 2017, showing them the reality of where the country was and what it meant to be sharing power with Republicans, finally caught up with them when they were primaried,” Figueroa said, “When they experienced rejection in their own districts, then they decided that it was time to try to figure out how to come back.”</p> <p>The terms of the deal were also unacceptable, he said, noting that the former IDC members insisted on funding their campaigns with money raised with the Independence Party through the Senate Independence Campaign Committee (SICC), which received contributions from donors more friendly to Republican causes, such as real estate and charter school interests. (The committee was recently ruled by a judge to be illegal and the IDC members were directed by a Board of Elections official to return millions in campaign funds they had received, though they have refused to do so, while they took steps to get the SICC into compliance.)</p> <p>“Even when they accepted the offer, they kept the [SICC] money and they demanded what cannot be demanded, which is that everybody bow to their leadership and ignore their opponents,” Figueroa said. “So to me, this was already set to fail, unfortunately,...because of the attitude and arrogance of the head of the IDC and his minions in the conference.”</p> <p>He continued, “The roots of division were very, very deep and had they behaved in a different way, had they refunded the money, had they taken the attitude that they have to talk to voters, they have to talk to people in the district like we asked Klein to do with our members, had they been more humble, maybe they could have avoided the ferocity of the opposition. But they didn’t do that. They felt that institutional politics protects them and now they’re paying the price.”</p> <p>Endorsing Biaggi was an easy calculation for the union. Klein refused to be interviewed by its screening committee, which then unanimously voted for Biaggi, Figueroa said.</p> <p>Biaggi said the union’s support was “incredibly massive,” touting shared values and the union’s organizing efforts around progressive legislation in the state. “They were also the first union to come out and support me before any other union, and that’s something that I will absolutely never forget. It is incredibly politically courageous,” she said.</p> <p>The union had already committed to hitting the ground for Biaggi, traversing the district to knock on doors and canvass for votes. Then, just over a month after their endorsement of Biaggi, Klein pulled a stunt that left Figueroa “perplexed.”</p> <p>The senator hosted about a dozen rank-and-file members of Figueroa’s union and posted <a href="https://twitter.com/JeffKleinNY/status/1024066029683699712" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a video</a> to Twitter in which they held up signs for his campaign and chanted, “32BJ!” In a subsequent <a href="https://twitter.com/JeffKleinNY/status/1024068346998861824" target="_blank" rel="noopener">tweet</a>, Klein wrote, “These are the doormen, the superintendents, maintenance staff and security companies in our building and our public schools, who provide clean and safe environments for our families. This is a testament to loyalty, and I am truly honored by the rank and file support of @32BJSEIU.”</p> <p>“[It] doesn’t mean anything except that it revealed one of the personality flaws that we find in Klein - the vanity, the arrogance of doing that is really innovative and unique,” Figueroa said, having never experienced a candidate attempting to project support that he does not have from the union’s majority and endorsement vote. “And it’s that style of politics that we have to reject at this time. The politics of confusion and the politics of divisiveness and the politics of deceiving the electorate, which is what has been the trademark of Jeff Klein and the IDC. That only energized us more to support Biaggi.”</p> <p>The move also annoyed many union members and the next day, Figueroa said, 109 members volunteered to assist the effort behind Biaggi’s candidacy. They went to the Bronx in <a href="https://twitter.com/32BJSEIU/status/1030474032213368833" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a show of force</a>.</p> <p>Biaggi said the move was of a piece with Klein’s career, that he was attempting to fool voters just as he had done for years as part of the IDC, misleading “all of the voters of District 34 into thinking that they were voting for a Democrat when they were really voting for someone who was empowering Republicans. And now he’s trying to pretend that he has a union that did not endorse him...I would never in my wildest dreams do that. It kind of reduces his credibility as a leader.” (<a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/articles/politics/new-york-state/jeff-klein-idc-letter.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">City &amp; State reported that</a>, in late August, Klein’s campaign also sent a letter to constituents that made a few misleading claims about his record.)</p> <p>A spokesperson did not respond to a request for an interview with Klein for this article, and he has declined multiple Gotham Gazette invitations to make radio show appearances, though he has participated in at least two debates with Biaggi and other candidate forums.</p> <p>In one of the debates, <a href="https://bronxnet.org/your-bronx/articles/bronxtalk-34th-senate-district-debate-jeffrey-klein-alessandra-biaggi/?edit_off" target="_blank" rel="noopener">hosted by BronxTalk</a>, Klein downplayed the IDC’s role in empowering Republicans while touting its record passing progressive legislation including raising the age of criminal responsibility and a phased $15 minimum wage program. Klein said his opponent was playing “fast and loose” with the facts and he insisted that the IDC couldn’t have given Democrats a majority since the 32nd vote that gave Republicans control over the 63-member chamber came from Simcha Felder, a conservative Democrat from Brooklyn. That continues to be the case, which is why Democrats are hoping to notch victories in several swing districts outside New York City in November, while some eye unseating Brooklyn Republican Senator Marty Golden and others, including 32BJ, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7914-in-brooklyn-blake-morris-tries-to-upend-the-state-senate-power-balance-all-by-himself" target="_blank" rel="noopener">support Blake Morris in his primary challenge to Felder</a>.</p> <p>Klein insisted the IDC was a creation of necessity, pointing to the last time the Democrats won a majority in 2008. “The minute we won that majority, it was all downhill -- corruption, dysfunction,” he said, pointing to four Democratic state Senators who had attempted their own independent faction that year which plunged the chamber into chaos. “I originally decided to run for the state Senate to make sure we had a Democratic majority. And over the years, even though there wasn’t a Democratic majority, I was able to get a lot of things done,” Klein said in his closing statement.</p> <p>A Democratic consultant who lives in the district and requested anonymity to speak freely said Klein’s move to court union members made sense. “I can see it as a viable tactic by an elected official like Jeff Klein to have public meetings with union members even if he didn’t get support from their leadership,” the consultant said.</p> <p>Klein may not have 32BJ’s backing, but he does have a whole host of unions, some very powerful ones, that want to see him reelected including 1199 SEIU, DC37, the Hotel Trades Council, TWU Local 100, RWDSU, and several law enforcement unions. Klein has also raised and spent much more money than his challenger.</p> <p>“I am still the underdog in this race,” Biaggi acknowledged, “which means that I have double the amount of work that I have to do to make sure that people know who I am, that people understand what this race is about and what's at stake for really everyone in New York and why it’s so important for our community to actually have a real Democrat representing them.”</p> <p>Besides the hundreds of volunteers that 32BJ has put into the ground game week after week, the union has also put money behind Biaggi. It donated $7,000 to her campaign and its independent expenditure committee, Empire State 32BJ SEIU PAC, had spent $75,938 to support her campaign through mailers and social media through the most recent filing. Figueroa also signalled that more outside spending was on the way, and the PAC’s latest financial disclosure to the Board of Elections shows $43,861 in outstanding liabilities for expenditures both in favor of Biaggi and opposing Klein.</p> <p>Biaggi herself has raised more than $504,000 over the course of the race, and has, so far, spent $184,000, which pales in comparison to Klein’s campaign finances, but left her a solid chunk, with more surely coming in, to spend in the final 10 days of the race. In just this two-year cycle, however, the incumbent senator has raised $1.66 million and spent almost $2.4 million, dropping $836,000 in just three weeks in August. While Biaggi had about $263,000 in cash on hand, Klein had nearly $960,000 in the bank for the final stretch.</p> <p>The Democratic consultant said there has been an “insane amount of mail” going out from both campaigns and their surrogates. “At least one piece a week,” the consultant said. On the ground, the campaigns seem to have split the district in their approach, the consultant said. Klein’s campaign seems focused on holding his home turf in the east, in Morris Park and Wakefield, while Biaggi campaign workers have been hitting the ground hard in the west side of the district, in Riverdale, Van Cortlandt and Kingsbridge. “The farther west you go, prime voters are not getting door-knocked at all by Klein’s people,” the consultant said.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7917-candidates-in-contested-state-senate-primaries-file-final-pre-primary-financials" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Candidates in Contested State Senate Primaries File Final Pre-Primary Financials</a>]</p> <p>Biaggi said Klein’s outsize spending on the race is a clear signal of weakness. “It says that he is not certain that he’s going to win and that sends a signal to everybody who has supported him previously to say, am I on the right side of this?”</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/stringer_biaggi.jpg" alt="stringer biaggi" width="250" height="208" style="margin-right: 12px; float: left;" />Several Democratic elected officials have also declared for Biaggi, including U.S. Senator from New York Kirsten Gillibrand, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Comptroller Scott Stringer (pictured with Biaggi), Congressional candidate and progressive rising star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (whom 32BJ did not endorse in her primary win), former Mayor David Dinkins, Congressional Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn Maloney, and City Council Members Brad Lander, Ben Kallos and Carlina Rivera, Mt. Vernon City Council President Lisa Copeland, Catherine Parker, the majority leader of the Westchester County Board of Legislators, among others. The Working Families Party has also endorsed her and is providing similar on-ground support like 32BJ.&nbsp;</p> <p>Biaggi was also among four Senate candidates to receive the coveted endorsement of the New York Times editorial board, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/28/opinion/new-york-senate-primary-endorsements.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">which wrote</a>, “Alessandra Biaggi, who describes herself pointedly as ‘a real Democrat,’ is the kind of smart, dedicated reformer so desperately needed in Albany.” Biaggi was subsequently <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-edit-state-senate-endorsements-queens-bronx-manhattan-20180907-story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">endorsed by</a> the New York Daily News editorial board.</p> <p>A side effect of 32BJ’s mobilization in the district, which is home to <a href="https://www.cityandstateny.com/articles/politics/new-york-state/democrats-backing-idc-challengers-are-not-violating-truce.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">6,000 of its members</a>, said Figueroa, is a new awakening about the local issues and community that is unlikely to fade even if Klein retains his seat. “This is a district where we’re gonna be setting roots for years to come,” he said.</p> <p>“We have seen the process be hijacked year after year to put a break on what could effectively be the most progressive legislature in the country,” he added. “That is really what is behind the dynamics of this race. And that is only growing. If people feel that somehow if Klein wins, the opposition will go away, they are making a big mistake.”</p> <p>The next challenge is getting people to turn out to vote on a Thursday. “I am feeling great, I am feeling excited, I’m feeling motivated,” Biaggi said exactly one week before the September 13 primary. “I’m feeling that this next week is going to be incredibly critical to making sure that everybody gets out to vote, that is my number one goal for the next seven days.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated to note that Alessandra Biaggi has also been endorsed by the Working Families Party.&nbsp;</p>
Candidates in Contested State Senate Primaries File Final Pre-Primary Financials 2018-09-05T04:00:00+00:00 2018-09-05T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7917-candidates-in-contested-state-senate-primaries-file-final-pre-primary-financials Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/biaggi_stringer_subway.jpg" alt="biaggi stringer subway" width="600" height="465" /></p> <p>Alessandra Biaggi, right (photo: @Biaggi4NY)</p> <hr /> <p>Though the entire New York State Legislature -- 150 Assembly seats and 63 Senate seats -- is on the ballot this year, there is a small number of competitive races to be decided during next week’s primary election on Thursday, September 13. In several key districts, mostly in New York City, insurgent challengers are attempting to unseat sitting Democrats in a sweeping effort to shake up state government, prompting the incumbents to raise and spend money accordingly. All the candidates filed the last round of pre-primary campaign finance disclosures this week with the state Board of Elections, showing their activity between August 9 and 31.</p> <p>In eight Senate districts, six covering parts of the five boroughs, Democrats who once represented the now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), a rogue faction that shared power with Republicans for seven years, are fending off spirited challenges. The former IDC Senators are Tony Avella of District 11 in Queens, Jose Peralta of District 13 in Queens, Jesse Hamilton of District 20 in Brooklyn, Diane Savino of District 23 in Staten Island and Brooklyn, Marisol Alcantara of District 31 in Manhattan, Jeff Klein of District 34 in the Bronx and Westchester, and David Carlucci of District 38 and David Valesky of District 53, both of which are outside New York City.</p> <p>A few of the senators received new contributions from the Senate Independence Campaign Committee (SICC), which was set up by the Independence Party and the IDC but was recently ruled to have violated state law. Based on a judge’s ruling, the leadership of the SICC altered its registration, getting into compliance. But, the Board of Elections enforcement counsel, Risa Sugarman, insisted that earlier donations that were over the legal limit should be refunded, but the former IDC members have refused. A deadline set by Sugarman came and went and it remains unclear if the committee or the senators themselves could face any legal action. Their opponents did vow to sue if the BOE did nothing, but have not made any moves either.</p> <p>The SICC raised $50,000 in the latest filing from the Real Estate Board PAC, aligned with the Real Estate Board of New York. It transferred $345,000 in total to five former IDC members. The committee still has about $328,000 in the bank. See details of the fundraising and spending in the eight IDC races below.</p> <p>There are a few other races as well where incumbent Democratic Senators Simcha Felder of District 17 and Martin Dilan of District 20, who weren’t members of the IDC, face similar primary challenges. And in Brooklyn’s District 22, two Democrats are competing in the primary to eventually challenge Senator Marty Golden, a Republican, in the general.</p> <p><strong>Senate District 11</strong><br />Senator Avella raised $94,000, including $42,000 from the SICC, and spent $111,000 in the latest filing, leaving him just over $104,000 for the rest of the election. Avella has, in total, raised more than $209,000 and spent nearly $281,000 on his race.</p> <p>Avella’s opponent, John Liu, the former New York City Comptroller who is challenging him for the second time, raised more than $53,000 and spent nearly $95,000 in the same time. He has $148,000 in cash on hand. His total fundraising for the race amounts to $255,000 and total spending is about $118,000.</p> <p><strong>Senate District 13</strong><br />Senator Peralta raised just over $102,000 and spent about $112,000, and has $101,000 in his campaign account. He received a $39,000 bump from the SICC. He has raised nearly $490,000 for his reelection and spent more than $612,000.</p> <p>Jessica Ramos, a former aide to Mayor Bill de Blasio, is Peralta’s challenger. Ramos only raised about $37,000 and spent just under $32,000 in this filing, but has about $108,000 in cash on hand for the rest of the race, slightly higher than Peralta. She has raised a total of $273,000 and spent about $160,000 on her insurgent bid for office.</p> <p><strong>Senate District 20</strong><br />Senator Hamilton raised about $64,000 and spent $156,000 in this period, and has a balance of about $43,000. The SICC gave him $39,000 as well. Over the course of the race, he has raised more than $400,000 and spent $544,000.</p> <p>Hamilton’s challenger, Zellnor Myrie, a Brooklyn-based attorney, has been close to keeping up with the incumbent in recent filings. The latest disclosures show he raised $47,000 and spent $106,000, and has a balance of about $86,000. He has raised a total of $355,000 and spent $254,000 so far.</p> <p><strong>Senate District 23</strong><br />Senator Savino continues to far outpace her opponent, Jasmine Robinson, a community activist. Savino raised $27,000 and spent about $94,000, leaving her with about $142,000 in the bank. Over the election cycle, she has raised $331,000 and spent $247,000.</p> <p>Robinson, on the other hand, has raised little, raising questions about her ability to run an effective challenge. She has raised barely $5,400 and spent just under $1,600 since entering the race. She has also failed to file the last two required campaign finance disclosures.</p> <p><strong>Senate District 31</strong><br />Senator Alcantara is facing former City Council Member Robert Jackson, who was among the candidates that she beat in the primary for her seat two years ago in a very tight finish. Alcantara raised $172,000 and spent $148,000 in the latest filing period, and has about $61,000 in cash on hand. She too received a massive SICC donation of $125,000. So far, she has raised a total of nearly $342,000 and spent about $623,000 on her reelection.</p> <p>Jackson raised $43,000 and spent $84,000 in the latest filing. He has about $111,000 left to spend. In total, he has raised more than $367,000 and spent about $246,000 to defeat Alcantara.</p> <p><strong>Senate District 34</strong><br />Senator Klein, who headed the IDC until its dissolution and is now the deputy leader of the Senate Democratic conference, faces a tough primary challenge from Alessandra Biaggi. Klein once controlled the SICC, which sent him $100,000 in the latest filing period.</p> <p>Klein raised $138,000 and spent a whopping $836,000, and still has $958,000 in cash on hand. In total, the senator has raised $1.66 million and has spent nearly $2.4 million to get reelected, apparently attempting to leave little to chance.</p> <p>Though Biaggi is not nearly as well funded, she has the backing of several progressive activist groups, elected officials, and 32BJ, the prominent labor union, all of whom have been actively hitting the ground in the district to build groundswell support.</p> <p>Biaggi raised about $76,000 and spent about $88,000 in this latest filing. She has about $263,000 left to spend. Over the course of her campaign, she has raised more than $504,000 and spent about $184,000.</p> <p><strong>Senate District 38</strong><br />Senator Carlucci raised about $34,000, spent $96,000 and has $305,000 in cash on hand. In total, he has raised $374,000 and spent $494,000 on reelection.</p> <p>Carlucci’s opponent, Julie Goldberg, has less than $13,000 in her campaign account after raising about $17,000 and spending $21,000 in this filing period. She has raised a total of just under $50,000 and spent under $19,000.</p> <p><strong>Senate District 53</strong><br />Senator Valesky raised $47,000 and spent $286,000, giving him a balance of about $397,000 as he heads into the primary. In total, Valesky has raised $274,000 for his reelection and spent about $448,000.</p> <p>Rachel May, Valesky’s primary opponent, only raised $9,600 and spent about $36,000. She has just over $40,000 left to spend. In total, she has raised $154,000 and spent about $113,000.</p> <p><strong>Other Races To Watch</strong></p> <p><strong>Senate District 17</strong><br />Senator Felder is a conservative Democrat who votes with Republicans and has refused to join the mainline Democratic conference. Elected from a district with a large Orthodox Jewish population, Felder is widely expected to coast to reelection. He only raised $6,600 and spent a little less than $13,000 in this filing, and has $606,000 in cash on hand. In total, he has raised $511,000 and spent $189,000 for his reelection.</p> <p>Felder’s opponent, Blake Morris, raised about $29,000, spent about $19,000 and has roughly $28,000 left. So far, he has raised a total of $91,000 and spent $64,000 to challenge Felder.</p> <p><strong>Senate District 18</strong><br />Senator Dilan, an eight-term incumbent, raised about $73,000 and spent $63,000 in the latest filing period, leaving him with $110,000 in his account. In total, he has raised $211,000 and spent about $124,000.</p> <p>Dilan’s challenger is Julia Salazar, a young card-carrying democratic socialist who has recently courted controversy over her conflicting statements about her personal history. Salazar raised nearly $43,000 and spent $64,000 in this filing, and has $72,000 in cash on hand. In total, she has raised about $226,000 and spent $142,000.</p> <p><strong>Senate District 22</strong><br />Two Democrats -- Andrew Gounardes, general counsel to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and Ross Barkan, a journalist -- are competing in next week’s primary in southern Brooklyn.</p> <p>Gounardes raised about $14,000, spent about $32,000, and has $153,000 in cash on hand as of the new filing. In total, he has raised $277,000 for the race and spent $101,000.</p> <p>In the latest filing period, Barkan raised about $33,000 and spent about $46,000. He has about $10,000 left to spend. Barkan has raised more than $163,000 since entering the race and has spent about $155,000.</p> <p>Golden, who is not required to file a primary disclosure since he does not have an opponent, had $485,000 in cash on hand according to his most recent disclosure in July. He has raised a total of $782,000 and spent $707,000 already this election cycle.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/biaggi_stringer_subway.jpg" alt="biaggi stringer subway" width="600" height="465" /></p> <p>Alessandra Biaggi, right (photo: @Biaggi4NY)</p> <hr /> <p>Though the entire New York State Legislature -- 150 Assembly seats and 63 Senate seats -- is on the ballot this year, there is a small number of competitive races to be decided during next week’s primary election on Thursday, September 13. In several key districts, mostly in New York City, insurgent challengers are attempting to unseat sitting Democrats in a sweeping effort to shake up state government, prompting the incumbents to raise and spend money accordingly. All the candidates filed the last round of pre-primary campaign finance disclosures this week with the state Board of Elections, showing their activity between August 9 and 31.</p> <p>In eight Senate districts, six covering parts of the five boroughs, Democrats who once represented the now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), a rogue faction that shared power with Republicans for seven years, are fending off spirited challenges. The former IDC Senators are Tony Avella of District 11 in Queens, Jose Peralta of District 13 in Queens, Jesse Hamilton of District 20 in Brooklyn, Diane Savino of District 23 in Staten Island and Brooklyn, Marisol Alcantara of District 31 in Manhattan, Jeff Klein of District 34 in the Bronx and Westchester, and David Carlucci of District 38 and David Valesky of District 53, both of which are outside New York City.</p> <p>A few of the senators received new contributions from the Senate Independence Campaign Committee (SICC), which was set up by the Independence Party and the IDC but was recently ruled to have violated state law. Based on a judge’s ruling, the leadership of the SICC altered its registration, getting into compliance. But, the Board of Elections enforcement counsel, Risa Sugarman, insisted that earlier donations that were over the legal limit should be refunded, but the former IDC members have refused. A deadline set by Sugarman came and went and it remains unclear if the committee or the senators themselves could face any legal action. Their opponents did vow to sue if the BOE did nothing, but have not made any moves either.</p> <p>The SICC raised $50,000 in the latest filing from the Real Estate Board PAC, aligned with the Real Estate Board of New York. It transferred $345,000 in total to five former IDC members. The committee still has about $328,000 in the bank. See details of the fundraising and spending in the eight IDC races below.</p> <p>There are a few other races as well where incumbent Democratic Senators Simcha Felder of District 17 and Martin Dilan of District 20, who weren’t members of the IDC, face similar primary challenges. And in Brooklyn’s District 22, two Democrats are competing in the primary to eventually challenge Senator Marty Golden, a Republican, in the general.</p> <p><strong>Senate District 11</strong><br />Senator Avella raised $94,000, including $42,000 from the SICC, and spent $111,000 in the latest filing, leaving him just over $104,000 for the rest of the election. Avella has, in total, raised more than $209,000 and spent nearly $281,000 on his race.</p> <p>Avella’s opponent, John Liu, the former New York City Comptroller who is challenging him for the second time, raised more than $53,000 and spent nearly $95,000 in the same time. He has $148,000 in cash on hand. His total fundraising for the race amounts to $255,000 and total spending is about $118,000.</p> <p><strong>Senate District 13</strong><br />Senator Peralta raised just over $102,000 and spent about $112,000, and has $101,000 in his campaign account. He received a $39,000 bump from the SICC. He has raised nearly $490,000 for his reelection and spent more than $612,000.</p> <p>Jessica Ramos, a former aide to Mayor Bill de Blasio, is Peralta’s challenger. Ramos only raised about $37,000 and spent just under $32,000 in this filing, but has about $108,000 in cash on hand for the rest of the race, slightly higher than Peralta. She has raised a total of $273,000 and spent about $160,000 on her insurgent bid for office.</p> <p><strong>Senate District 20</strong><br />Senator Hamilton raised about $64,000 and spent $156,000 in this period, and has a balance of about $43,000. The SICC gave him $39,000 as well. Over the course of the race, he has raised more than $400,000 and spent $544,000.</p> <p>Hamilton’s challenger, Zellnor Myrie, a Brooklyn-based attorney, has been close to keeping up with the incumbent in recent filings. The latest disclosures show he raised $47,000 and spent $106,000, and has a balance of about $86,000. He has raised a total of $355,000 and spent $254,000 so far.</p> <p><strong>Senate District 23</strong><br />Senator Savino continues to far outpace her opponent, Jasmine Robinson, a community activist. Savino raised $27,000 and spent about $94,000, leaving her with about $142,000 in the bank. Over the election cycle, she has raised $331,000 and spent $247,000.</p> <p>Robinson, on the other hand, has raised little, raising questions about her ability to run an effective challenge. She has raised barely $5,400 and spent just under $1,600 since entering the race. She has also failed to file the last two required campaign finance disclosures.</p> <p><strong>Senate District 31</strong><br />Senator Alcantara is facing former City Council Member Robert Jackson, who was among the candidates that she beat in the primary for her seat two years ago in a very tight finish. Alcantara raised $172,000 and spent $148,000 in the latest filing period, and has about $61,000 in cash on hand. She too received a massive SICC donation of $125,000. So far, she has raised a total of nearly $342,000 and spent about $623,000 on her reelection.</p> <p>Jackson raised $43,000 and spent $84,000 in the latest filing. He has about $111,000 left to spend. In total, he has raised more than $367,000 and spent about $246,000 to defeat Alcantara.</p> <p><strong>Senate District 34</strong><br />Senator Klein, who headed the IDC until its dissolution and is now the deputy leader of the Senate Democratic conference, faces a tough primary challenge from Alessandra Biaggi. Klein once controlled the SICC, which sent him $100,000 in the latest filing period.</p> <p>Klein raised $138,000 and spent a whopping $836,000, and still has $958,000 in cash on hand. In total, the senator has raised $1.66 million and has spent nearly $2.4 million to get reelected, apparently attempting to leave little to chance.</p> <p>Though Biaggi is not nearly as well funded, she has the backing of several progressive activist groups, elected officials, and 32BJ, the prominent labor union, all of whom have been actively hitting the ground in the district to build groundswell support.</p> <p>Biaggi raised about $76,000 and spent about $88,000 in this latest filing. She has about $263,000 left to spend. Over the course of her campaign, she has raised more than $504,000 and spent about $184,000.</p> <p><strong>Senate District 38</strong><br />Senator Carlucci raised about $34,000, spent $96,000 and has $305,000 in cash on hand. In total, he has raised $374,000 and spent $494,000 on reelection.</p> <p>Carlucci’s opponent, Julie Goldberg, has less than $13,000 in her campaign account after raising about $17,000 and spending $21,000 in this filing period. She has raised a total of just under $50,000 and spent under $19,000.</p> <p><strong>Senate District 53</strong><br />Senator Valesky raised $47,000 and spent $286,000, giving him a balance of about $397,000 as he heads into the primary. In total, Valesky has raised $274,000 for his reelection and spent about $448,000.</p> <p>Rachel May, Valesky’s primary opponent, only raised $9,600 and spent about $36,000. She has just over $40,000 left to spend. In total, she has raised $154,000 and spent about $113,000.</p> <p><strong>Other Races To Watch</strong></p> <p><strong>Senate District 17</strong><br />Senator Felder is a conservative Democrat who votes with Republicans and has refused to join the mainline Democratic conference. Elected from a district with a large Orthodox Jewish population, Felder is widely expected to coast to reelection. He only raised $6,600 and spent a little less than $13,000 in this filing, and has $606,000 in cash on hand. In total, he has raised $511,000 and spent $189,000 for his reelection.</p> <p>Felder’s opponent, Blake Morris, raised about $29,000, spent about $19,000 and has roughly $28,000 left. So far, he has raised a total of $91,000 and spent $64,000 to challenge Felder.</p> <p><strong>Senate District 18</strong><br />Senator Dilan, an eight-term incumbent, raised about $73,000 and spent $63,000 in the latest filing period, leaving him with $110,000 in his account. In total, he has raised $211,000 and spent about $124,000.</p> <p>Dilan’s challenger is Julia Salazar, a young card-carrying democratic socialist who has recently courted controversy over her conflicting statements about her personal history. Salazar raised nearly $43,000 and spent $64,000 in this filing, and has $72,000 in cash on hand. In total, she has raised about $226,000 and spent $142,000.</p> <p><strong>Senate District 22</strong><br />Two Democrats -- Andrew Gounardes, general counsel to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and Ross Barkan, a journalist -- are competing in next week’s primary in southern Brooklyn.</p> <p>Gounardes raised about $14,000, spent about $32,000, and has $153,000 in cash on hand as of the new filing. In total, he has raised $277,000 for the race and spent $101,000.</p> <p>In the latest filing period, Barkan raised about $33,000 and spent about $46,000. He has about $10,000 left to spend. Barkan has raised more than $163,000 since entering the race and has spent about $155,000.</p> <p>Golden, who is not required to file a primary disclosure since he does not have an opponent, had $485,000 in cash on hand according to his most recent disclosure in July. He has raised a total of $782,000 and spent $707,000 already this election cycle.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, Senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Intense Queens Senate Primary Centers on Delivering for Immigrant Communities 2018-08-29T04:00:00+00:00 2018-08-29T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7897-max-murphy-podcast-an-intense-queens-senate-primary-with-jessica-ramos-and-senator-jose-peralta Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette,&nbsp;and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>August 29, 2018 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: An Intense Queens Senate Primary with Jessica Ramos and Senator Jose Peralta<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/podcast-ramos-perlata-277.jpg" alt="podcast ramos perlata 277" width="277" height="116" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />Jessica Ramos is challenging state Senator Jose Peralta in the Democratic primary, in a Queens district with a large immigrant population. Ramos, then Peralta joined the program to discuss their candidacies and to take questions from the hosts and listeners. At the center of the race are issues like the Dream Act, subway service, small business survival, and more. Also at play is Peralta's membership in the now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway group of eight senators that formed a ruling coalition with Republicans in the Senate.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation with the two candidates and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/492503148&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette,&nbsp;and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p><strong>August 29, 2018 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: An Intense Queens Senate Primary with Jessica Ramos and Senator Jose Peralta<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/podcast-ramos-perlata-277.jpg" alt="podcast ramos perlata 277" width="277" height="116" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />Jessica Ramos is challenging state Senator Jose Peralta in the Democratic primary, in a Queens district with a large immigrant population. Ramos, then Peralta joined the program to discuss their candidacies and to take questions from the hosts and listeners. At the center of the race are issues like the Dream Act, subway service, small business survival, and more. Also at play is Peralta's membership in the now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway group of eight senators that formed a ruling coalition with Republicans in the Senate.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation with the two candidates and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/492503148&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Manhattan Senate Debate Offers Another Round of IDC Argument, Few Ideas to Fix NYCHA or the MTA 2018-08-26T04:00:00+00:00 2018-08-26T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7889-senate-debate-offers-another-round-of-idc-argument-few-ideas-to-fix-nycha-or-mta Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/alcantara-jackson-leon.jpg" alt="alcantara jackson leon" width="600" height="305" /></p> <p>Sen. Alcántara, Jackson, &amp; Leon (l-r) during the MNN debate</p> <hr /> <p>Roughly three weeks before the September 13 primary elections, three candidates running for the Democratic nomination in state Senate District 31 – an area that spans the west coast of Midtown and the Upper West Side before encompassing most of Northern Manhattan – debated the incumbent’s involvement with the now defunct Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) and discussed some of the district’s most pressing issues, including those regarding transit, public and affordable housing, and the recently-passed rezoning of a portion of Inwood by city officials.</p> <p><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52pMM7H6kNM&amp;t=299s" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The debate hosted by Manhattan Neighborhood Network</a> -- which taped Wednesday, aired Thursday, and was moderated by Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max -- saw first-term Senator Marisol Alcántara continue to defend her IDC membership, reiterating that her break from the mainline Democratic conference did not affect her voting record while in Albany and resulted in benefits for her constituents. Meanwhile, Robert Jackson, a Democrat making his third straight bid for the seat, continued to criticize the senator, questioning her Democratic credibility given the IDC’s alignment with the Republican conference and that majority’s blockage of a multitude of progressive legislation, much of which both Alcántara and Jackson <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7856-manhattan-rematch-of-tight-primary-takes-shape-in-different-political-environment">say they support</a>.</p> <p>Another Democratic challenger, Thomas Leon, struggled to answer questions during the debate and a fourth candidate, Tirso Pina, was absent from the event altogether. What Leon did make clear was his negative view of all the sniping back and forth between Alcántara and Jackson, but he largely did not provide concrete policy positions.</p> <p>While Alcántara and Jackson seemed to agree on major policy problems and solutions, such as the crises facing the MTA and NYCHA, neither offered detailed proposals or radical new approaches to resolve the existential threats facing the two public authorities, even as the candidates were pressed for more information.</p> <p>Alcántara was first elected in 2016 after a four-way race between her, Jackson, Micah Lasher, and Luis Tejada. She, Jackson, and Lasher each garnered about a third of the votes cast, with Alcántara, of course, coming in first, followed by Lasher, then Jackson. Lasher is not running again, he has endorsed Jackson’s candidacy, but there are questions about who will actually come out to vote this year, including the number of new voters, some possibly spurred by the extensive anti-IDC movement that has sprung up.</p> <p>“So, the expectation [is] that all of the votes that he received are coming to me, give or take a few,” Jackson said of Lasher’s 2016 supporters during the debate, when the two candidates were asked about how they are reaching out to voters that did not vote for them last cycle. Jackson additionally has the support of many activist organizations, almost all of the district’s Democratic clubs, and many elected officials. Alcántara has much a great deal of support from organized labor, including several of the city’s most politically active unions.</p> <p>When asked how she has been targeting new voters in her campaign, Alcántara said, “We send out mailers like every campaign to everybody...We have tried to reach out to everyone in our district and work with everybody in our district regardless of where they’re from, because we feel that’s the best way to represent.” Alcántara also repeatedly stressed that she has the advantage with labor, including the United Federation of Teachers, the New York State Nurses Association, and 1199SEIU, the health care workers.</p> <p><strong>MTA and NYCHA</strong><br />The state of the MTA and NYCHA have been flashpoints in this year’s election cycle. Both authorities are badly in need of repairs, with rampant delays plaguing the subways and <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7644-de-blasio-points-to-cuomo-s-nycha-order-as-potentially-dangerous-to-city-budget">NYCHA developments falling apart</a> and riddled with mold, lead paint, and heating issues. Both authorities need better management and tens of billions of dollars in funding for repairs and upgrades.</p> <p>During the debate, both Alcántara and Jackson expressed support for congestion pricing, both to reduce traffic and raise revenue for the MTA.</p> <p>“We need to get more cars off the streets,” Alcántara said. “We have a high asthma rate in the district. We can do two things by congestion pricing: we can fix our asthma and our environmental issues and we can bring in funding for our subway system.” Alcántara additionally suggested that legalizing recreational marijuana may aid the subway crisis if its tax revenue can be funneled into funding public transit.</p> <p>While the senator avoided blaming anyone for the MTA crisis, Jackson placed the weight of the problem on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s shoulders. The governor has frequently come under fire for the deterioration of the city’s subway system, especially from his gubernatorial primary challenger, Cynthia Nixon, who has cross-endorsed with Jackson. The governor appoints a plurality of members to the MTA board and the leader of the authority, while also playing the largest role in determining how the MTA is funded and its top priorities. “The governor needs to be able to deal with that because he’s the primary one responsible for the MTA,” Jackson said. While he agrees with the importance of congestion pricing, Jackson also believes that “there needs to be a better working relationship between the governor and the mayor to work together to address the issues” and that “the primary responsibility is for the state of New York to provide the resources.”</p> <p>As for Leon, his answer to repeated MTA questions including that there must be “a team” in place, but he did not discuss any details when given the opportunity.</p> <p>Somewhat like with the MTA, it is estimated that around $30 billion is needed over the next five years in order to address the NYCHA crisis.</p> <p>Asked about solutions for NYCHA, especially around new revenue, Alcántara discussed her work for NYCHA residents, which she said includes funding for tenant organizations, calling for an independent monitor for NYCHA, surveying over a thousand NYCHA residents, touring all NYCHA buildings in her district, and fighting to include $200 million for NYCHA in the state budget.</p> <p>“I have a seniors building that is NYCHA that has six apartments that are vacant. Why are they vacant?,” the senator said. “Because the roof is not working and it leaks into the apartment.” When confronted with such building damages, Alcántara said the first thing she does is snap a picture send it to NYCHA. “I say, ‘Look, you have six apartments empty. We have a homeless crisis in the city. We could house six different families in these apartments,’” she said.</p> <p>In terms of funding NYCHA’s repairs, Alcántara suggested the possibility of renting out NYCHA-owned parking spaces and appeared somewhat open to new development on NYCHA land that includes some market-rate housing.</p> <p>Jackson expressed more clear and full opposition to market-rate housing on NYCHA land, though he provided few ideas about how to bring in new revenue for NYCHA, mostly referencing the idea of winning more federal funding, though he acknowledged that is unlikely given current federal leadership.</p> <p>While they did not articulate clear ideas for addressing NYCHA funding requirements, both candidates emphasized the need to include NYCHA residents in the conversations that may precipitate new programs.</p> <p>“We need to get together with the residents of NYCHA and come up with a plan that works for everybody,” Alcántara said.</p> <p>“I wanna hold hearings in order to get the input from the government officials and from advocates in the field and from the public,” Jackson said. “And, I’m open to considering everything. But, the end result should be where the residents are involved.”</p> <p>Leon, who didn’t speak of specific policy details to resolve the NYCHA funding crisis, suggested that the funds were not being allocated properly. “We don’t have the funds and the state has the money,” he said.</p> <p>None of the candidates mentioned raising taxes on high earners to fund the MTA, as Mayor Bill de Blasio has called for, or to add dedicated revenue for NYCHA.</p> <p><strong>Affordable Housing and Rezoning Inwood</strong><br />All three candidates agreed that affordable housing is a major issue afflicting the 31st Senate District. The three additionally oppose the <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/402-18/mayor-de-blasio-council-member-rodriguez-celebrate-city-council-approval-the-inwood">Inwood Neighborhood Rezoning</a>, a plan of new neighborhood land use rules developed by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration and local City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, which was officially approved by the City Council earlier this month.</p> <p>“To have the opportunity to get an apartment for rezoning, we need to have a very high salary,” Leon said of the plan. “More than 40,000 [dollars]. And our workers, they hardly make 20,000 a year.”</p> <p>“I remember when my neighborhood [West Harlem] was rezoned in 2014,” Alcántara said, recalling “the number of people that have moved out of our neighborhood because of rezoning and what that means for real estate. So, seeing the Inwood rezoning is like playing the same movie again.”</p> <p>The rezoning is aimed at allowing more housing to be built in the area, with certain affordability guidelines on some units, and will provide a variety of new city investments into the community.</p> <p>The senator, who has been endorsed again by Rodriguez, criticized the city for not properly addressing infrastructure and labor issues. “What does that mean when you’re gonna have an additional 20,000 people taking the A and 1 train in Upper Manhattan without building any additional space?” she said. “There’s no labor agreement, so we are seeing the number of construction workers that have died in the city over 30, most of them immigrants from Latin America, and I am afraid that if we’re gonna start construction on Inwood, how come we didn’t address any of the labor issues?”</p> <p>Jobs should go to people within the community, the community must have access to all of the new services, and small businesses need the opportunity to move into any new real estate space, Alcántara said.</p> <p>Jackson’s opposition to the plan stems from the notion that rezoning Inwood will expel those already living within the neighborhood due to higher costs of living. “It’s gonna have a negative impact on the people that lived there and it’s gonna accelerate gentrification,” said Jackson. “It should’ve been voted down, but, in fact, it’s moving forward. And people are looking at what the options [are].”</p> <p><strong>The IDC Debate</strong><br />The debate over Alcántara’s membership in the IDC – the conference of eight breakaway Democrats that caucused with Republicans in the state Senate, and was dissolved in April whereby its members joined the mainline Democratic conference – is a well-worn one, especially as all the former IDC members continue to defend their defection as they face-off against <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7870-state-senate-candidates-file-fundraising-numbers" target="_blank">challengers of their own</a> this primary season. In her own defense, Alcántara argued that a unified Democratic minority conference in the Senate still brought no progress on key Democratic legislation, that joining the IDC did not sway her voting record away from progressivism, and that she has accomplished a lot for her district.</p> <p>“I believe my record speaks for itself,” the senator said. “I brought in a record of investment in our community. That’s why I have been endorsed by the teachers union, because of the work that I have done in education.” She cited three teacher centers built within the district and funding she allocated for a CUNY campus.</p> <p>When asked if she justified her IDC membership by the potential to obtain greater resources for her district, Alcántara offered a different rationale. “When I ran for office [in 2016], I reached out to all the Democratic establishment in the city of New York...No one from the entire establishment supported or were interested in bringing some label of diversity to the state Senate. I had a prior relationship with Diane Savino [a co-founder of the IDC], who came out of the labor movement like I did, and thus how I came in contact and thus how I joined the IDC.”</p> <p>The IDC was well-established and growing when Alcántara joined after taking office in early 2017, after he narrow 2016 primary was funded by more than $500,000 through IDC accounts.</p> <p>Jackson, whose campaign is centered on Alcántara’s IDC membership and what he calls betrayal of her constituents, countered that the 2016 election “was an open seat. The establishment really does not support an open seat.”</p> <p>Alcántara said that despite major donations from real estate and charter school and education reform interests, her votes in Albany still aligned with her own moral compass as a long-time progressive.</p> <p>“For example, I voted for charter schools to be cut. I have voted for transparency in the way charter schools operate,” Alcántara said, responding to a question of how she reconciles her involvement with IDC and those sources of money that she says she is opposed to. “Just because they gave money, it has not stopped my vote or how I feel and what I think is the best for students of my district.”</p> <p>Still, Jackson distinguishes himself from Alcántara based on her alliance with Republicans on the Senate floor. “I will always be a Democrat, a true blue Democrat, and never swim across the river in order to sleep with the Republicans,” he said.</p> <p><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52pMM7H6kNM&amp;t=299s" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Watch the full debate</a>:</p> <p><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/52pMM7H6kNM" width="560" height="315" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Chelsey Sanchez, Gotham Gazette
@chelseynsanchez  @GothamGazette

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/alcantara-jackson-leon.jpg" alt="alcantara jackson leon" width="600" height="305" /></p> <p>Sen. Alcántara, Jackson, &amp; Leon (l-r) during the MNN debate</p> <hr /> <p>Roughly three weeks before the September 13 primary elections, three candidates running for the Democratic nomination in state Senate District 31 – an area that spans the west coast of Midtown and the Upper West Side before encompassing most of Northern Manhattan – debated the incumbent’s involvement with the now defunct Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) and discussed some of the district’s most pressing issues, including those regarding transit, public and affordable housing, and the recently-passed rezoning of a portion of Inwood by city officials.</p> <p><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52pMM7H6kNM&amp;t=299s" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The debate hosted by Manhattan Neighborhood Network</a> -- which taped Wednesday, aired Thursday, and was moderated by Gotham Gazette editor Ben Max -- saw first-term Senator Marisol Alcántara continue to defend her IDC membership, reiterating that her break from the mainline Democratic conference did not affect her voting record while in Albany and resulted in benefits for her constituents. Meanwhile, Robert Jackson, a Democrat making his third straight bid for the seat, continued to criticize the senator, questioning her Democratic credibility given the IDC’s alignment with the Republican conference and that majority’s blockage of a multitude of progressive legislation, much of which both Alcántara and Jackson <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7856-manhattan-rematch-of-tight-primary-takes-shape-in-different-political-environment">say they support</a>.</p> <p>Another Democratic challenger, Thomas Leon, struggled to answer questions during the debate and a fourth candidate, Tirso Pina, was absent from the event altogether. What Leon did make clear was his negative view of all the sniping back and forth between Alcántara and Jackson, but he largely did not provide concrete policy positions.</p> <p>While Alcántara and Jackson seemed to agree on major policy problems and solutions, such as the crises facing the MTA and NYCHA, neither offered detailed proposals or radical new approaches to resolve the existential threats facing the two public authorities, even as the candidates were pressed for more information.</p> <p>Alcántara was first elected in 2016 after a four-way race between her, Jackson, Micah Lasher, and Luis Tejada. She, Jackson, and Lasher each garnered about a third of the votes cast, with Alcántara, of course, coming in first, followed by Lasher, then Jackson. Lasher is not running again, he has endorsed Jackson’s candidacy, but there are questions about who will actually come out to vote this year, including the number of new voters, some possibly spurred by the extensive anti-IDC movement that has sprung up.</p> <p>“So, the expectation [is] that all of the votes that he received are coming to me, give or take a few,” Jackson said of Lasher’s 2016 supporters during the debate, when the two candidates were asked about how they are reaching out to voters that did not vote for them last cycle. Jackson additionally has the support of many activist organizations, almost all of the district’s Democratic clubs, and many elected officials. Alcántara has much a great deal of support from organized labor, including several of the city’s most politically active unions.</p> <p>When asked how she has been targeting new voters in her campaign, Alcántara said, “We send out mailers like every campaign to everybody...We have tried to reach out to everyone in our district and work with everybody in our district regardless of where they’re from, because we feel that’s the best way to represent.” Alcántara also repeatedly stressed that she has the advantage with labor, including the United Federation of Teachers, the New York State Nurses Association, and 1199SEIU, the health care workers.</p> <p><strong>MTA and NYCHA</strong><br />The state of the MTA and NYCHA have been flashpoints in this year’s election cycle. Both authorities are badly in need of repairs, with rampant delays plaguing the subways and <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7644-de-blasio-points-to-cuomo-s-nycha-order-as-potentially-dangerous-to-city-budget">NYCHA developments falling apart</a> and riddled with mold, lead paint, and heating issues. Both authorities need better management and tens of billions of dollars in funding for repairs and upgrades.</p> <p>During the debate, both Alcántara and Jackson expressed support for congestion pricing, both to reduce traffic and raise revenue for the MTA.</p> <p>“We need to get more cars off the streets,” Alcántara said. “We have a high asthma rate in the district. We can do two things by congestion pricing: we can fix our asthma and our environmental issues and we can bring in funding for our subway system.” Alcántara additionally suggested that legalizing recreational marijuana may aid the subway crisis if its tax revenue can be funneled into funding public transit.</p> <p>While the senator avoided blaming anyone for the MTA crisis, Jackson placed the weight of the problem on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s shoulders. The governor has frequently come under fire for the deterioration of the city’s subway system, especially from his gubernatorial primary challenger, Cynthia Nixon, who has cross-endorsed with Jackson. The governor appoints a plurality of members to the MTA board and the leader of the authority, while also playing the largest role in determining how the MTA is funded and its top priorities. “The governor needs to be able to deal with that because he’s the primary one responsible for the MTA,” Jackson said. While he agrees with the importance of congestion pricing, Jackson also believes that “there needs to be a better working relationship between the governor and the mayor to work together to address the issues” and that “the primary responsibility is for the state of New York to provide the resources.”</p> <p>As for Leon, his answer to repeated MTA questions including that there must be “a team” in place, but he did not discuss any details when given the opportunity.</p> <p>Somewhat like with the MTA, it is estimated that around $30 billion is needed over the next five years in order to address the NYCHA crisis.</p> <p>Asked about solutions for NYCHA, especially around new revenue, Alcántara discussed her work for NYCHA residents, which she said includes funding for tenant organizations, calling for an independent monitor for NYCHA, surveying over a thousand NYCHA residents, touring all NYCHA buildings in her district, and fighting to include $200 million for NYCHA in the state budget.</p> <p>“I have a seniors building that is NYCHA that has six apartments that are vacant. Why are they vacant?,” the senator said. “Because the roof is not working and it leaks into the apartment.” When confronted with such building damages, Alcántara said the first thing she does is snap a picture send it to NYCHA. “I say, ‘Look, you have six apartments empty. We have a homeless crisis in the city. We could house six different families in these apartments,’” she said.</p> <p>In terms of funding NYCHA’s repairs, Alcántara suggested the possibility of renting out NYCHA-owned parking spaces and appeared somewhat open to new development on NYCHA land that includes some market-rate housing.</p> <p>Jackson expressed more clear and full opposition to market-rate housing on NYCHA land, though he provided few ideas about how to bring in new revenue for NYCHA, mostly referencing the idea of winning more federal funding, though he acknowledged that is unlikely given current federal leadership.</p> <p>While they did not articulate clear ideas for addressing NYCHA funding requirements, both candidates emphasized the need to include NYCHA residents in the conversations that may precipitate new programs.</p> <p>“We need to get together with the residents of NYCHA and come up with a plan that works for everybody,” Alcántara said.</p> <p>“I wanna hold hearings in order to get the input from the government officials and from advocates in the field and from the public,” Jackson said. “And, I’m open to considering everything. But, the end result should be where the residents are involved.”</p> <p>Leon, who didn’t speak of specific policy details to resolve the NYCHA funding crisis, suggested that the funds were not being allocated properly. “We don’t have the funds and the state has the money,” he said.</p> <p>None of the candidates mentioned raising taxes on high earners to fund the MTA, as Mayor Bill de Blasio has called for, or to add dedicated revenue for NYCHA.</p> <p><strong>Affordable Housing and Rezoning Inwood</strong><br />All three candidates agreed that affordable housing is a major issue afflicting the 31st Senate District. The three additionally oppose the <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/402-18/mayor-de-blasio-council-member-rodriguez-celebrate-city-council-approval-the-inwood">Inwood Neighborhood Rezoning</a>, a plan of new neighborhood land use rules developed by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration and local City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, which was officially approved by the City Council earlier this month.</p> <p>“To have the opportunity to get an apartment for rezoning, we need to have a very high salary,” Leon said of the plan. “More than 40,000 [dollars]. And our workers, they hardly make 20,000 a year.”</p> <p>“I remember when my neighborhood [West Harlem] was rezoned in 2014,” Alcántara said, recalling “the number of people that have moved out of our neighborhood because of rezoning and what that means for real estate. So, seeing the Inwood rezoning is like playing the same movie again.”</p> <p>The rezoning is aimed at allowing more housing to be built in the area, with certain affordability guidelines on some units, and will provide a variety of new city investments into the community.</p> <p>The senator, who has been endorsed again by Rodriguez, criticized the city for not properly addressing infrastructure and labor issues. “What does that mean when you’re gonna have an additional 20,000 people taking the A and 1 train in Upper Manhattan without building any additional space?” she said. “There’s no labor agreement, so we are seeing the number of construction workers that have died in the city over 30, most of them immigrants from Latin America, and I am afraid that if we’re gonna start construction on Inwood, how come we didn’t address any of the labor issues?”</p> <p>Jobs should go to people within the community, the community must have access to all of the new services, and small businesses need the opportunity to move into any new real estate space, Alcántara said.</p> <p>Jackson’s opposition to the plan stems from the notion that rezoning Inwood will expel those already living within the neighborhood due to higher costs of living. “It’s gonna have a negative impact on the people that lived there and it’s gonna accelerate gentrification,” said Jackson. “It should’ve been voted down, but, in fact, it’s moving forward. And people are looking at what the options [are].”</p> <p><strong>The IDC Debate</strong><br />The debate over Alcántara’s membership in the IDC – the conference of eight breakaway Democrats that caucused with Republicans in the state Senate, and was dissolved in April whereby its members joined the mainline Democratic conference – is a well-worn one, especially as all the former IDC members continue to defend their defection as they face-off against <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7870-state-senate-candidates-file-fundraising-numbers" target="_blank">challengers of their own</a> this primary season. In her own defense, Alcántara argued that a unified Democratic minority conference in the Senate still brought no progress on key Democratic legislation, that joining the IDC did not sway her voting record away from progressivism, and that she has accomplished a lot for her district.</p> <p>“I believe my record speaks for itself,” the senator said. “I brought in a record of investment in our community. That’s why I have been endorsed by the teachers union, because of the work that I have done in education.” She cited three teacher centers built within the district and funding she allocated for a CUNY campus.</p> <p>When asked if she justified her IDC membership by the potential to obtain greater resources for her district, Alcántara offered a different rationale. “When I ran for office [in 2016], I reached out to all the Democratic establishment in the city of New York...No one from the entire establishment supported or were interested in bringing some label of diversity to the state Senate. I had a prior relationship with Diane Savino [a co-founder of the IDC], who came out of the labor movement like I did, and thus how I came in contact and thus how I joined the IDC.”</p> <p>The IDC was well-established and growing when Alcántara joined after taking office in early 2017, after he narrow 2016 primary was funded by more than $500,000 through IDC accounts.</p> <p>Jackson, whose campaign is centered on Alcántara’s IDC membership and what he calls betrayal of her constituents, countered that the 2016 election “was an open seat. The establishment really does not support an open seat.”</p> <p>Alcántara said that despite major donations from real estate and charter school and education reform interests, her votes in Albany still aligned with her own moral compass as a long-time progressive.</p> <p>“For example, I voted for charter schools to be cut. I have voted for transparency in the way charter schools operate,” Alcántara said, responding to a question of how she reconciles her involvement with IDC and those sources of money that she says she is opposed to. “Just because they gave money, it has not stopped my vote or how I feel and what I think is the best for students of my district.”</p> <p>Still, Jackson distinguishes himself from Alcántara based on her alliance with Republicans on the Senate floor. “I will always be a Democrat, a true blue Democrat, and never swim across the river in order to sleep with the Republicans,” he said.</p> <p><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52pMM7H6kNM&amp;t=299s" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Watch the full debate</a>:</p> <p><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/52pMM7H6kNM" width="560" height="315" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Chelsey Sanchez, Gotham Gazette
@chelseynsanchez  @GothamGazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
How Much Does Brooklyn Congressional Primary Result Show Path in Overlapping State Senate Race? 2018-08-10T04:00:00+00:00 2018-08-10T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7860-how-much-does-brooklyn-congressional-primary-result-show-path-in-overlapping-state-senate-race Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/myrie_w_congressmembers_via_indivisble_bk.jpg" alt="myrie w congressmembers via indivisble bk" width="600" height="353" /></p> <p>Zellnor Myrie receives the endorsement of Rep. Clarke, among others (photo: @BKIndivisible)</p> <hr /> <p>A wide swath of central Brooklyn is hosting its second contentious Democratic primary race this year. After a surprisingly close congressional primary in June, voters in a largely overlapping state Senate district will vote in September in another race where an incumbent is facing an upstart challenger.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/screen_shot_2018-08-10_at_13.10.55.png" alt="Brooklyn Congressional District 9" width="300" height="282" style="margin-right: 12px; float: left;" />An array of neighborhoods in the borough, including Brownsville, Crown Heights, Park Slope, Flatbush, and Prospect Heights, make up New York’s Ninth Congressional District (map left), where Democratic voters narrowly voted to nominate Yvette Clarke for re-election over her challenger, Adem Bunkeddeko, in a race that drew national attention for its closeness, especially alongside the defeat of Rep. Joe Crowley by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.</p> <p>The Brooklyn neighborhoods of Clarke’s district, with the exception of a few, like Sheepshead Bay and Marine Park, also make up State Senate District 20 (map below), which adds Gowanus, South Slope, and Sunset Park, and is represented by incumbent Senator Jesse Hamilton, who is facing a primary challenge from Zellnor Myrie.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/screen-shot-2018-08-10-at-13.10.jpg" alt="Brooklyn State Senate District 20" width="300" height="142" style="margin-right: 12px; float: left;" />The two primaries bear some similar contours: a youthful progressive candidate goes for the left flank of a Democratic incumbent amid an anti-establishment milieu, hoping to motivate voters upset by Donald Trump and looking for something different from their elected officials. Bunkedekko’s success as a previously little-known activist and lawyer in the district—he lost by just 1,075 votes—may help provide a roadmap for Myrie, especially in terms of where in the district to go for those anti-establishment votes.</p> <p>But there are key differences between the Clarke-Bunkedekko and Hamilton-Myrie races, including Hamilton’s prior membership in the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference and the flood of endorsements behind Myrie, but a key question for the challenger, incumbent, and all those watching, is: How much can we apply from the results of the race in Congressional District Nine to the race in State Senate District 20?</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/romalewski-ny9.jpg" alt="NY9 results" width="300" height="276" style="margin-right: 12px; float: left;" />Though ultimately unsuccessful in his bid to unseat Representative Clarke, daughter of legendary former City Council Member Una Clarke, Bunkeddeko certainly came close, losing by four points to a politician who won her previous primary challenge, in 2012, by 77%. Results of the June 26 vote show Bunkeddeko’s strongholds were in wealthier, whiter, gentrified areas of the district like Park Slope and Prospect Heights, while Clarke excelled in poorer, predominantly black neighborhoods in the eastern part of NY-9 like East Flatbush and Brownsville (map left, via CUNY Mapping Service).</p> <p>It remains to be seen whether this dynamic will be replicated in the race between Hamilton and Myrie. Hamilton is a former member of the Independent Democratic Conference, a coalition of eight Democrats in the New York State Senate that formed a years-long coalition agreement with Republicans to bolster GOP control of the chamber. The IDC formally disbanded this April amid criticism and the declaration of primary challenges by Myrie and a cohort of other candidates.</p> <p>Myrie spokesman André M. Richardson told Gotham Gazette that the campaign was surprised by Central Brooklynites’ widespread knowledge of the IDC.</p> <p>“More people knew about it than we thought would,” he said. “A lot of the conversation is in the Park Slope and Prospect Heights area, but folks in Flatbush recognize it, as well.”</p> <p>Hamilton’s participation in the IDC is a useful cudgel for the Myrie campaign, providing a unifying talking point about propping up Republican control of the state Senate and blocking progressive legislation in a racially and economically diverse district.</p> <p>In predominantly-black neighborhoods like Brownsville, Richardson said, the IDC ties Hamilton to the prevention of Andrea Stewart-Cousins from becoming the State Senate’s first black female majority leader; in heavily-Hispanic Sunset Park, the Myrie campaign tells voters that the IDC is why the Dream Act was blocked. Through this, and with an intense focus on the ever-relevant housing crisis, the challenger hopes to avoid the polarization of the district seen in the results from June and appeal to voters in every neighborhood. That effort is likely to be helped by the fact that Myrie has been endorsed by a wide swathe of elected officials and clubs, including Rep. Clarke and other elected officials from the area, such as Assemblymember Diana Richardson.</p> <p>The IDC is one of several factors that complicate attempts to use the results of the Clarke-Bunkeddeko race to predict the Hamilton-Myrie contest, despite the two races taking place in, more or less, the same territory. Also, noted Steven Romalewski, director of the CUNY Mapping Service, to Gotham Gazette, “different groups of voters turn out for different races.” Only <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7774-a-closer-look-at-voter-turnout-in-2018-new-york-congressional-primaries" target="_blank" rel="noopener">about 8.2%</a> of eligible Democratic voters voted in the primary between Clarke and Bunkeddeko, making it difficult to generalize characteristics of the voter pool.</p> <p>Voter turnout is expected to increase in September, when the Democratic nominees for the statewide positions of governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general will also be decided. Two of those races feature black candidates from Central Brooklyn: Jumaane Williams, running for lieutenant governor, and Letitia James, for attorney general. Governor Andrew Cuomo and his primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon, have also focused campaign efforts in the area, aware that black voters are essential to winning Democratic primaries.</p> <p>In last year’s September primaries for city elections, Senate District 20 was home to 21,000 voters, while only around 10,000 residents of the Senate district cast votes in June’s contest when the congressional primary was the only race on the ballot.</p> <p>Though it’s nearly impossible to accurately predict whether increased turnout will help or harm Hamilton, who was first elected to the Senate in 2014, political consultant Jerry Skurnik told Gotham Gazette that “the gentrifiers” constitute a larger proportion of Senate District 20 than they do Congressional District Nine.</p> <p>By Skurnik’s admittedly “not 100% accurate” demographic calculations, 82% of the Senate district lies within the Congressional district, and the overlapping area is about 72% black. But the overall Senate district is just slightly over 60% black, since it includes smaller portions of near-exclusively African-American neighborhoods like Brownsville and East Flatbush and extends farther out of Central Brooklyn, into neighborhoods like Gowanus and Sunset Park that have relatively few black residents. This could spell an advantage for Myrie, if Bunkeddeko’s strength in Park Slope is any indication, and if he is able to move the same voters to the polls while motivating others. But, there are many complicating factors, and neither Romalewski nor Skurnik felt comfortable prognosticating with any certainty.</p> <p>In line with Romalewski’s cautioning that different races motivate different voters, Skurnik emphasized to Gotham Gazette that a race for the New York State Senate necessarily involves issues different from those in a contest for the U.S. House of Representatives. For instance, rent regulations are a marquee issue for state legislators, who will renegotiate current rent laws next year, while the issue is less central to Congressional races like Clarke and Bunkeddeko’s, though candidates for all offices must discuss housing affordability in New York City. Myrie may have an easier time mobilizing residents around his housing-focused campaign than Bunkeddeko, who devoted extensive time to attacking Clarke’s Congressional record (or lack thereof, as he framed it). But, Myrie is also focused on Hamilton’s record in the Senate, especially around progressive bills that have not passed because Republicans, supported by the IDC, did not favor them.</p> <p>The polarized, racially and economically divided results of the NY-9 primary will not necessarily reproduce as such in Senate District 20, Skurnik said, because both Hamilton and Myrie have seen them. “Senator Hamilton knows what happened,” Skurnik said. “He knows where the Congresswoman did badly...He’s not going to be surprised.” The same holds true for Myrie, he added. If the results of the June primary can teach the candidates of District 20 anything, it seems, it’s what to avoid.</p> <p>

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by Daniel Yadin for Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/myrie_w_congressmembers_via_indivisble_bk.jpg" alt="myrie w congressmembers via indivisble bk" width="600" height="353" /></p> <p>Zellnor Myrie receives the endorsement of Rep. Clarke, among others (photo: @BKIndivisible)</p> <hr /> <p>A wide swath of central Brooklyn is hosting its second contentious Democratic primary race this year. After a surprisingly close congressional primary in June, voters in a largely overlapping state Senate district will vote in September in another race where an incumbent is facing an upstart challenger.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/screen_shot_2018-08-10_at_13.10.55.png" alt="Brooklyn Congressional District 9" width="300" height="282" style="margin-right: 12px; float: left;" />An array of neighborhoods in the borough, including Brownsville, Crown Heights, Park Slope, Flatbush, and Prospect Heights, make up New York’s Ninth Congressional District (map left), where Democratic voters narrowly voted to nominate Yvette Clarke for re-election over her challenger, Adem Bunkeddeko, in a race that drew national attention for its closeness, especially alongside the defeat of Rep. Joe Crowley by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.</p> <p>The Brooklyn neighborhoods of Clarke’s district, with the exception of a few, like Sheepshead Bay and Marine Park, also make up State Senate District 20 (map below), which adds Gowanus, South Slope, and Sunset Park, and is represented by incumbent Senator Jesse Hamilton, who is facing a primary challenge from Zellnor Myrie.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/screen-shot-2018-08-10-at-13.10.jpg" alt="Brooklyn State Senate District 20" width="300" height="142" style="margin-right: 12px; float: left;" />The two primaries bear some similar contours: a youthful progressive candidate goes for the left flank of a Democratic incumbent amid an anti-establishment milieu, hoping to motivate voters upset by Donald Trump and looking for something different from their elected officials. Bunkedekko’s success as a previously little-known activist and lawyer in the district—he lost by just 1,075 votes—may help provide a roadmap for Myrie, especially in terms of where in the district to go for those anti-establishment votes.</p> <p>But there are key differences between the Clarke-Bunkedekko and Hamilton-Myrie races, including Hamilton’s prior membership in the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference and the flood of endorsements behind Myrie, but a key question for the challenger, incumbent, and all those watching, is: How much can we apply from the results of the race in Congressional District Nine to the race in State Senate District 20?</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/romalewski-ny9.jpg" alt="NY9 results" width="300" height="276" style="margin-right: 12px; float: left;" />Though ultimately unsuccessful in his bid to unseat Representative Clarke, daughter of legendary former City Council Member Una Clarke, Bunkeddeko certainly came close, losing by four points to a politician who won her previous primary challenge, in 2012, by 77%. Results of the June 26 vote show Bunkeddeko’s strongholds were in wealthier, whiter, gentrified areas of the district like Park Slope and Prospect Heights, while Clarke excelled in poorer, predominantly black neighborhoods in the eastern part of NY-9 like East Flatbush and Brownsville (map left, via CUNY Mapping Service).</p> <p>It remains to be seen whether this dynamic will be replicated in the race between Hamilton and Myrie. Hamilton is a former member of the Independent Democratic Conference, a coalition of eight Democrats in the New York State Senate that formed a years-long coalition agreement with Republicans to bolster GOP control of the chamber. The IDC formally disbanded this April amid criticism and the declaration of primary challenges by Myrie and a cohort of other candidates.</p> <p>Myrie spokesman André M. Richardson told Gotham Gazette that the campaign was surprised by Central Brooklynites’ widespread knowledge of the IDC.</p> <p>“More people knew about it than we thought would,” he said. “A lot of the conversation is in the Park Slope and Prospect Heights area, but folks in Flatbush recognize it, as well.”</p> <p>Hamilton’s participation in the IDC is a useful cudgel for the Myrie campaign, providing a unifying talking point about propping up Republican control of the state Senate and blocking progressive legislation in a racially and economically diverse district.</p> <p>In predominantly-black neighborhoods like Brownsville, Richardson said, the IDC ties Hamilton to the prevention of Andrea Stewart-Cousins from becoming the State Senate’s first black female majority leader; in heavily-Hispanic Sunset Park, the Myrie campaign tells voters that the IDC is why the Dream Act was blocked. Through this, and with an intense focus on the ever-relevant housing crisis, the challenger hopes to avoid the polarization of the district seen in the results from June and appeal to voters in every neighborhood. That effort is likely to be helped by the fact that Myrie has been endorsed by a wide swathe of elected officials and clubs, including Rep. Clarke and other elected officials from the area, such as Assemblymember Diana Richardson.</p> <p>The IDC is one of several factors that complicate attempts to use the results of the Clarke-Bunkeddeko race to predict the Hamilton-Myrie contest, despite the two races taking place in, more or less, the same territory. Also, noted Steven Romalewski, director of the CUNY Mapping Service, to Gotham Gazette, “different groups of voters turn out for different races.” Only <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7774-a-closer-look-at-voter-turnout-in-2018-new-york-congressional-primaries" target="_blank" rel="noopener">about 8.2%</a> of eligible Democratic voters voted in the primary between Clarke and Bunkeddeko, making it difficult to generalize characteristics of the voter pool.</p> <p>Voter turnout is expected to increase in September, when the Democratic nominees for the statewide positions of governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general will also be decided. Two of those races feature black candidates from Central Brooklyn: Jumaane Williams, running for lieutenant governor, and Letitia James, for attorney general. Governor Andrew Cuomo and his primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon, have also focused campaign efforts in the area, aware that black voters are essential to winning Democratic primaries.</p> <p>In last year’s September primaries for city elections, Senate District 20 was home to 21,000 voters, while only around 10,000 residents of the Senate district cast votes in June’s contest when the congressional primary was the only race on the ballot.</p> <p>Though it’s nearly impossible to accurately predict whether increased turnout will help or harm Hamilton, who was first elected to the Senate in 2014, political consultant Jerry Skurnik told Gotham Gazette that “the gentrifiers” constitute a larger proportion of Senate District 20 than they do Congressional District Nine.</p> <p>By Skurnik’s admittedly “not 100% accurate” demographic calculations, 82% of the Senate district lies within the Congressional district, and the overlapping area is about 72% black. But the overall Senate district is just slightly over 60% black, since it includes smaller portions of near-exclusively African-American neighborhoods like Brownsville and East Flatbush and extends farther out of Central Brooklyn, into neighborhoods like Gowanus and Sunset Park that have relatively few black residents. This could spell an advantage for Myrie, if Bunkeddeko’s strength in Park Slope is any indication, and if he is able to move the same voters to the polls while motivating others. But, there are many complicating factors, and neither Romalewski nor Skurnik felt comfortable prognosticating with any certainty.</p> <p>In line with Romalewski’s cautioning that different races motivate different voters, Skurnik emphasized to Gotham Gazette that a race for the New York State Senate necessarily involves issues different from those in a contest for the U.S. House of Representatives. For instance, rent regulations are a marquee issue for state legislators, who will renegotiate current rent laws next year, while the issue is less central to Congressional races like Clarke and Bunkeddeko’s, though candidates for all offices must discuss housing affordability in New York City. Myrie may have an easier time mobilizing residents around his housing-focused campaign than Bunkeddeko, who devoted extensive time to attacking Clarke’s Congressional record (or lack thereof, as he framed it). But, Myrie is also focused on Hamilton’s record in the Senate, especially around progressive bills that have not passed because Republicans, supported by the IDC, did not favor them.</p> <p>The polarized, racially and economically divided results of the NY-9 primary will not necessarily reproduce as such in Senate District 20, Skurnik said, because both Hamilton and Myrie have seen them. “Senator Hamilton knows what happened,” Skurnik said. “He knows where the Congresswoman did badly...He’s not going to be surprised.” The same holds true for Myrie, he added. If the results of the June primary can teach the candidates of District 20 anything, it seems, it’s what to avoid.</p> <p>

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by Daniel Yadin for Gotham Gazette

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</p>
Rematch of Tight Manhattan Senate Primary Takes Shape in Different Political Environment 2018-08-09T04:00:00+00:00 2018-08-09T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7856-manhattan-rematch-of-tight-primary-takes-shape-in-different-political-environment Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/marisol-alcantara-reelect.jpg" alt="marisol alcantara reelect" /></p> <p>Sen. Alcántara, middle (photo: @NY31Alcantara)</p> <hr /> <p>Both are Democrats with a steady history of politics and activism in New York. Both graduated from in-state universities and began their careers by working with labor unions. Both are people of color and have participated in the political arena while being the only one of their demographic in the room. On virtually every policy issue, they agree, yet the two -- Marisol Alcántara and Robert Jackson -- are engaged in a nasty political race that will be decided on primary election day, September 13.</p> <p>Alcántara is the first-term state senator of District 31, a western sliver of Manhattan that covers parts of Midtown West and the Upper West Side before widening into neighborhoods like Washington Heights and Inwood. She’s currently the only Latina elected to the New York State Senate, the 63-seat upper house of the state Legislature where the Republican conference recently held a one-seat majority, bolstered for the last seven years by the Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway faction of elected Democrats that Alcántara joined after her election two years ago. The IDC, which folded in April of this year under immense pressure to rejoin the larger mainline Democratic conference, invested heavily in Alcántara’s first campaign, providing her with hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding as she narrowly won a four-way primary guaranteeing her ascension to the Senate given the district’s overwhelming Democratic enrollment.</p> <p>Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, himself seeking a third term this year and facing a tough primary challenge from Cynthia Nixon, brokered the IDC reunification deal just after this year’s state budget was decided, attempting to undercut a central line of criticism he’s received: that he supported the existence of the IDC to help bolster Republican control of the Senate and govern more from the center than the left.</p> <p>The deal made Senator Jeff Klein, leader of the IDC, deputy leader of the Democratic conference, behind Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who could become the first woman of color to lead the Senate majority if Democrats take control of the chamber through this year’s elections. Despite these efforts to sew the intra-party split shut, all eight former IDC members face spirited primary challenges, with Alcántara widely seen as the most vulnerable to defeat given her limited tenure, the closeness of her 2016 victory, the increase in IDC awareness and anti-IDC activism, Jackson’s history in the district, the one-on-one nature of the race, and other factors.</p> <p>Jackson – a former Community School Board President in the 1990s and the only Muslim City Council Member during his 12-year tenure – is running for the seat for the third straight eletion, having lost to former senator, now U.S. Representative Adriano Espaillat in 2014 and Alcántara is 2016 (he also ran unsuccessfully for Manhattan borough president in 2013 as he was term-limited out of the Council). While last time around Jackson warned of Alcántara’s ties to the IDC, this time he is using her membership in the conference against her as he tries to unseat her, while she touts bills she has been able to pass and funding for the district she has been able to secure as the results of that IDC membership.</p> <p>“I’m helping to flip a seat,” Jackson said on a recent <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7836-max-murphy-podcast-manhattan-state-senate-rematch-centered-on-breakaway-democrats" target="_blank" rel="noopener">episode</a> of Max &amp; Murphy on WBAI radio, during which both candidates separately appeared, responding to a question of whether or not Democrats should focus their attention on flipping Republican seats rather than challenging incumbent Democrats, “where you basically have a Trump Democrat, a turncoat Democrat, a rogue Democrat, representing the district.”</p> <p>Alcántara, on the other hand, refuted the idea that joining the IDC – which has been criticized for helping to block the passage of key progressive legislation like the DREAM Act and the Reproductive Health Act, both issues that she says she supports in her reelection campaign – affected her decision-making in Albany. “I have never taken a vote in the Senate that has been against my principles, as a trade unionist or as an immigrant, as a Latina,” she told Max &amp; Murphy. “So, I’m very proud of my record.”</p> <p><strong>The 2016 Election</strong><br /> When Espaillat left the New York State Senate in 2016 to join Congress, Alcántara made her bid for the newly empty Senate District 31 seat, as did Jackson and fellow Democrats Micah Lasher and Luis Tejada. Alcántara won the primary, with 8,309 votes, and Lasher and Jackson trailed closely behind, at 7,737 and 7,616, respectively. Tejada received 1,253 votes. Lasher is not running this year and has instead thrown his support behind Jackson. Tejada is not running either.</p> <p>While she was overlooked for support by most Democratic officials and clubs, labor unions, and others, Alcántara found support from the IDC, receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars and political support from the group, which was looking to grow its ranks. She <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/09/alcantara-wins-race-to-replace-fellow-latino-espaillat-105438" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reportedly</a> did not publicly commit herself to the breakaway coalition during the campaign, but, on the night of her victory, Alcántara’s spokesperson announced that she would be joining its ranks in Albany.</p> <p>It is Alcántara’s IDC membership that is the core of Jackson’s challenge.</p> <p>“If you truly believe you’re a Democrat, then stand with the Democrats,” Jackson said on Max &amp; Murphy. “Micah Lasher and I took a pledge, we raised our right hand two years ago and said we will always be Democrats fighting for the people of our district, not selling them down the river.”</p> <p>Alcántara defended the dissolved coalition, arguing that the IDC’s existence did not change the fact that Democrats would still not have held a majority in the Senate, but also that her values and the policies she stood for were not put in peril by her membership. “Marriage equality was done with a coalition government. Raise the Age was done with a coalition government. Paid family leave was done with a coalition government. A lot of free college tuition was done with a coalition government, also,” she said of policies that have been passed through a Republican-IDC led state Senate over the past several years.</p> <p><strong>Policy</strong><br />Both candidates espouse similar policy issues as the pillars for their senatorial campaigns. If reelected, Alcántara has a <a href="https://www.marisolalcantarany.com/10-point-action-plan-1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Ten Point Action Plan</a> that deals with issues ranging from immigrant protections to gun control. Likewise, Jackson’s platform, according to his <a href="https://www.voterobertjackson.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">campaign website</a>, devotes attention to nine separate issues, spanning his views on topics like education and the environment. The candidates’ policy positions show a lot of overlap, and they cite similar legislation they want to see passed through Albany next year, though they do prioritize some different bills.</p> <p>At the top of Alcántara’s agenda is the issue of immigrant rights, namely the Dream Act, a bill she co-sponsors that would allow undocumented immigrants and their children access to state financial aid for college, as well as a farmworkers’ rights bill; meanwhile, Jackson’s campaign has been less outspoken on immigrant rights and his campaign website makes no mention of the Dream Act, which has not passed the Senate along with many other top Democratic priorities, a fact Jackson linked to his opponent and the IDC, while Alcántara blamed a Republican Senate majority.</p> <p>“When you look at what has occurred in the tenure since the IDC, Marisol Alcántara included as one of those, nothing has been passed as far as legislation that benefits the people I represent,” Jackson said on Max &amp; Murphy. Along with the Dream Act, Jackson mentioned bills dealing with rent control, health care, and women’s reproductive rights, all of which are listed in both Alcántara’s and Jackson’s platforms. He’s consistently had education funding at the top of his agenda over decades and believes that New York City schools are owed billions more from the state as a result of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit.</p> <p>Alcántara highlights her own accomplishments, especially related to Latinas. During her two year tenure in the state Senate, Alcántara says she has secured over $7 million in state funding to her district, using these resources to develop community-based organizations such as Upper Manhattan’s first LGBTQ Youth Homeless Center and the establishment of the Immigrant Defense Fund, which provides free legal services to documented and undocumented immigrants. She has also invested $500,000 into implementing a pilot program that works to reduce class sizes for English language learning students -- “Such as myself,” Alcántara, who moved to the United States at age 12 from the Dominican Republic, added on Max &amp; Murphy -- and has worked to address issues on the Senate floor that have traditionally not been spotlighted.</p> <p>“I addressed issues in the Senate in terms of issues with Latina suicide that had never been addressed before,” the senator said. “My bill, which talks about why there’s such a high number of African-American women and women of African descent that died after childbirth, that was never addressed before in the Senate.”</p> <p>Jackson has said that Alcántara only focuses on the northern part of the district, where she got the bulk of her votes in 2016 and which is heavily Latino. She has staked some of her argument for reelection on the fact that she is the only Latina in the Senate, while Jackson dismissed any concern with unseating her and removing a woman and the lone Latina senator from office, saying that demographic qualities don’t supercede making the right, or wrong, choices while in office.</p> <p>Still, the two agree on much policy -- the senator and her challenger have both announced their support for two key pieces of legislation in regards to reproductive rights, the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act and the Reproductive Health Act, which would, respectively, mandate insurance coverage for contraceptive options and uphold a woman’s right to choose contraception or an abortion. Both Alcántara and Jackson support the passage of the New York Health Act, another bill that Alcántara co-sponsors, which would establish universal health coverage to New Yorkers statewide.</p> <p>Affordable housing and voting reform are other key issues across this year’s races, including in the Alcántara-Jackson contest. For the former, both candidates have campaigned on the promise to repeal vacancy decontrol and set an end to vacancy bonuses. For the latter, both support the establishment of early voting, no-excuse absentee ballots, and same day voter registration. Additionally, Alcántara and Jackson support the establishment of a public campaign financing program and closure of the Limited Liability Companies loophole, which allows entities to donate virtually limitless sums to candidates by using various LLCs.</p> <p><strong>Campaign Finance Picture</strong><br />Alcántara and her former IDC mates find themselves in controversy given that a state Supreme Court <a href="https://www.timesunion.com/news/article/IDC-Independence-campaign-finance-deal-declared-12975561.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener">ruled</a> as illegal a campaign financing deal struck between the IDC and the Independence Party – which allowed the IDC and Senator Klein as its leader to raise its own funds despite not being a political party and to funnel unlimited amounts to its candidates. Critics and constituents alike have called for Alcántara and other former IDC members to return the money raised through the account, but thus far it appears that the parties involved met the only court-mandated requirement involving details of how the account is registered. Former IDC members have said they have no intention of returning the money, though the State Board of Elections Enforcement Counsel, Risa Sugarman, has said they should. The issue has become a major point of attack from Jackson and other IDC challengers.</p> <p>In response to a caller’s question as to why she has not returned the money she received through the account, Alcántara said, “The money that we spent in 2016 was spent. My attorneys have not received any letters stating that I have to give money back. I will do whatever the court says I have to do.”</p> <p>January to July, Alcántara raised $116,000 for her reelection campaign, falling short of her $130,000 expenditures it that time, according to July campaign finance filings. Additionally, she received about $66,000 from the IDC committee in question, and had about $132,000 cash on hand at the filing.</p> <p>Jackson has claimed 8,800 campaign donations, with an average contribution of $31, according to his campaign office, which pointed out that Alcántara had received only 503 donations. Jackson raised a little more than $156,00 in the most recent six-month filing period, and had raised a total of $284,490 for this race as of mid-July. At that filing, he had about $158,000 on hand to spend.</p> <p><strong>Endorsements</strong><br />A string of city and state figures have endorsed Jackson to be the next State Senator of the 31st District. These figures include the New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, former Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger, gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, and various others. Organizations such as the Working Families Party, No IDC NY and Tenants PAC have also thrown their support behind Jackson. Additionally, while Jackson holds the endorsements of 15 Democratic clubs within the district – all of District 31’s Democratic clubs save for the Northern Manhattan Democrats for Change – Alcántara lacks the endorsement of any of the district’s clubs, according to the Jackson campaign and a review of Alcántara’s endorsement list.</p> <p>Alcántara, meanwhile, currently holds the endorsement of Senate Minority Leader Stewart-Cousins, City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Senators Roxanne Persaud and Velmanette Montgomery, as well as of a wide variety of labor unions, such as the Uniformed Firefighters Association, the Transport Workers Union Local 100, the New York State Nurses Association and Uniformed EMTs. She also has the tacit support of Gov. Cuomo, who said when announcing the Democratic Senate unity deal that the parties involved would not support primaries against any of the others involved.</p> <p>In a telling sign of which way the wind is blowing, however, Espaillat -- who strongly backed Alcántara as his successor in 2016 -- says he’s not taking a side. “I’m staying neutral,” he told Gotham Gazette on Wednesday, when asked if he’s backing Alcántara again this year. “I decided not to get involved, I spoke to her, I spoke to Robert - and let the community decide.”</p> <p>

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by Chelsey Sanchez, Gotham Gazette
@chelseynsanchez  @GothamGazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/marisol-alcantara-reelect.jpg" alt="marisol alcantara reelect" /></p> <p>Sen. Alcántara, middle (photo: @NY31Alcantara)</p> <hr /> <p>Both are Democrats with a steady history of politics and activism in New York. Both graduated from in-state universities and began their careers by working with labor unions. Both are people of color and have participated in the political arena while being the only one of their demographic in the room. On virtually every policy issue, they agree, yet the two -- Marisol Alcántara and Robert Jackson -- are engaged in a nasty political race that will be decided on primary election day, September 13.</p> <p>Alcántara is the first-term state senator of District 31, a western sliver of Manhattan that covers parts of Midtown West and the Upper West Side before widening into neighborhoods like Washington Heights and Inwood. She’s currently the only Latina elected to the New York State Senate, the 63-seat upper house of the state Legislature where the Republican conference recently held a one-seat majority, bolstered for the last seven years by the Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway faction of elected Democrats that Alcántara joined after her election two years ago. The IDC, which folded in April of this year under immense pressure to rejoin the larger mainline Democratic conference, invested heavily in Alcántara’s first campaign, providing her with hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding as she narrowly won a four-way primary guaranteeing her ascension to the Senate given the district’s overwhelming Democratic enrollment.</p> <p>Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, himself seeking a third term this year and facing a tough primary challenge from Cynthia Nixon, brokered the IDC reunification deal just after this year’s state budget was decided, attempting to undercut a central line of criticism he’s received: that he supported the existence of the IDC to help bolster Republican control of the Senate and govern more from the center than the left.</p> <p>The deal made Senator Jeff Klein, leader of the IDC, deputy leader of the Democratic conference, behind Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who could become the first woman of color to lead the Senate majority if Democrats take control of the chamber through this year’s elections. Despite these efforts to sew the intra-party split shut, all eight former IDC members face spirited primary challenges, with Alcántara widely seen as the most vulnerable to defeat given her limited tenure, the closeness of her 2016 victory, the increase in IDC awareness and anti-IDC activism, Jackson’s history in the district, the one-on-one nature of the race, and other factors.</p> <p>Jackson – a former Community School Board President in the 1990s and the only Muslim City Council Member during his 12-year tenure – is running for the seat for the third straight eletion, having lost to former senator, now U.S. Representative Adriano Espaillat in 2014 and Alcántara is 2016 (he also ran unsuccessfully for Manhattan borough president in 2013 as he was term-limited out of the Council). While last time around Jackson warned of Alcántara’s ties to the IDC, this time he is using her membership in the conference against her as he tries to unseat her, while she touts bills she has been able to pass and funding for the district she has been able to secure as the results of that IDC membership.</p> <p>“I’m helping to flip a seat,” Jackson said on a recent <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7836-max-murphy-podcast-manhattan-state-senate-rematch-centered-on-breakaway-democrats" target="_blank" rel="noopener">episode</a> of Max &amp; Murphy on WBAI radio, during which both candidates separately appeared, responding to a question of whether or not Democrats should focus their attention on flipping Republican seats rather than challenging incumbent Democrats, “where you basically have a Trump Democrat, a turncoat Democrat, a rogue Democrat, representing the district.”</p> <p>Alcántara, on the other hand, refuted the idea that joining the IDC – which has been criticized for helping to block the passage of key progressive legislation like the DREAM Act and the Reproductive Health Act, both issues that she says she supports in her reelection campaign – affected her decision-making in Albany. “I have never taken a vote in the Senate that has been against my principles, as a trade unionist or as an immigrant, as a Latina,” she told Max &amp; Murphy. “So, I’m very proud of my record.”</p> <p><strong>The 2016 Election</strong><br /> When Espaillat left the New York State Senate in 2016 to join Congress, Alcántara made her bid for the newly empty Senate District 31 seat, as did Jackson and fellow Democrats Micah Lasher and Luis Tejada. Alcántara won the primary, with 8,309 votes, and Lasher and Jackson trailed closely behind, at 7,737 and 7,616, respectively. Tejada received 1,253 votes. Lasher is not running this year and has instead thrown his support behind Jackson. Tejada is not running either.</p> <p>While she was overlooked for support by most Democratic officials and clubs, labor unions, and others, Alcántara found support from the IDC, receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars and political support from the group, which was looking to grow its ranks. She <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/09/alcantara-wins-race-to-replace-fellow-latino-espaillat-105438" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reportedly</a> did not publicly commit herself to the breakaway coalition during the campaign, but, on the night of her victory, Alcántara’s spokesperson announced that she would be joining its ranks in Albany.</p> <p>It is Alcántara’s IDC membership that is the core of Jackson’s challenge.</p> <p>“If you truly believe you’re a Democrat, then stand with the Democrats,” Jackson said on Max &amp; Murphy. “Micah Lasher and I took a pledge, we raised our right hand two years ago and said we will always be Democrats fighting for the people of our district, not selling them down the river.”</p> <p>Alcántara defended the dissolved coalition, arguing that the IDC’s existence did not change the fact that Democrats would still not have held a majority in the Senate, but also that her values and the policies she stood for were not put in peril by her membership. “Marriage equality was done with a coalition government. Raise the Age was done with a coalition government. Paid family leave was done with a coalition government. A lot of free college tuition was done with a coalition government, also,” she said of policies that have been passed through a Republican-IDC led state Senate over the past several years.</p> <p><strong>Policy</strong><br />Both candidates espouse similar policy issues as the pillars for their senatorial campaigns. If reelected, Alcántara has a <a href="https://www.marisolalcantarany.com/10-point-action-plan-1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Ten Point Action Plan</a> that deals with issues ranging from immigrant protections to gun control. Likewise, Jackson’s platform, according to his <a href="https://www.voterobertjackson.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">campaign website</a>, devotes attention to nine separate issues, spanning his views on topics like education and the environment. The candidates’ policy positions show a lot of overlap, and they cite similar legislation they want to see passed through Albany next year, though they do prioritize some different bills.</p> <p>At the top of Alcántara’s agenda is the issue of immigrant rights, namely the Dream Act, a bill she co-sponsors that would allow undocumented immigrants and their children access to state financial aid for college, as well as a farmworkers’ rights bill; meanwhile, Jackson’s campaign has been less outspoken on immigrant rights and his campaign website makes no mention of the Dream Act, which has not passed the Senate along with many other top Democratic priorities, a fact Jackson linked to his opponent and the IDC, while Alcántara blamed a Republican Senate majority.</p> <p>“When you look at what has occurred in the tenure since the IDC, Marisol Alcántara included as one of those, nothing has been passed as far as legislation that benefits the people I represent,” Jackson said on Max &amp; Murphy. Along with the Dream Act, Jackson mentioned bills dealing with rent control, health care, and women’s reproductive rights, all of which are listed in both Alcántara’s and Jackson’s platforms. He’s consistently had education funding at the top of his agenda over decades and believes that New York City schools are owed billions more from the state as a result of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit.</p> <p>Alcántara highlights her own accomplishments, especially related to Latinas. During her two year tenure in the state Senate, Alcántara says she has secured over $7 million in state funding to her district, using these resources to develop community-based organizations such as Upper Manhattan’s first LGBTQ Youth Homeless Center and the establishment of the Immigrant Defense Fund, which provides free legal services to documented and undocumented immigrants. She has also invested $500,000 into implementing a pilot program that works to reduce class sizes for English language learning students -- “Such as myself,” Alcántara, who moved to the United States at age 12 from the Dominican Republic, added on Max &amp; Murphy -- and has worked to address issues on the Senate floor that have traditionally not been spotlighted.</p> <p>“I addressed issues in the Senate in terms of issues with Latina suicide that had never been addressed before,” the senator said. “My bill, which talks about why there’s such a high number of African-American women and women of African descent that died after childbirth, that was never addressed before in the Senate.”</p> <p>Jackson has said that Alcántara only focuses on the northern part of the district, where she got the bulk of her votes in 2016 and which is heavily Latino. She has staked some of her argument for reelection on the fact that she is the only Latina in the Senate, while Jackson dismissed any concern with unseating her and removing a woman and the lone Latina senator from office, saying that demographic qualities don’t supercede making the right, or wrong, choices while in office.</p> <p>Still, the two agree on much policy -- the senator and her challenger have both announced their support for two key pieces of legislation in regards to reproductive rights, the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act and the Reproductive Health Act, which would, respectively, mandate insurance coverage for contraceptive options and uphold a woman’s right to choose contraception or an abortion. Both Alcántara and Jackson support the passage of the New York Health Act, another bill that Alcántara co-sponsors, which would establish universal health coverage to New Yorkers statewide.</p> <p>Affordable housing and voting reform are other key issues across this year’s races, including in the Alcántara-Jackson contest. For the former, both candidates have campaigned on the promise to repeal vacancy decontrol and set an end to vacancy bonuses. For the latter, both support the establishment of early voting, no-excuse absentee ballots, and same day voter registration. Additionally, Alcántara and Jackson support the establishment of a public campaign financing program and closure of the Limited Liability Companies loophole, which allows entities to donate virtually limitless sums to candidates by using various LLCs.</p> <p><strong>Campaign Finance Picture</strong><br />Alcántara and her former IDC mates find themselves in controversy given that a state Supreme Court <a href="https://www.timesunion.com/news/article/IDC-Independence-campaign-finance-deal-declared-12975561.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener">ruled</a> as illegal a campaign financing deal struck between the IDC and the Independence Party – which allowed the IDC and Senator Klein as its leader to raise its own funds despite not being a political party and to funnel unlimited amounts to its candidates. Critics and constituents alike have called for Alcántara and other former IDC members to return the money raised through the account, but thus far it appears that the parties involved met the only court-mandated requirement involving details of how the account is registered. Former IDC members have said they have no intention of returning the money, though the State Board of Elections Enforcement Counsel, Risa Sugarman, has said they should. The issue has become a major point of attack from Jackson and other IDC challengers.</p> <p>In response to a caller’s question as to why she has not returned the money she received through the account, Alcántara said, “The money that we spent in 2016 was spent. My attorneys have not received any letters stating that I have to give money back. I will do whatever the court says I have to do.”</p> <p>January to July, Alcántara raised $116,000 for her reelection campaign, falling short of her $130,000 expenditures it that time, according to July campaign finance filings. Additionally, she received about $66,000 from the IDC committee in question, and had about $132,000 cash on hand at the filing.</p> <p>Jackson has claimed 8,800 campaign donations, with an average contribution of $31, according to his campaign office, which pointed out that Alcántara had received only 503 donations. Jackson raised a little more than $156,00 in the most recent six-month filing period, and had raised a total of $284,490 for this race as of mid-July. At that filing, he had about $158,000 on hand to spend.</p> <p><strong>Endorsements</strong><br />A string of city and state figures have endorsed Jackson to be the next State Senator of the 31st District. These figures include the New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, former Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger, gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, and various others. Organizations such as the Working Families Party, No IDC NY and Tenants PAC have also thrown their support behind Jackson. Additionally, while Jackson holds the endorsements of 15 Democratic clubs within the district – all of District 31’s Democratic clubs save for the Northern Manhattan Democrats for Change – Alcántara lacks the endorsement of any of the district’s clubs, according to the Jackson campaign and a review of Alcántara’s endorsement list.</p> <p>Alcántara, meanwhile, currently holds the endorsement of Senate Minority Leader Stewart-Cousins, City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Senators Roxanne Persaud and Velmanette Montgomery, as well as of a wide variety of labor unions, such as the Uniformed Firefighters Association, the Transport Workers Union Local 100, the New York State Nurses Association and Uniformed EMTs. She also has the tacit support of Gov. Cuomo, who said when announcing the Democratic Senate unity deal that the parties involved would not support primaries against any of the others involved.</p> <p>In a telling sign of which way the wind is blowing, however, Espaillat -- who strongly backed Alcántara as his successor in 2016 -- says he’s not taking a side. “I’m staying neutral,” he told Gotham Gazette on Wednesday, when asked if he’s backing Alcántara again this year. “I decided not to get involved, I spoke to her, I spoke to Robert - and let the community decide.”</p> <p>

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by Chelsey Sanchez, Gotham Gazette
@chelseynsanchez  @GothamGazette

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