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Local Politics: Where Your Vote Really Matters

If You Live in NY Senate District 34, Alessandra Biaggi Has Earned Your Vote

If you follow politics, even tangentially, you are no doubt aware of the shenanigans of our current president and his team. You should continue to pay attention, as their actions threaten core pillars of our constitutional democracy, such as free press, fair elections, and the rule of law. But please don’t lose focus on elections in your own backyard, wherever you live. Local and state government have direct effects on our well-being and quality of life.

In my last post (subsequently printed in my local newspaper), I described how my New York State Senator, Jeffrey Klein, and seven of his colleagues have caucused with Republicans for eight years. This has enabled them to enrich their power under the fallacious argument that they have been advancing issues in a bipartisan manner. However, bipartisanship requires that politicians advocate for the core values of their party, under which banner they were elected. If you empower the other party and turn your back on the causes of your own, that is not bipartisanship--that is a dirty deal for your constituents.

Much has been written about the way these Senators (called the Independent Democratic Conference, or IDC) handed power to Republicans in abandonment of progressive causes, thus drawing outrage from a number of voters. Klein and his fellow IDC members have clearly showed their hands all these years. But enough about the IDC. Here, I would like to make an enthusiastic case in favor of Klein’s challenger Alessandra Biaggi. Voting for her is not just a statement against the IDC; Biaggi’s experience, character, values, and energy make her exactly the right person to represent our district in Albany. This is why she has received a number of recent endorsements, including from The New York Times, the Sierra Club, and US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

Take her stance on the issues. Biaggi will fight to protect reproductive rights, ensure access to affordable health care, and stand against sexual harassment and domestic violence. She will fight for New York City public schools to receive the full funding they are owed under New York State law. She seeks to enhance ballot access and protect voting rights in New York. She will vote in favor of immigrant rights, by supporting the New York State Dream Act and Liberty Act.

I could say more. Go to the Alessandra Biaggi website for more details.

A public servant’s value is not only in the issues she supports but in the kind of person she is. Having met Biaggi on a couple of occasions, I can vouch that she is an attentive listener, taking questions from potential constituents and hearing their concerns. A lifelong resident of the district, she has traveled from end to end, meeting voters in Throggs Neck and Riverdale, Mount Vernon and Soundview, Pelham Bay and Castle Hill. It is a singularly diverse district, and Biaggi’s continued listening tour has been essential for her to know the concerns of a varied mix of people.

When you meet Alessandra Biaggi, you notice that her energy is palpable; she brings a genuine excitement to the room. She is enthusiastic not only about discussing the issues and her experience, but also about connecting to voters. Though she is campaigning from morning through night, I have not seen her energy flag. If anything, these candidate-voter interactions are driving her and adding to her reservoir of strength.

She is persistent. It was “not her turn” to run for State Senate. She should have deferred to a more experienced candidate. Moreover, her opponent has 14 years in office; why change now? Biaggi is not the type to stop at “No.” She engages voters on the street and knocks on doors to advocate for issues; she has fought consistently to break down barriers to civic engagement, through community organizing and civic workshops.

But you want experience. How about this? Biaggi has degrees from New York University and Fordham Law School, and is a graduate of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University. Upon obtaining her law degree, she held a number of jobs across the city and served as Assistant General Counsel for Governor Cuomo’s Office of Storm Recovery, working with small businesses and municipalities to rebuild New York after Hurricane Sandy. During the 2016 presidential election, she was the Deputy National Operations Director for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, where she managed a budget of $500 million, as well as 38 state directors and 45 staff.

Just before launching her campaign at the beginning of 2018, she worked for the Governor’s Counsel’s Office, focusing on the Council for Women & Girls and New York State’s women’s policy agenda. In that position, she advocated for women’s reproductive health and the passage of the Reproductive Health Act and the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act. She also discovered just how difficult it was to navigate the legislative waters in Albany, where a divided Assembly and Senate (empowered by the IDC) kept much progressive legislation from becoming law. More than anything, this prompted her to enter the race and seek to make a difference.

If you live in NY Senate District 34, you have probably seen the Biaggi signs and perhaps met a Biaggi canvasser. This is a grassroots campaign, relying on no corporate support, small donations, and the efforts of a committed group of people. This group is growing by the day, and if you are not yet connected, you should definitely talk to one of its members or learn more on the Biaggi campaign website.

If you are not in this district, I’m sure you have a local race that should pique your interest. Maybe you live in one of the other districts represented by a rogue IDC member. If not, you should in any case see what’s going on in your local community races or at the State level.

The point is this: One response to the current president and his criminal co-conspirators is by paying attention on a national level--watching and reading the news, going online, and participating in protest rallies. We should keep doing this. But local politics matter just as much, and if we can get more honest, progressive, dedicated, and energetic people like Alessandra Biaggi in office, this will pay off through stronger public policy, an enhanced voice on behalf of regular citizens, and respectful public discourse.

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