On May 20th, just six months after I launched my campaign for District Leader, I decided to unveil my endorsements for the 2020 primary election. It was an honor and a joy to run for District Leader in Part A of New York’s 36th Assembly District. It sure was a hectic time, but I gave it my all. Unfortunately, I was removed from the ballot and consequently suspended my campaign. You can read more about that here.
While that was a difficult decision, our movement has not ended. It lives on in all of us. It also lives on in each of the eight candidates I’ve chosen to endorse. These candidates each offer something special. Between their platforms, their stories, their records, and even their organizing abilities, I’m proud of these grassroots candidates fighting to transform our Democratic Party.
I endorsed Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for President on January 20th because he is a courageous movement candidate. After a contentious back and forth court battle, Bernie Sanders and his delegates will remain on the ballot in New York. Bernie suspended his campaign, and I understand how tough that decision can be. My endorsement of him still stands. We must keep fighting for the movement. #NotMeUs
Now with four weeks left before the New York Democratic Primary on June 23rd, I encourage you all to consider the following seven endorsements. This diverse group of progressive grassroots candidates are determined, compassionate, and fearless. I know in my heart that they will continue fighting the good fight. Make sure to apply for an absentee ballot by June 16th to vote for them in the Democratic Primary.
1. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
As Congresswoman of NY-14, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has done a phenomenal job representing our district. People voted for her to deliver on a progressive agenda, and she has lived up to that every single day. The Congresswoman single-handedly changed the Democratic Party with her political discourse around ideas like a Green New Deal, Abolishing I.C.E, and her Just Society legislation.
While in Washington, she has been bold in challenging the status quo. She is a member of the Oversight Committee, and her interrogations are purely epic, like when she eviscerated Gilead’s CEO on their exorbitant prices for HIV preventative medication, Truvada. Gilead later released their patent early as a way to start lowering the price.
Back here in the district, the Congresswoman spoke with constituents at the town hall I co-organized late last year. She offered us great insight to her work behind the scenes, showed her compassion to those hurting in the district, and staunchly defended Medicare for All. Lately, she’s been in the Bronx and Queens delivering food and supplies to constituents. She’s even raised almost half a million dollars for her COVID-19 relief efforts.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the future of our party. If we want a better future, we need an outstanding representative like her to stay in Congress. Vote for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez by June 23.
2. James Felton Keith II
Up until this week, James Felton Keith II was running for Congress to represent Harlem, Inwood, Washington Heights, Spanish Harlem, and parts of Upper Manhattan. The area has become more gentrified over the last decade, and I can attest to that.
When I first moved to New York, I lived in Harlem for eight months. While I was there, I explored Riverside Park, went on runs along the West Side Highway, shopped at Fairway Market, took the overcrowded 1 train in the mornings, and occasionally went out to eat in the area. It gave me perspective on the wealth inequality and racial injustice happening in New York City.
That’s where James comes in. His platform of universal basic income and progressive policies like Medicare for All can truly help the people in his district. While the current representative has done some good work for the district, he simply does not go far enough. Look at Jame’s platform. He’s brining big ideas to the table in a way that matches the scale of the problems in the district.
As one of the few queer millennials of color running for office, his victory would have been a turning point in the area’s history. Although he’s suspended his campaign due to illness, I admire what he’s accomplished up to this point. You don’t alway have to win to make a difference.
3. Samelys López
In a crowded field, Samelys stands out as the most energized campaign with the most comprehensive platform. Her website is very thorough and outlines a clear vision for the district.
After meeting her in December of 2020, I was instantly amazed by her warmth and her passion. She spoke in front a small Bronx restaurant with such fire that the whole room was hooked. All folks have to do is just watch her speak and learn about her campaign. She’s one of a kind.
While people like to compare her to AOC, I can say that Samelys is a fighter all her own. She has the lived experience of growing up homeless, and that’s invaluable when taking on the housing crisis. Have you seen her campaign video? It focuses on the rampant red lining in the Bronx, which plays right into the borough’s history and its struggles.
Samelys is advocating for a #HomesGuarantee and excellent policies throughout her platform. If you’re looking for a fighter who’s ready to deliver for the people, then please donate to and vote for Samelys López for Congress!
4. Zohran Mamdani
Back in the earlier days when I started as a member of my Democratic Club, I remember this really friendly guy who seemed to have people gravitate towards him. He always had a bright smile, and then during one of our meetings, he introduced himself to me. His name was Zohran. I don’t remember everything we talked about, but I distinctly remember his lasting impression. Little did I know that years later, he would take a chance and run for office.
At Zohran’s campaign launch event, he gave a moving speech about the struggles of the Muslim population and lack of representation in New York politics. Everyone there had the eyes transfixed on his every word. I couldn’t believe how incredibly passionate and thoughtful he was. By the end of his speech, I was simply blown away. His ability to lead with compassion is exactly what we need.
He’s running as a strong Democratic Socialist ready to transform the local party. He platform includes the typical socialist agenda, which is much like Bernie’s, but I particularly admire the attention he brings to the Queens Democratic Party. The corrupt machine style politics in the borough has had a stronghold on the New York Democratic Party for decades. There’s a reason why our district isn’t championing progressive policies. It’s not because those ideas aren’t popular. For example, Cynthia Nixon, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders, and Tiffany Cabán all won this district on their progressive platforms. Why don’t we have progressive representation that matches the people of Astoria? It’s because the Queens Machine and those who enable it are in it for themselves. Support Zohran if you want to dismantle the Queens Machine and send a strong progressive to Albany.
5. Melissa Bair
Melissa Bair is one of the strongest advocates I know for transforming our local Democratic Party. The party’s top-down structure has impacted the operations and relationships within the Queens Democratic Party. While some see it as an organization, others feel excluded or even silenced. Melissa Bair saw it as an opportunity.
After noticing the empty seats at the table, she knew the best way to make a difference is to do something about it. In late 2019, she created an Accountability Pledge for all elected officials and candidates running for public office. It’s a pledge that reaffirms their commitment to supporting the bottom-up structure of how participatory (small “d”) democracy was always intended to work. Since she started the pledge, she’s gotten over 20 Queens elected officials and candidates to sign that pledge!
I’ve organized with Melissa Bair and have seen firsthand how incredibly hard she works. She’s a nurse practioner, a mother, and a Bernie supporter. Her determination and compassion are inspiring! We need more mothers and nurses involved in our politics. Let’s support Melissa Bair for Female District Leader AD30b and support changing our local party!
6. Shawna Morlock
Shawna is one of the greatest organizers I’ve ever met. She does incredible work in person as well as with digital organizing. If there’s a way for her to lend a helping hand, she most certainly will.
Her willingness to help others is truly one of the best examples I’ve seen of the #NotMeUs mantra. Whether it’s handing out flyers, knocking on doors, driving you home, or even taking care of you in a time of need, Shawna is always there for her community.
Shawna is running for Female District Leader in AD36B, which is the northern and western part of Astoria. After all her organizing and time in the district, she knows our community block by block. Better yet, she’s ready to be the fierce advocate progressives need in the party. She’s not afraid to hold back, and that’s a good quality when calling out corruption and injustice. Follow her on Twitter and watch her breathe that fire!
7. Maria Kaufer
While Maria is not seeking endorsements, I knew deep down that she is most deserving of the extra attention. She is one of Queens’ top players of grassroots democratic politics. One of Maria’s best qualities is that she leads with her heart. Every conversation or exchange with Maria is thoughtful. Her wisdom and political savvy are refreshing at a time when so many people have given up on politics. Maria fortunately never gives up on the people.
As a true champion for small “d” democracy, she works tirelessly to make sure all voices have a seat at the table. No matter how or big small of an issue, Maria has a way of providing sage advice and providing comfort. That’s a remarkable quality for a leader. The people of Forest Hills in AD28A would be lucky to have her as their Female District Leader!
Congratulations, Alex, James, Samelys, Zohran, Melissa, Shawna, and Maria! I know how hard all of you have been working this primary season. Your campaigns inspire hope in all of us. You’re valued members in this movement, and your campaigns are proof that a better future for the Democratic Party is possible. Keep on fighting!
How to vote in New York’s Democratic Primary on June 23rd:
To vote in the New York Democratic Primary, follow these steps below:
- Check your Voter Registration. Everyone who participates in this election must be an active registered Democrat. That means you must have voted in at least one election in the past four years. You must also be a registered voter with the Democratic Party. You can lookup your voter registration here. The deadline to update your voter registration is May 29, 2020. You can register to vote here. You can update your registration here by going to the correct section on the NYS BOE FAQ page.
- Apply for a Mail-In Ballot. The Governor of New York has declared that all New Yorkers will be able to vote-by-mail in this primary election. In order to vote by mail, you first must apply for a ballot. Voting laws in New York are pretty antiquated, so they cannot just mail you a ballot. Please take a minute to apply for an absentee ballot.
- Vote in person (at your own risk). The Governor has extended the PAUSE order for New York City through June 13th. That’s also the first day of early voting. New York has early voting, which means some polling locations are open 10 days before an election. Early voting runs between June 13th to June 21st. The actual day of the primary election is Tuesday, June 23rd. Please note that early voting locations are not the same polling locations used on the day of the election. You can find yours here (once it’s updated for 2020).
Best of luck to all the progressive candidates running for office! Every public or party office is important, so I hope you all take the time to vote in the Democratic Primary by June 23rd!