I never thought it would come to this, but just two months before the election, I have to suspend my campaign for District Leader in Assembly District 36, Part A. This is not something I ever wanted to do, but I have absolutely no choice. Here’s what happened.
On Thursday, April 23rd, the New York City Board of Elections declared that our candidacy must be removed from the ballot in the state’s Democratic Primary. My name will be removed because a portion of our petition signatures were invalidated. This dropped our number of valid petition signatures just below the required threshold.
Our campaign collected 187 signatures. I’ve collected signatures before for various campaigns, such as Cynthia Nixon for Governor, Tiffany Cabán for Queens District Attorney, and a number of Bernie Delegates in NY-14 and NY-12. It’s not the most fun aspect of the political process, but it’s mandatory for all New York candidates. Unfortunately, 51 of our signatures were deemed invalid.
Signatures can be deemed invalid based on the following criteria of the signer: name, address, voter registration, and/or signature. If these do not exactly match what’s in the signer’s voter file in the Board of Election’s database, then those signatures (signers) are deemed invalid. For example, if the signer writes his name as “Nick” but the name on his voter file is “Nicholas,” then the signer on the petition could be invalidated. One technicality we saw in our petition signatures was voter registration. There were a number of signers who confirmed with us that they were a registered Democrat. Unfortunately, after checking their voter registration, they were one of three things: registered as a Democrat to vote outside of the district, registered as “unaffiliated” or not as a Democrat, or simply not registered at all. Please check your voter registration if you’re a Democrat living (and voting) in New York.
Defects like that caused our final number to get reduced to 136, which is just 14 signatures under the required number of 150. Keep in mind, the 150 number is the new requirement New York Governor Cuomo tweeted amidst the circumstance of the COVID — 19 pandemic. While we could’ve collected more signatures the last few days before the March 17th deadline, I decided that the health and safety of my community was more important than securing a spot on the ballot. This pandemic is a matter of life or death for some people. If not getting on the ballot is the worse that can happen, then I consider myself very lucky.
They say to live every moment like it’s your last, so I ran my campaign like we were 10 points behind. I cherished every moment as a candidate. I made sure to give it my all and that’s exactly what I did. Our campaign is extremely proud of what we accomplished in the past five months:
- Earned two endorsements: Our Progressive Future and Forward Thinking Democracy
- Raised almost $3,000 with an average donation of $23.38.
- Received contributions from supporters across 15 states.
- Wrote an open letter to the Queens Democratic Party calling on them to refrain from endorsing in the Democratic Presidential Primary. (They didn’t endorse.)
- Attended, participated, and/or organized over 40 events!
- Created and gave a presentation on “Organizing in the Digital Space”
- Wrote a guide on “How to Run for District Leader”
My proudest accomplishment from this campaign:
- Recruiting, training, and organizing 14 candidates to run for the Queens County Committee.
- 7 of those candidates made it on the ballot!
It’s true: we were the only campaign in the AD36 Part A race that was cultivating leadership at the local level as part of our goal to transform the Democratic Party from the bottom up. The Queens County Committee is the local organization of the Democratic Party. Now the party has new faces, new ideas to explore, and more people invited into the fold. I’m very proud of that.
So now the inevitable: what’s next?
First, I’d like to thank everyone who made this run possible. That includes my best friend, some of my closest comrades, Bernie supporters, my family, my boyfriend, and of course, some of my political favorites: Tiffany Cabán, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Bernie Sanders. All of them played a role in showing me that the unthinkable is possible. The positive encouragement from my loved ones and the inspirational messages from my political favorites really showed me that I am capable of so much more than once I thought. I’m grateful for that.
Second, I’d like to share that my political journey is far from over. My main goal during this campaign was to win the election for District Leader. However, thanks to my prior petitioning experience, I had a suspicion that my petitions would be challenged at some point. In case I was knocked off the ballot for District Leader, I created a backup plan. I decided to run for County Committee member simultaneously, which technically, you can do. While I collected signatures for my District Leader petition, I carried a set of petitions for County Committee. Now I can say that I’m officially the Male County Committee Member for Assembly District 36 in Election District 31. Looks like I’ll be on the Queens County Committee after all!
Third, the spirit of my campaign does not end today. Calling out the injustices within the democratic process, fighting for the working class, supporting the ideology behind democratic socialism, holding our leaders accountable, and advocating for progressive policies are all aspects that defined our campaign. These actions are on-going. I of course will continue to fight as an organizer and activist for the progressive movement in any capacity that’s best suited for the greater good.
Fourth, I will endorse a number of progressive candidates who I believe truly exemplify my values. These candidates are not just progressive but transformative. Be on the lookout in May.
Fifth, the money we raised was always intended to support our progressive campaign. Now that it’s suspended, I will donate a portion of it to the progressive candidates who I intend to endorse. They’re remarkable grassroots candidates who deserve every penny. Another portion of the remaining funds will be donated to The New Reformers. They guided me throughout my campaign. I look forward to working with them to elect the next wave of progressive leaders.
Sixth, I will continue to fight alongside my fellow organizers and activists at Queens County Committee for All (QCC4All) and The New Reformers. Our goal is to grow our movement, and I will do everything I can to make that happen.
Finally, I want to give a big thank you to all of our supporters! We couldn’t have gotten this far without you! A huge thank you to our volunteers, many of who never volunteered for a political campaign before! Thank you to my friends Chris & Caleb for hosting our fabulous Game Night Fundraiser! Thank you to Paul from La Sala for letting us host our Drinking for Democracy Fundraiser! Thank you for Katelin for speaking with us and letting us speak at your Our Progressive Future Town Hall! Thank you Elliot for letting me share my story on your blog! Thank you Eric for designing our website! It turned out amazing! Thank you Daniel for the outstanding photos! I’m grateful for your talent and your friendship! Thank you to Vivian for designing our awesome logo and our flyers! They turned out way better than I could have imagined. Thank you Jose for taking care of our fundraising and for all your advice! Your advice was the most valuable thing I could have beside your friendship. I’m eternally grateful.
The past five months have been the most rewarding months of my life. My campaign inspired people in our district and around the country. Although my campaign will not be on the ballot, I hope this does not discourage others from trying to run for office. I’d like to leave you all with an excerpt from my interview with Forward Thinking Democracy:
What is your message to other progressives running for office?
My advice for other progressives running for office is to always do these three things: listen to your community, do the work, and never give up. Your community will guide you on how you can best serve them. Listening is always important. Doing the work is not glamorous, but it certainly makes you a better candidate. That work may include researching the issues, crafting policies, knocking on doors, making calls, or simply meeting with people in the community. It can be very challenging to manage it all, but it must be done. Finally, never giving up is the most important of all. There will be days when it gets tough. There will be times when things look bleak. Progressives are not always well accepted in the Democratic Party. By showing up for the important battles is the best thing progressives can do. It shows that we care and that we’re committed. Even if a progressive candidate loses their election, they can still be active in their community after the election. That’s how our movement will grow and live on.
You can read the full interview here.