The following is a guest post by Michael Shanley
Right here in the Bronx, this year, we have a perfect example of why elections, especially local elections matter, and why you should get involved and vote in the Democratic primary for Senate District 34 on Thursday September 13.
Newcomer Alessandra Biaggi, a 32-year-old, Fordham Law graduate with Bedford Park, Mosholu Parkway and Pelham roots, has thrown her hat in the ring with full force. Her opponent is incumbent Sen. Jeff Klein, a political juggernaut and among the most power elected officials in Albany.
Why do we need to replace Klein? Many Democrats feel betrayed and are quite angry with him. In 2011, Klein was the leader in forming the IDC, the Independent Democratic Conference, an eight-member group of renegade State Senators who were elected as Democrats, but voted as Republicans. With these additional eight IDC votes, State Republicans have been able to hold the majority in the NY State Senate and have blocked nearly all progressive legislation from becoming law. The result was that it was impossible to pass legislation we need to protect renters, keep and expand affordable housing, protect women’s rights, make sure everyone can vote, and much more.
Take women’s reproductive rights. While working in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Counsel’s Office, Alessandra Biaggi saw firsthand the obstructionist influence of Sen. Jeff Klein’s IDC.
“We think of New York as a progressive leader among states, but our laws on abortion are totally out of date,” Alessandra says. “For example, if a woman finds out late in her pregnancy that her fetus is no longer viable, she still has to carry it to term. With Roe v. Wade at risk now nationally, it is essential that New York update its law. I thought it would be simple to pass the Reproductive Health Act here in New York, but thanks to Jeff Klein’s turncoat Democrats, it was impossible. That’s when I knew I had to run against him.”
Klein will be tough to beat. All incumbents are, and Klein has a huge war chest, thanks to big donations from many special interests, like landlords, real estate developers and other companies seeking favors in Albany. In his most recent report on campaign contributions, Klein got more than 80% of his contributions from corporations, LLCs and PACs, and only 123 from individuals. Biaggi got most of her contributions from more than 3,000 individuals.
With not much more than passion, energy and a clear progressive platform, Biaggi has built a formidable grass roots movement. To date, more than 500 individuals have volunteered. Recently, on a rainy July evening, approximately 100 supporters gathered in Van Cortlandt Park to cheer her on. This rally was volunteers who collected thousands of signatures from District 34 Democrats to officially put Alessandra Biaggi on the ballot.
“I am so grateful for the support I’ve received from so many people in the Bronx,” Biaggi says. “I’m building a campaign based on the people of the district because that’s the kind of State Senator I will be, one who works hard to represent all the people of the district, not special interests providing big campaign contributions looking for favors.”
Can a young woman beat an establishment powerhouse? The Bronx has already provided a clear answer. How could Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a young Latina from the Bronx, possibly defeat Joseph Crowley, the popular and powerful chair of the House Democratic Caucus? How could a startup, grassroots campaign compete with one of the Democratic Party’s most successful fundraisers? Crowley was a shoe-in, most assumed. But despite all the naysayers, Ocasio-Cortez won, and she won handsomely, proving money can’t buy hustle!
Biaggi has been endorsed and is being supported by 80 groups, unions and progressive and women’s organizations, including 32BJ SEIU and UAW Region 9A. She has also been endorsed by City Comptroller Scott Stringer and City Council Speaker Cory Johnson, among others.
If the name Biaggi rings a bell, it should. Alessandra is the granddaughter of an urban legend, Mario Biaggi. At the time of his retirement from the NYPD, he was the most decorated officer in NYPD history. After leaving the force, and he got a law degree and returned to public service. For 19 years, Mario Biaggi, served the people of The Bronx in the United States House of Representatives. He was beloved by most and was often reelected with over 80% of the vote.
“I was lucky to be able to spend a great deal of time with my grandfather and I learned so much from him about politics, government and the importance of being accessible to your constituents.” Biaggi said. “People constantly come up and tell me about how Mario helped them. But his serious mistake, for which my entire family paid a price, is also an important lesson about honesty and not even coming close to crossing any lines.”
To find out more about Alessandra Biaggi’s progressive platform and people powered campaign, visit www.Biaggi4NY.com
The following neighborhoods are in District 34: Allerton, City Island, Country Club, Eastchester, Fieldston, Hudson Hill, Hunts Point, Jerome Park, Kingsbridge, Morris Park, North Mount Vernon, North Riverdale, Parkchester, Pelham Bay, Pelham Manor, Pelham Parkway, Rikers Island, Riverdale, Schuylerville, Soundview, Spuyten Duyvil, Throggs Neck, Unionport, University Heights, Village of Pelham, Woodlawn.
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