Election day with a homemade candidate

What do you do when you have very little money to fund your political campaign?

That’s the dilemma facing Luis Tejada, the activist candidate in the District 31 New York State Senate election. He raised a meager $4,101, when his opponents Marisol Alcantara, Robert Jackson, and Micah Lasher raised $57,140, $11,920, and $453,467 respectively

The North Polls followed him on the morning of the elections to experience Tejada’s homemade campaign.

8 A.M.: setting up sidewalk signs sisnce dawn

Tejada’s been up since 4AM this morning, personally handing sidewalk signs to the handful of volunteers on his campaign and instructing them on what to do. His improvised office on 139th Street & Broadway is the designated storage room for the day. “It’s hard for me because I don’t have the money to pay for a big campaign.” he says. At the same time, he believes that the lack of money also brings more sincerity and integrity to his campaign: “people who do it [campaigning] for free do it for their ideas, but when you pay people, you don’t have commitment.”

8:15-11:30: handling the campaign around District 31

Tejada has a small but dedicated team of volunteer campaign workers ready to get out the vote around the district.  But they need flyers and leaflets. In a homemade campaign, that’s the job of the candidate himself, who makes sure to keep his troops well-supplied.

Tejada (on the left) stops by on 135th and Broadway

Tajeda relies on support from the Hispanic community but is concerned that some of them might not be familiar with the American voting procedure.  Hence part of his volunteers’ job is to hand out flyers with comprehensive instructions on how to cast a ballot.

On election day, every inch of pavement is up for grabs when it comes to campaigning, hence the importance of sidewalk sign placement.

The art of election sign positioning is an exact science, every inch counts! @luistejadanyc #northattan

A video posted by Louis Baudoin-Laarman (@kaplouis) on Sep 13, 2016 at 6:41am PDT

On a quiet street corner of Washington Heights, we pick up Pedro Tejada, a distant relative of Luis, from the same village in the Dominican Republic. Pedro has been handing out flyers for a while but his street corner is not very busy, so we are driving him to a new location a few streets away. “I help him [Luis Tejada] when he needs more people for volunteering.”, says Pedro in Spanish with a chuckle.

Before dropping off Pedro, our car stops at a red light next to a large SUV. Inside, Robert Jackson is sitting in the back, with two drivers in the front, and another car full of campaign members following behind. Our car has room for Tejada,  Pedro, a reporter and the boxes of posers and flyers. From his seat a few feet above us, Jackson greets Tejada: “You have yourself a good day!”

At the Fort Washington Housing Authority, one of the largest polling stations in district 31, several people come out of the both with smiles and shake Tejada’s hand. .

“Did you vote for me?” Tejada asks an elderly lady he recognizes.
She does not reply, and at last her daughter says yes, although one of Alcantara’s flyers is sticking out of the lady’s purse.


Volunteers don’t only need flyers, they need to know that their candidate is there for them. Each time we cross one of their teams, Tejada stops to greet them and boost morale.


11:30: voting, interviews, and printer problems

At 11:30, Tejada is due at his home on Riverside Drive, where two television crews are waiting to film him cast his ballot at the polling station in his building. “457 families live here, he says, I hope they vote for me. Last elections I won this building.”

After the interviews, we make a quick stop by his apartment to print out forms for his volunteers, but the printer is not working. Tejada is not a man who gets easily discouraged however: we return to Hamilton Heights by car without the forms. Tejada continues his campaigning and we part ways.




Rodriguez runs for third term

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Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez is running for a third term. Credit: Campaign website

By Louis Baudoin-Laarman

Robert Jay Rodriguez, 40, has no Democratic challengers for his District 68 Assembly seat.

So the two-term assemblyman will face Republican candidate Daby Carreras in November.

A native of East Harlem, Rodriguez was immersed in city politics before he even started his political career, as he is the son of former New York Councilman Robert Rodriguez.

Since winning the District 68 seat, Rodriguez has often worked with State Senator José M. Serrano, who also represents East Harlem. Together, the two representatives frequently visit public facilities in their neighborhood to meet their constituents. 

This year, Rodriguez is also running on the Women’s Equality Party ticket.

Rodriguez received $268,616 in contributions for 2015 and 2016, according to the state Board of Elections.

Campaign platform

  • Creating the New York State Senior Center Council. The council is a legislative body that will discuss challenges facing senior centers across the state. The bill has been approved by the Assembly but still needs to be signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
  • Advocating for the Move New York Fair Plan, which aims to reform New York’s saturated transportation network through the establishment of tolls on seven of the city’s bridges on the East River and the extension of the public transportation network.

“For far too long there are communities in New York City that are cut off from mass transit,” said Rodriguez at a press conference.

  • Changing the current approach to arrests for marijuana possession. Rodriguez co-sponsored a bill to seal certain convictions for possession, which result in “closing doors … educational and work opportunities for tens of thousands of disproportionately affected black and brown people in low-income communities, who are suffering for an over policing in our communities,” he said on the Assembly floor in June.