Making History in Manhattan: Marisol Alcantara wins state Senate primary

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Source: New York State Board of Elections. Election districts reporting 234 of 235. Credit: Sangsuk Sylvia Kang/The North Polls

By Nafisa Masud

On a quiet Tuesday night in Inwood, as sidewalk squares cool after hours baking in the midday sun, the residents of upper Manhattan dance. But they’re not dancing for the change in temperature — they’ve got bigger things to celebrate. The results of all but one election district touted Marisol Alcantara as the victor of the contested primary race for New York Senate District 31. With this win, she’s become a trailblazer that — if elected in November — stands to be the first female Latina  state senator in New York history.

While the final votes were being counted and local news flashed Alcantara’s growing margin of victory on screens across Manhattan, the Dominican native’s supporters waited patiently outside 809 Sangria Bar & Grill.

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They busied themselves with music and warm recollections of the campaign. Marilu Galvan, a long-time friend and advocate, wasn’t just here to dance.

“It’s the people’s right to vote and get involved in the system because it’s the only way to get power. She [Alcantara] represents the whole gamut of the community, and that’s very important for people to understand. She’s prepared to work and protect every single member of the community, and that’s what brings me here.”

Inside the lounge the crowd grew, and applause erupted as Alcantara, dressed in red, finally appeared with Congressman-elect Adriano Espaillat and Democratic Assembly nominee Carmen De La Rosa in tow.

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Espaillat introduced the victorious Alcantara, praising her skills as a mother and activist, adding (in Spanish), “She’s also concerned for the most poor, the most needy in this community.”

Alcantara then took the microphone, thanking the state senators there in support, including Jeff Klein (D-34) and David Carlucci (D-38), as well as the members of the several labor unions who endorsed her political run. Alcantara said,”Even though people said ‘Nobody knows her, or where she’s from’, … out of all the people in New York we’re the ones that thought the senate needed a little bit of spice.”

Alcantara then proceeded to thank others, including her running mates Robert Jackson, Micah Lasher and Luis Tejada, and ended the night with a powerful message for both her voters and the next generation. Hear it here:

 

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Going for the (G)old: Senate Candidates Vie for the Senior Vote

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Residents at the Inwood senior center wait patiently for lunch. Credit: Nafisa Masud/The North Polls

By Nafisa Masud 

As the morning of the primary drags on and campaign volunteers try to lure voters into the polls on their way to work, there’s one group of people that’s sure to make an appearance — senior citizens. The older residents of upper Manhattan are historically active in the polls: a 2015 NYDaily News report shows 38 percent of those aged 60-69 and 36 percent of those aged 70-plus turned out to vote in 2014. That’s compared to only 11 percent of eligible voters in the age group 18-29.

Why so active? Poll station volunteer Shanene L. Harmon says, “They know the importance of voting. They’re the ones reading the news. With social security and benefits, they’re impacted the most by who gets elected.” Others, like poll worker Esa M. Moses, think it is more than their own interests. “The senior citizens are faithful. They care about what’s going on,” she says.

Several candidates vying for the open Senate seat in District 31 have recognized the loyalty, and availability, of this demographic. Marisol Alcantara’s campaign team organized services to shuttle the seniors to and from poll stations, and Luis Tejada visited several senior centers. “They’re gonna make the difference in the election today,” Tejada says. Robert Jackson and Micah Lasher weren’t available to comment.

Marisol Alcantara stands to make history

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Alcantara meets with residents and distributes pamphlets outside a subway station at 145th Street and Broadway. Credit: Nafisa Masud/The North Polls

By Nafisa Masud

Marisol Alcantara, if elected, will become the first female Dominican senator in New York history. Alcantara was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to the U.S. at a young age. Her traditional upbringing has guided her interests in worker’s rights, immigrant resources and female empowerment.

The Democratic hopeful is running in a four-way race to represent District 31, which covers the broad expanse of west Manhattan, beginning in Midtown and stretching all the way up to Marble Hill.

A former Democratic district leader in West Harlem, Alcantara is no stranger to politics. But it’s her community experience and activist efforts that’s earned her the backing of labor unions across Manhattan. She organized the 37,000-member labor union for the New York State Nurses Association, co-directed the Caribbean Power in Vote efforts in Florida and guided the victories of janitors and service workers to unionize in Delaware and with Service Works United, respectively.

Alcantara worked for the Community Board in her long-time home of Hamilton Heights, acted as a union delegate for local immigrant worker organizations and has participated in numerous programs supporting women and people of color.

Her campaign has raised $57,140 as of August 29, the most noted contributions from New York Senators David Carlucci, Jeffrey Klein and the New York State Nurses Association, according to the New York State Board of Elections.

On Tuesday, Alcantara will face Robert Jackson, Micah Lasher and Luis Tejada.

She lives in Hamilton Heights with her family and hopes to fight for these issues regardless of the primary results.

Campaign Platform

  • Promotes safeguarding workers’ rights within large corporations and businesses
  • Hopes to provide more affordable housing in upper Manhattan
  • Supports greater funding of local public schools
  • Wants to inspire and support more Latinos and women in public office
  • Plans to help push for the Dream Act, which gives young immigrants greater educational opportunities