O’Donnell seeks 8th term in Assembly

Daniel O’Donnell faces a challenge in Tuesday’s primary. Credit: Jessie Shi/The North Polls

By Jessie Shi

Daniel O’Donnell, 55, the first openly gay man elected to the New York State Assembly, is running for reelection to District 69, where he has served as the assemblyman for 14 years.

The district covers Manhattan Valley, Morningside Heights and the Upper West Side.

He faces a primary challenge Tuesday from Steven Appel, senior manager of communications and events at Working In Support of Education, a non-profit that promotes financial literacy.

During his terms, O’Donnell has promoted progressive legislation, including the Marriage Equality Act in 2011 that gave same-sex couples rights equal those enjoyed by opposite-sex couples. He lives with his husband, John Banta, in Morningside Heights.

“I believe my neighborhood deserves representation from somebody who’s from it and somebody who knows it, and I’m sure that’s me,” O’Donnell said in an interview Thursday.

O’Donnell has raised $94,682 through Sept. 12, according to the state Board of Elections.

Campaign Platform
— Equal rights for all couples
— Protecting all public students from bullying
— Ending sexual harassment for all, including unpaid interns
— Holding prisons accountable through independent Ombudsman oversight
— Preserving the landscape of Morningside Heights Historic District


Fernandez fights to take over Assembly District 72 seat

Fernandez with his two youngest sons. Credit: Campaign Website

By Danielle Prager

George Fernandez, 43, is challenging incumbent Democrat Guillermo Linares for his Assembly District 72’s seat in Washington Heights and Inwood.

Fernandez said he had a tough upbringing, which led to his serving two, six-year prison sentences for armed robbery and driving on a suspended licence.

Crediting his tumultuous early years to a “very poor, dysfunctional home,” Fernandez has since dedicated his life to helping those with similar backgrounds. He has worked as a social worker and has placed a strong priority on reorganizing homes in hopes of creating a safer, more productive environment for his community.

“I’m not playing catch up with the streets, I’m playing catch up with my life,” he said.

Fernandez served as chairman of Community Board 12 from 2013 to 2015 and is currently the council leader of Division 376 for the Public Employees Federation.

Fernandez is Puerto Rican, setting him apart from a large portion of the Dominican community he hopes to represent, as well as from his two opposing candidates, Carmen De La Rosa and Linares.

He has raised $12,000 through Aug. 5, according to the state Board of Elections.

Campaign Platform

  • Values job creation
  • Protects small business
  • Prioritizes affordable housing
  • Against rezoning Inwood properties
  • Supports public school education with smaller classrooms

Marisol Alcantara stands to make history

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

Appel faces uphill battle to win Assembly seat


Democrat Steven Appel hopes to take over Assembly District 69 seat from longtime incumbent Daniel O’Donnell. Credit: Steven Appel

By Abigail Morris

Steven Appel, 31, is fighting to represent District 69 in the State Assembly. He is going up against incumbent Democrat Daniel O’Donnell, who has only faced competition once before since his election in 2002.

A longtime resident of the Upper West Side, Appel is senior manager of communications and events at Working in Support of Education, a nonprofit that provides low- to moderate-income communities with financial literacy programs.

He credits his Jewish upbringing for his commitment to equality, which he channeled into co-founding the Center for Ethnic, Racial and Religious Understanding at his alma mater, Queens College. He also he worked at the Center as assistant director for five years. During that time, he developed the Lunchtime 2.0 Program, which reinvented cafeteria space to encourage intercultural dialogue.  

Appel was valedictorian of his class and editor-in-chief of his college newspaper. He holds an MBA in management and sustainability from Baruch College. He has volunteered with survivors of domestic violence and their children.

He has received $10,972 in contributions in 2016, according to the state Board of Elections. He said in an interview he has received an additional $4,400.

“I feel strongly that the purpose of government is to unify people and help us reach our deepest potential,” he said. “There are two bottlenecks to achieving that – the ethical context in which we govern and the social context. I think there’s tremendous room to transform, not only the ethics in Albany, but the way in which diverse members in our community engage with each other.”

Campaign platform:

  • Hold a semi-annual Innovation Summit to bring together community members to network and look at issues.
  • Improve the public school system.
  • Increase affordable housing and strengthening rent laws.
  • Support environmental sustainability.
  • Institute ethics reform modeled after the New York City Council.

Tejada vies for Espaillat’s seat as self-proclaimed people’s leader

Tejada stands by his campaign poster. Credit: Sangsuk Sylvia Kang/The North Polls

By Sangsuk Sylvia Kang

A former union leader, math teacher, cab driver and tenants’ rights activist, Luis Tejada says he understands the roots and culture of the working class.

Tejada, 57, is in a four-way race for Democrat Adriano Espaillat’s Senate District 31 seat. He is one of two Dominican candidates vying for the post. He faces Marisol Alcantara, Robert Jackson and Micah Lasher in the primary Tuesday.

He has raised $4,101 as of September 8, according to the state Board of Elections. 

“My competition is my commitment with the people. I want to continue to be Luis Tejada, working for the people, fighting with myself not to be influenced by the money, by the power,” said Tejada, who has a wife and three grown children.

Campaign platform:

  • Defend tenants and preserve low-income housing
  • Improve public education for all children
  • Ensure and protect the quality of life for the elderly
  • Stop small businesses from closing
  • Preserve jobs

Republican Girodes runs a third time for state senate

Jon Girodes attends an event for the Women’s National Republicans Club. Credit: Campaign website

By Tom Piccolo

Jon Girodes is hoping the third time is the charm for his bid to represent heavily Democratic Harlem in the statehouse. 

Girodes, 39, is running as a Republican for State Senate in Manhattan’s 30th District, where he will square off against incumbent Bill Perkins in November for the second time in two years. 

In 2014, Girodes came up short, garnering 4.6 percent of the vote to Perkins’ 87 percent. In 2010, prior to 2012 redistricting, he ran for State Senator of District 28 against incumbent Jose Serrano. He won 7 percent of the vote, compared to Serrano’s 91 percent.

Girodes and his two brothers were raised by their single mother in East Harlem. He graduated from Northeastern University in 2000 with a finance/economics degree. Since 2007, he has worked as the founder and CEO of Girodes Incorporated, a tax accounting firm that also provides credit and debt counseling services.

Girodes has raised $0 for his campaign, according to the state Board of Elections. He also has a GoFundMe page that has no contributions.

“They call me Trump Junior,” says Girodes, referring to his candid, “meat-and-potatoes” personality.

Campaign Platform

  • Will cut down on long-term government assistance programs to promote financial independence
  • Will work to improve air quality and water potability
  • Strongly supports charter schools
  • Pledges to “provide fair and even distribution of affordable housing to those in need”
  • Will improve roads by filling potholes