Power stakes in 31st district primary

By Tom Piccolo

A political coup that changed the power dynamic in Albany five years ago is still playing out in today’s primary race for legislative seats.

“The fate of the State Senate could be in the balance, depending on who wins,” says Ross Barkan, who has written about the race for The Village Voice.

In 2011, The Independent Democratic Conference, a group of five Democratic Senators led by State Senator Jeff Klein, defected from the traditional Democratic Conference to align with the Republicans. Their change in allegiance was a power play designed to give the IDC a seat at the table with the Senate Republicans who then held a slim majority.

After the 2012 election, the Democrats secured enough seats to win back the majority. However, in a surprising twist, the IDC chose to remain with the G.O.P., and maintain control of the Senate for Republicans.

Now, Marisol Alcantara, the Democratic nominee for Senate District 31 endorsed by former Senator Adriano Espaillat, has been connected to the rogue conference.

“Alcantara’s mentor is Espaillat,” says Barkan. “He was never in the IDC, but he’s always had a good working relationship with Klein.”

Barkan went on to point out that Alcantara has received money on the IDC’s behalf. Last month, Klein donated $7,000 to her campaign, the maximum amount a contributor is allowed to give.

Alcantara’s camp has been coy regarding which conference they plan to join if she should win, but that hasn’t stopped her political opponents from using it as ammunition against her. Whether those tactics help sway voters away from Alcantara will be revealed Tuesday night.

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Appel’s campaigning reflects his vision for AD 69

By Abigail Morris

Challenging a longstanding incumbent is a bold move, especially when they have as many ties to the community as District 69 Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell. But that’s exactly what challenger Steven Appel hopes to do.

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Steven Appel meets a young voter on 104th Street

Appel believes that O’Donnell’s long term has made him complacent and some parts of the community feel ignored. These are the potential voters that Appel’s platform intends to help.

“How do we make a more proactive constituent services model, [one] that doesn’t wait for people to come to our office but instead goes out into the community and asks people what they need?” he said. 

This is reflected in his campaigning –  his strategy today avoided the O’Donnell stronghold at PS 165 in Morningside Heights and instead travelled around the rest of the district. He said, “It’s going really well, we’re very encouraged by the reception in the community.”

“I think a lot of people realize that parts of the district have been ignored and ready for someone to step in and listen to all corners of the community.”

But O’Donnell’s  many supporters feel Appel does not have the same rapport with the community. Luis Roman, public defender at Legal Aid Society,  “O’Donnell’s records in the past 14 years has been incredibly impressive,” he said,  “He’s active in the issues that affect our community.”

Some residents weren’t impressed with politics in general. Doralynn Pines, long-time resident in Morningside Heights, expected to see more campaigns about the candidates beyond the leaflets she received.

“Many of our officials seem kind of sleepy,” she said. “At 80, I have been saddled with disappointment at the local level of politicians.”

In Marble Hill, Linares battles for Dominican vote

By Emily Harris

One of New York City’s most prominent Latino politicians, Guillermo Linares, is facing a political battle to retain his seat in the state legislature.  

“No one has served as long as I have in the Northattan community, considered the heart and soul of Dominican diaspora,” Linares said. He is the first Dominican ever to serve on city council, marked by his election in 1991, and has been in New York City politics for 25 years.

Linares spoke at the John F Kennedy High School polling station in Marble Hill, where he came to vote early this morning. While usually the incumbent goes uncontested, Linares is up against candidates George Ferndandez and Carmen De La Rosa in a fight for his current seat.

This comes after Linares lost to Adriano Espaillat in the Democratic congressional primary to replace Charles Rangel earlier this year.  Espaillat has endorsed contender De La Rosa, who is also Dominican, to take his place, setting up the head-to-head vote that will test loyalties of local Latino voters. 

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Incumbent Guillermo Linares speaks to the Spanish-speaking television station Telemundo’s camera crew after casting his vote at the polling station in Marble Hill. Credit: Emily Harris/The North Polls

“No one has been more of a champion of promoting young women exercising leadership in the public and private sector than me,” Linares said of his competition with De La Rosa, a longtime advocate for women’s rights. Linares cited the increase of women in leadership roles in education since he was first elected to the 72nd District Assembly in 2010.

De La Rosa also has the support of NYC Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez. “She’s the one who will bring a strong, progressive voice… she will continue building a bridge that will connect people from all backgrounds,” Rodriguez said, claiming she will bring a fresh perspective to the role. 

Linares, meanwhile, has experience. He championed a language policy that requires public services to provide translations during his time as Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. As NYS District 72 Assemblyman, he developed the Dream Act, a program to help undocumented teenagers get into college, and was later elected to the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans.

“It takes experience, which I bring, but also political capital. When they see you, they know you command, a level of respect as a public servant. You can’t get that overnight,” Linares stated.

Never before has Linares’ position been so jeopardized as it is now, with the Latino vote split between him and  De La Rosa. It is up to the voters today whether experience or a new set of eyes is what the NYS Assembly needs most.

NYC’s largest LGBT political club: “Lasher’s our guy”

By Elizabeth Haq

The city’s oldest and largest LGBT political club has endorsed three candidates in Manhattan’s contested Democratic primaries, and is making a special push for one of them.

The Stonewall Democrats of New York City held a volunteer event last night for Micah Lasher, the 34-year-old first-time candidate running for Senate District 31. They’ve also endorsed Carmen N. De La Rosa in Assembly District 72  and Daniel O’Donnell in Assembly District 69.

A former chief of staff to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and director of state legislative affairs under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Lasher doesn’t lack friends in high places. In fact, out of the four candidates running for the vacant seat, he’s the closest to the city’s intellectual and financial elite – they helped him raise over $450,000 in campaign funds.

So what makes the Upper West Sider fit to represent this widespread, often underrepresented community?

Rose Christ, vice president of the club for the last four years, said that an effective representative doesn’t have be a mirror of his or her constituents.

“I like people that worked aggressively when they were staffers,” she said. “They have an insider’s perspective and just need the influence to make things happen.”

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From left to right: Rose Christ, Stonewall Democrats volunteer, volunteer Linda Farrell. Credit: Liz Haq/The North Polls

Christ herself was split between Lasher and Robert Jackson, until one particular issue.

“Religious organizations using public schools for programming,” she said. It’s a sticking point for Stonewall members who believe that religious events are often discriminatory, and sometimes outright hateful, of the LGBT community.

According to Christ, Lasher is the only candidate who adamantly opposed the use of public spaces for religious programming. He also mentions the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), a proposed New York law that protects gender identity and expression under human rights and hate crime laws, as a priority on his campaign website.

“The other candidates won’t prioritize passing GENDA, especially the candidate being supported by the IDC,” Christ said, referring to the Independent Democratic Conference. The breakaway coalition that caucuses with the GOP in New York State Senate has thrown its support behind Lasher’s opponent, Marisol Alcantara.

“That was a deciding factor for a lot of us. That’s when I thought Lasher’s our guy,” she said.

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Jared Odessky, volunteer. Credit: Liz Haq/The North Polls

Carmen De La Rosa hopes to inspire next generation in community

By Allana Haynes

Two Dominican women from Manhattan are trying to break into the male-dominated New York State legislature this year — one in the Senate and one in the Assembly.

Marisol Alcantara is one of four candidates, and the only woman, vying to replace Adriano Espaillat in Senate District 31.  Carmen De La Rosa is challenging incumbent Guillermo Linares for Assembly District 72.

Espaillat is endorsing them both, calling it the “year of the woman.”  Espaillat is the Democratic congressional nominee and presumptive replacement for former U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel.

Support from Espaillat lends a competitive edge to these women. Like him, De La Rosa and Alcantara are Dominican, an advantage in northern Manhattan where more than 66 percent of foreign born citizens are Dominican, the largest immigrant group in the city.

“Espaillat’s support means the world to me,” said De La Rosa. “He is a fighter for the things that matter most, and I look up to the work that he has done.”

De La Rosa is an advocate for protecting women’s rights, improving education and environmental protection. She has a two-year-old daughter named Mia. If elected she would be the only Dominican woman in the State Assembly.

“I believe that I am setting an example for my daughter and her peers that a new generation of leadership is flourishing in our community and that (women) have a place at the table,” said De La Rosa.

Alcantara, like De La Rosa, hopes to provide affordable housing, supports funding of local public schools and wants to inspire and support more Latinos and women in public office.

Less than one third of the 150 members in the New York State Assembly are women. Of the 63 State Senators, only 12 are women, which is less than twenty percent.

Primary Day? Not again!

By Alaina Raftis

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PS133 in Chelsea is one of 48 poll stations in State Senate District 31. Credit: Alaina Raftis/The North Polls

Yes, you’re not imagining it.  We did just have a primary, on June 28, when New Yorkers picked the candidates to replace longtime Congressman Charles Rangel.  And a few months before that, April 19, it was the Presidential primary battle. Today’s primary election, for New York State legislative offices, is the third of the year.

“This primary will probably be the lowest voter turnout on record. People are too confused,” said Donathon Salkaln of Manhattan. 

Salkaln, who is running today for alternate delegate on the judicial nominating convention, was outside PS 133 in Chelsea this morning passing out flyers with the title, “Don’t Forget Primary Day is Tuesday, September 13th.”

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Light foot traffic outside the polls at PS 133 in Chelsea where there was on average five to six voters per hour this morning, according to a Board of Election coordinator. Credit: Alaina Raftis/The North Polls

“They’ve had three primaries and it’s been a total waste of money. I think every one of these is about $14 million. That money could go to affordable housing.” said Salkaln.

Holding federal and state primaries on two separate dates in New York costs “counties an extra $25 million by the Legislature’s estimate” according to an article on DemocratandChronicle.com.

It didn’t used to be this way.  In 2012, a federal judge ordered the congressional primary to be moved earlier in order to comply with a law requiring enough time for military absentee voting. Since then, the divided New York State legislature has been trying to come up with a common federal and state primary date. But once again, they were unable to reach a compromise, which led many of us to the polls for the third time this year.

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109th Street was full of signs supporting various candidates on primary election day. Credit: Alaina Raftis/The North Polls

These primaries are all pointing toward one more voting day: Nov. 8. That’s when the winners of the 2016 primaries will face off, including Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, who are vying to become the 45th President of the United States.

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.