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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De La Rosa beats out incumbent for Assembly 72 seat

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Source: New York State Board of Elections. Credit: Sangsuk Sylvia Kang/The North Polls

By Emily Churchill, Danielle Prager, Emily Harris and Allana Haynes

Assembly District 72 was always going to be a tough race, with incumbent Democrat Guillermo Linares facing multiple rivalries from within his own party. But the result was relatively unexpected: political newcomer Carmen De La Rosa won the primary on September 13 with 46.2 percent of the vote.

De La Rosa’s win could be traced, in part, to the support of Democratic nominee for U.S. Congress Adriano Espaillat, who is the presumptive replacement for U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel. Espaillat endorsed both De La Rosa and Senate District 31 primary winner Marisol Alcantara after he called 2016 the “year of the woman.”

Espaillat has been dubbed “the kingmaker” by the New York Times, but perhaps after this election he should instead be called the queenmaker.

De La Rosa, 30, was appointed chief of staff to Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez in 2014 and was elected as a Democratic district leader for the 72nd Assembly District the following year. De La Rosa ran on a platform that focused on women’s rights, neighborhood beautification and educational improvement.

This is a difficult defeat for Linares, who held the seat from 2011 until 2013 and won it back in 2014. In 1992, Linares became the first Dominican to hold public office in New York City when he served on the City Council until 2001. Linares received 32.4 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s primary.

Democrat George Fernandez challenged De La Rosa and Linares. Recently introduced to North Manhattan politics, 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. He ran on his recovery from his troubled past, as well as his activity in local government and support of affordable housing initiatives. He received 8.2 percent of the primary vote.

Some 13.2 percent of the votes were blank, void or write-ins.

De La Rosa and Fernandez could not be reached to comment. Linares and his campaign manager Angel Audifferd declined to comment.

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

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.