Look, we don’t blame you for spending all your time worrying that Donald Trump will win the election and then rip off that Boehner-hued mask to reveal he’s actually an electric-orange lizard person. But if you really care about the future of the country, you should be aware that tomorrow, Tuesday, June 28, is the New York State Democratic Congressional primary.
If that’s news to you, you’re sadly not alone. Earlier today we stopped 50 registered Democrats on the streets of the East Village and most of them weren’t even aware that there was a vote tomorrow. (31 admitted they had no idea, 19 claimed they knew.)
On St. Marks Place, a middle-aged white guy told us that “New York did a terrible job” of informing people about the vote. An older African-American woman also felt that people were generally unaware of the impending primaries. “A lot of people are in the dark about this,” she said. We couldn’t agree more.
Those who spoke to us today in South Williamsburg and Bushwick, in the 10th District, didn’t seem any better informed. Of the 22 people we caught up with there, just 3 told us they were aware of the primaries tomorrow. Even worse, only one person claimed to know the candidates and only 4 planned to vote.
None of this should be too surprising: New York State had the second lowest voter turnout for the Democratic Presidential primaries. We also have some of the worst voting laws in the country, and it doesn’t help that, as we discovered in April, 120,000 Brooklyn voters were purged from the registration rolls.
That said, as long as you registered as a Democrat on or before June 3, it’s not too late to get involved. This primer should make a good start.
New York’s 10th district is repped by the indelible Senator Chuck Schumer (and, no doubt, some of those “Schumer babies”) along with the 12th and 7th too, which you’ll hear more about below. The area’s demographics skew mostly white (approx. 508,244 out of 736,997) and Asian (135,814) with a smaller portion of Latinos (91,783), according to 2014 census data. Geographically, the district takes up most of the West side of Manhattan, and a large chunk of Brooklyn including Borough Park.
Incumbent: Jerrold “Jerry” Nadler – a Brooklyn native and Manhattan resident. Spent 16 years in the New York State Assembly, and has served 12 consecutive terms in Congress.
- Nadler recently shamed Republicans in Congress for “attacking Planned Parenthood and a woman’s right to choose” instead of adequately addressing gun violence and mass shootings.
- He also issued a statement recently in support of LGBTQ rights/protection against hate crimes, and has voted for marriage equality.
- Nadler fought the Patriot Act (he’s a co-author of the USA Freedom Act).
- Helped secure infrastructure funding to fix the MTA.
- Read about his recent key votes here.
Challenger: Oliver Rosenberg – A 30-year-old, openly gay “startup entrepreneur.” He’s Nadler’s first Democratic challenger since 1996.
- The Daily News is hating on Nadler for “undermining national security” by supporting President Obama’s deal with Iran. The 10th is the “most Jewish congressional district in America” and the rollback of Iranian sanctions has been viewed as a slight against Israel. Rosenberg was “emboldened” by the vote, and decided to run for office.
- He told Brian Lehrer, “I love New York City,” but promised: “We can make it fabulous.” He focused specifically on the chain-ification of the city and gentrification: “It breaks my heart to see what’s happening to [New York City]– everywhere you go it’s Duane Reades and banks.” And of special importance: “We want our bagels back!”
- Rosenberg argues for new blood and leadership that doesn’t take money and favors from powerful players, but he hasn’t offered too many concrete solutions.
The 12th district encompasses nearly all of Manhattan’s east side, from Yorkville through the East Village and extending downward to occupy a corridor on the Lower East Side. It’s spread across three boroughs, with boundary lines stretching around Sunnyside, Queens and dipping down into North Brooklyn to include Greenpoint and parts of North Williamsburg.
Demographically speaking, the vast majority of the total residents (729,213) living in the 12th district identify as white (534,814) or Latino (103,602) with a small portion of black/African-American residents (37,546), according to 2014 census data. The 12th claims the highest per capita income in the country, and boasts close to 85,000 finance and insurance industry professionals, and real-estate industry workers. (Read more data here.)
Top three campaign finance contributors: $43,137 in small contributions under $200 (“unitemized”); $18,500 from Brown Brothers Harriman & Company (bank); $12,300 from Estee Lauder.
- Bushwick Inlet Park – Maloney has supported North Brooklyn residents in their push to get City officials to keep their promises for green space in the area after the 2005 rezoning.
- The MTA – Maloney helped secure $5.4 billion in funding for much-needed Hurricane Sandy repairs and L train reconstruction and is monitoring the transportation authority’s progress on the 2nd Avenue subway, another project she has helped push toward the finish line.
- Campaign Finance Reform and Anti-Corruption – Both candidates say they’re in support of this, but Maloney’s record shows her voting support for the causes as well. Lindner think he has a better solution.
Challenger: Pete “4 Pete Sake” Lindner – A computer programmer/modeling consultant for banks (Wells Fargo, IBM, American Express, Citibank) and two-time MIT grad. Brooklyn Daily found that he’s an active Yelper who’s partial to raspberry margaritas and Indian food (not too spicy!) but admits that “chickpea humus [sic]” isn’t exactly his “cup of tea.”
- He’s framed himself as the internet candidate whose platform includes increasing access to technology and the internet, job creation in high crime areas, strengthening online privacy laws, legalizing marijuana, and creating “better jails that are not ‘horror shows.'” His rallying cry: “For Pete sake, NYC, it’s about time we adopt 21st century methods!”
- Lindner seems to be most interested in fighting corruption by way of a tracking system called Pete #,which he refers to as a “truth & reconciliation commission”– an odd choice considering the South African apartheid connotations. He argues that the system, if put in place, would allow people to submit complaints about officials and make it easier to track low-level accusations of corruption.
- However, Lindner hasn’t been able to raise any funds for his campaign, and is running solely on a $4,000 self-funded budget. The candidate has 28 followers on Twitter and a private Facebook (however, we can see that he used social media to recommend a certain super-soft nylon toothbrush in 2012– a perennial dental pet, perhaps?).
- Lindner says he’s “angry” that Carolyn Maloney has refused to debate him, and is essentially a protest candidate preoccupied with an incident in which he alleges that Maloney “violated her oath” by supporting a federal judge that he claims is corrupt. The story is convoluted, and confusing, but you can try and decipher Lindner’s claims here if you’d like. (Maloney’s office said there is “not a shred of truth” to all this.)
District 7 encompasses Williamsburg’s south side (aka Los Sures), Bushwick, Dumbo, Gowanus, Red Hook, Sunset Park, some of the Lower East Side, and Chinatown. Latinos make up about 40 percent of the district, and in 2014 median household income hovered around $48,000.
Keeping in mind that those voter purges a few months back clearly targeted Latinos, WNYC reported that a whopping 11 percent of the total registered voters (27,586) in District 7 were purged from the registration rolls before the Presidential primaries, making it the hardest-hit district.
Incumbent: Nydia Velázquez – Also in her 12th term, Velazquez (a Puerto Rican immigrant) was the first person in her family to earn a college diploma, and became the first Puerto Rican woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives after running a grassroots campaign emphasizing the needs of the working poor and the city’s Latino immigrants. (Debbie Medina, the Democratic Socialist from Los Sures who is running for State Senate, described Velázquez to B+B as “a champion.”)
- The case against Velázquez is similar to what we’ve been hearing about incumbents from challengers across the board: that entrenched Democrats are indebted to moneyed actors, whether it’s Wall Street, the real-estate industry, or what have you. However, according to Velázquez’s voting record, she votes strictly along Democratic party lines, and she’s been known to deliver a tough line to the financial industry (but not everyone is so sure that she and Elizabeth Warren, along with other Congressional leaders, are steering their Take On Wall Street campaign in the right direction).
Challengers: There are two of them in this district, what a treat!
Jeff Kurzon – an attorney who bills himself as a progressive candidate. Wall Street and the politicians who are cozy with the financial industry appear to be his major targets.
- Argues that Velázquez has been siding with “Big Banks.”
- Housing is at the top of Kurzon’s list of policy points, including a revamp of NYCHA. He calls for more mixed-income housing and proposes an alternative to the 80/20 market rate to affordable housing ratio: 60-20-20, market, middle-income, poor.
- Kurzon also wants to “aggressively expand” government spending on public education.
Yungman Lee – emigrated from Hong Kong and moved to the U.S. when he was a teenager, subsequently attended NYU law school. Lee owns a Chinatown-based Global Bank, and this is his first bid as a politician. He’s betting on his status within the Chinese community to appeal to the district’s Asian-American constituency. He told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle back in December: “Our voting rate is very low. One of our challenges is to wake up the majority. […] When they see one of their own running, they will turn out.”
- Touting his experience at Global Bank, Lee argues that he knows how to fix the economy on the ground rather than simply “from an abstract policy perspective.”
- Specifically, he wants to create tax incentives for tech firms and encourage more tourism to the district.
- As for housing policy, Lee is all for the Loft Law, and sees “these progressive tenant protections as vital for maintaining affordable housing.”
Not sure if you’re registered? Find out here. Polls open at 6 am and stay open till 9 pm. The general election is happening November 8, 2016. Duh.
Additional reporting by Luisa Rollenhagen and John Ambrosio.