On the Campaign Trail: Alessandra Biaggi

Canvassers getting ready to knock on doors with candidate for New York State Senate Alessandra Biaggi on White Plains Road Sunday afternoon. (Deanna Garcia)

By Deanna Garcia and Gisela Cazar

With election day near, State Senate candidate Alessandra Biaggi and her supporters and campaign staff have been on the streets hoping to bolster the first-time candidate in her challenge to long time incumbent senator Jeff Klein.

The rain did not stop Alessandra Biaggi and her canvassers from knocking on doors Sunday evening on Pelham Parkway. Activists from Empire State Indivisible huddled together in the Starbucks on White Plains Road with stacks of pamphlets and blue shirts that read “VOTE BIAGGI”, ready to spread the word for the primary election on September 13th.

“Knock on doors ‘til your knuckles bleed,” Biaggi said with enthusiasm to her canvassers before they spilt up into teams. Many of Biaggi’s canvassers showed they were extremely confident that she can make massive changes in the Bronx district.

Danielle Brecker, employee of Empire State Indivisible, said, “I want to see former IDC Senators out of office so that New York can pass some progressive legislation and combat the president.” Brecker also believes that voting in elections like these can seriously impact peoples’ day to day lives.

Christian Amato, 30, a Pelham Parkway resident, organized the event to raise awareness about the election and Biaggi. “She has the experience to really bring change to our community,” Amato said.

“She’s challenging a State Senator who betrayed the community and needs to come out of office,” said Shannon Stagman, director of evaluation of data quality at ExpandED Schools, referring to incumbent State Senator Jeff Klein’s leadership of the Independent Democratic Caucus, which threw its weight to the Republican majority in the state senate for several years.

Leah Greenberg, co-xxecutive director of Indivisible, said, “She is such an inspiring force for reproductive health and rights for the kind of progressive policies that we need.”

Tom Watson, 56, Mount Vernon resident, wants to see stronger rights for women and minorities and new election laws for New York. “It’s too old-fashioned and hard for people to vote.”

Biaggi said it was Klein’s relationship with the IDC and the senate Repulicans that prompted her to run. She had worked as a lawyer for Governor Cuomo’s administration, but the bills she was working on were not getting passed in the Republican-controlled senate. She felt because of this, New York was prevented from improving. “Instead of staying out, I decided to get into the arena and that’s why I’m running,” Biaggi said.

She believes that being involved within the community is the best way for it to grow. “The way to really make sure that there is a democracy that works out for all of us is to have people elected who are actually going to put people first.”

Two nights later volunteers were out on the other side of the district, on the other side of the Bronx. A group called Bronx Progressives teamed up with Tenants PAC, a tenants’ rights lobby group, to knock on doors for Biaggi on Tuesday September 11th. The volunteers gathered at the Bronx Alehouse on 238th Street, half a block away from the 1 train. At 5:30pm there were only  7 people for the event on the gloomy and breezy evening. As time passed more showed up.

Abigail Soberanis, 29, a Bronx resident, said paying attention to a local race was new for her. “I was never really aware of elections other than the presidential one. District 34 needs change and I believe in Alessandra and her policies. I have a young daughter which is one of the many reasons I want this change and like Alessandra says ‘we need to make the change now.’” Soberanis nodded her head, agreeing with Biaggi’s insistence. As pedestrians and drivers passed the Bronx Alehouse Soberanis joined other volunteers shouting “VOTE FOR BIAGGI!” in an energetic and convincing tone. Volunteers wore bright blue t-shirts with Vote for Biaggi emblazoned  in bold, white letters.

“Biaggi has been amazing! She takes part in canvassing and also represents at forums. She represents district 34 and all she can do to make a change,” said Josh Velez, 26. “Having the knowledge that $88 million are owed to districts 34 public schools is insane! But Biaggi thinks about the future and the new generations to come. She wants to fully fund the schools and expand tuition-free programs for those in college, specifically CUNY and SUNY. Her dedication and hard work says a lot about who she is, ” Velez continued. A Bronx resident who dropped out of college due to financial struggles, he is particularly enthuses by Biaggi’s positions on education.

Tanya, 51, who didn’t want to give her last name, grabbed a handful of postcards from a card table set up outside the Alehouse and began to give them out to the people passing by. “What I believe is that Biaggi has many advantages and possibility of winning. She is young and knows what affects us as a community. Biaggi has lived in many different parts of this district and knows the changes we need,” Tanya said in Spanish.

As evening commuters rushed home from the subway, many paused to look at the campaign volunteers. Repeating the words “VOTE FOR BIAGGI”, some passersby stopped to grab postcards from the table.

 

 

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