On the Campaign Trail: Jumaane Williams

(David Shankbone)

By Tiffany A. Vargas

Even before the 6 p.m. start time, eager volunteers for the candidates for governor and lieutenant governor, Cynthia Nixon and Jumaane Williams, were setting up their computers and phones in a large, brightly-lit office in near Madison Square Park in Manhattan Tuesday evening.

Volunteers gathered on the 15th floor of the building at 99 Madison Ave. for one of the many phone banks for Nixon and Williams put on by the Working Families Party. Volunteers worked at ThoughtWorks, making phone calls, sending emails and reaching out to registered voters to get them to choose Williams and Nixon in the primary election set for Thursday September 13th.  Some people had little or no experience with phone banks but others have done this many times before.

Barbara Hutson, a 70-year old who is a member of the Working Families Party, has participated in phone banks since George McGovern’s presidential campaign in 1972. She immigrated to the United States from Berlin, Germany, with her family when she was 8 years old and her background gives her a reason to support Jumaane Williams’ stance on affordable healthcare and education. Coming from a country in Europe and immigrating to the U.S. decades ago, she’s seen how universal healthcare and affordable education works for citizens elsewhere and that’s what she wants for future generations. “I mean, I went to school for nothing. Now, you come out with $40,000 worth of loans and then you still can’t get a job when in those days. I could get any job I wanted coming out of school,” she said. “So that’s why I’m working very hard for this progressive issue.”

Affordable healthcare and education are two of the many reasons people are voting for Williams. The New York City Councilman has been an activist against gun violence for many years and helped launch National Network to Combat Gun violence, which brings awareness to the gun violence crimes in New York. Williams is running against incumbent Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul. He was endorsed by the editorial board of the New York Times. Criminal justice reform, gun violence protection, and affordable healthcare are among the issues he cares most about, according to campaign material.

Emma Arcos, a 22-year-old recent graduate of Boston College, is supporting Williams because she specifically likes his stance on gun reform. “I think the model he has been working with and advocated for, the Cure Violence model, is very effective,” she said. “I think that approaching gun violence from a point of view of prevention and identifying red flags before an actual event happens is a big deal.”

One of the issues Williams is passionate about is reigning in enforcement and deportation actions from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement service or ICE. In January 2018, Williams was arrested for blocking an ambulance during a protest against the arrest of Ravi Ragbir, an immigration activist who was under a deportation order. Williams decided to use this experience as a drive to help keep immigrants safe in New York, he has said.

That’s one of the reasons Lewis Grupper, 69, will be voting for Williams. Grupper said he and Williams used to be friends when they were both delegates to the national Democratic convention in support of Bernie Sanders.

Grupper wants to vote for Williams in this election because he’s hoping he will help clean up the corruption in Albany. “As lieutenant governor, he could be a watchdog on our current governor who has already accused Cynthia Nixon of being anti-Semitic and many other horrible things,” he said. Grupper is critical of the way current Governor Andrew Cuomo has been handling immigrants in New York while he’s held his position for the past eight years. “He says he’s protecting the immigrants, but he’s not. We could’ve had the DREAM Act passed which we’re going to need in the age of Trump,” Grupper said.

Grupper isn’t the only one critical of Cuomo’s actions in office. Hutson said she doesn’t support Cuomo and that New York isn’t getting anywhere with him in office. “I don’t trust him at all. I think we need to get rid of all these corrupt politicians up in Albany,” she said.

            Ultimately, the decision of who wins the position of lieutenant governor is up to the people of New York. They can vote for whom they wish to win the position, among many others, in the state primary election on Thursday, September 13th.



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