Primary challengers to a group of former breakaway Democrats in the State Senate have been gaining momentum lately, at least when it comes to campaign endorsements. Many are encouraged by the June upset win of primary challenger, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez , to longtime Queens Congressman Joe Crowley.
Several of the candidates challenging former members of the Senate Independent Democratic Conference have been endorsed by the Democratic primary challenger to Governor Andrew Cuomo, Cynthia Nixon.
Nixon endorsed Alessandra Biaggi, who is running against the former leader of the IDC, Jeff Klein.
Nixon also backed Jessica Ramos, who is running against former IDC member Jose Peralta. The Senate district in Queens is part of the Congressional district where Ocasio-Cortez beat incumbent Crowley.
“Jessica is the future,” Nixon said.
Ramos and Biaggi have in return, endorsed Nixon in her run for governor.
The IDC was allied with Republicans in the State Senate during the past eight legislative sessions, at one point co-leading the Senate with the GOP. Both Nixon and Ramos say that led to inaction on many key issues they support, including abortion rights, the Dream Act, which would give college aid to the children of immigrants, and drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants.
Ramos says she endorsed Nixon over Cuomo because she share’s Nixon’s belief that the governor tacitly supported the breakaway Democrats.
“Look, he’s had 8 years to do the work,” Ramos said. “At some point, we as women have to say that ‘even though you keep telling us that you have our backs, it’s time for us to step up and take care of it on our own’.”
Ramos, in an interview after the endorsement announcement, says she feels that state government has failed her and other members of her generation. She says the public school she attended is still owed money under a decade-old court order on school funding that was never fulfilled, she has high student debt and trouble affording housing in a city with high rental rates and home prices. Her parents are immigrants and when she was a baby, her father was caught up in an immigration raid, which she says was traumatic for her family.
Ramos says she’s heartened by Ocasio-Cortez’s win, which she says has “galvanized” progressives in the Democratic party.
“With a bigot in White house, people are starting to understand how important it is to have a True Blue state government that can protect us,” Ramos said.
The primary challengers to the former IDC Senators have picked up other endorsements in the days since the Congressional primary in late June. A major New York City-based union, SEIU BJ 32, has endorsed Biaggi. The President of the union Hector Figueroa, said on Twitter that the IDC “betrayed voters”, and created “ a big political mess” . “Time to clean up”, he added.
The New York City Council Speaker, Corey Johnson as well as several Democratic Assemblymembers who are running for re-election, are also endorsing the challengers.
After the budget was done in April, the IDC rejoined the rest of the Democrats, announcing the merger in a press conference held by Cuomo.
The IDC members are now part of the mainstream Democrats in the Senate. But the Democratic conference is not siding with the former breakaway Democratic Senators over their challengers. Senator Mike Gianaris, a Queens Democrat who runs the Democrats’ campaign committee, said in an interview with public radio and television in June that he will wait until the primary is over, in mid-September, and then will fully back the winners, whether they are incumbents or insurgents.
“That has always been our policy,” said Gianaris, who said even when the IDC in the past primaried some mainstream Democrats, they did not take sides.
The former IDC Senators are not without support. Senator Klein has received the backing of the largest healthcare workers union in the state, SEIU 1199. Klein also has the support of Governor Cuomo, and, according to the New York Times, has sent out mailers to primary voters in his district featuring pictures of the Senator and Governor together.