Alessandra Biaggi, a true progressive, is the right state senate candidate at a critically important time in our nation.
Only Biaggi will honor the needs of the 34th District while advancing the Democratic agenda at the state level. Only she will put the needs of New Yorkers above personal power. That Sen. Jeffrey Klein has used his seat to caucus with Republicans has fed the very infrastructure from which President Trump derives his standing.
Biaggi’s optimism is exuberant. She greets you with it. It is a palpable entity that reveals her positive vision for the district.
Biaggi exhibits no moral ambiguity on vital issues: fair housing, full public school funding, challenges faced by older New Yorkers, economic development, environmental justice, transportation infrastructure, gun safety, voting reform, protection of women’s rights and pay equity, human rights, criminal justice, and immigrant protections.
Relevant experience, a considerable intellect, and true grit are well partnered with Biaggi’s optimism. She has exhibited an unwavering focus in her law school pursuits, in her tenure as a legal fellow fighting for affordable housing, as assistant general counsel for the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery working with small businesses and municipalities, in her commitment to civic engagement as host of community workshops, and in her leadership role in a national Democratic campaign.
These configure a roadmap of Biaggi’s dedication, a glimpse into how she will fight for the people behind the issues.
Klein’s Independent Democratic Conference was a plagiarized power. In 2009, just after the state Democrats earned their first majority in 30 years, Democratic state senators Ruben Diaz Sr., Hiram Monserrate, Pedro Espada Jr., and Carl Kruger banded together. Espada and Monserrate voted with the Republicans, thereby enabling a Republican majority. Espada became the president pro tempore, and Kruger the finance committee chair.
After the “Four Amigos” had left the legislature, in 2011, Sens. Klein, Diane Savino, David Valesky and David Carlucci announced their departure from the Democratic conference and the formation of the IDC. A press release stated that the IDC would “break the hyper-partisan gridlock that has gripped this chamber, and work to restore the public’s trust in its public officials.”
The reality was that the IDC collaborated with Republicans and reaped the perks of committee chairmanships, including stipends. In 2012, Klein brokered a deal with Republican state Sen. Dean Skelos to become co-president of the state senate, thereby denying Democrats the majority earned in the election.
The IDC’s coalition with Republicans blocked progressive legislation from reaching the senate floor. For years, New York limped behind other states in minimum wage increases, the Women’s Equality Act, the Gender Expression Non-discrimination Act, permanent residence for foreign minors, and a hydrofracking ban were denied. Campaign finance reform failed. And tenants’ rights were undermined.
What does it mean to be a Democrat? Klein, who has even appeared on the Republican ticket, no longer knows. To get re-elected in 2014, Klein agreed to rejoin the Democratic conference after the election, but he reneged on the deal. His access to state budget talks and vast discretionary funds continued.
All the while, Klein’s big donors — including real estate developers, liquor companies and charter schools — earned his legislative attention.
Biaggi is focused on more moral precedents. Among her many impressive endorsements is former councilman, Assemblyman and state attorney general Oliver Koppell, a progressive leader and author of numerous laws that protect New Yorkers and our environment.
Koppell challenged Klein in 2014 before the ills of the growing IDC were fully visible, and before Preet Bharara — U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York — began prosecuting Skelos and state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Klein’s colleagues in charge of our state budget in the room of four men.
Since Trump ousted the fearless Bharara, we may never know whether there was a Klein dossier on Bharara’s desk. We, as a district, squandered the opportunity to elect Koppell. In the era of Trump, one of vile disregard for the human and civil rights of a diverse nation, we must seize the opportunity to elect progressive candidates as meaningful antidotes.
A seat in the upper house of the New York state legislature is too important to hand back to Klein, a man with a pattern of self-interested betrayal.
The recent disbanding of the IDC can only be interpreted as another campaign ploy, as is Klein’s shamefully manipulative annual dinner theatre trip for area seniors that falls roughly 20 days before each primary day.
We must consider the struggling New Yorkers in and beyond our district, and the federal implications of a state senator’s efforts.
Alessandra Biaggi, a brilliant and dedicated lawyer who will work in bipartisan fashion to devise important protections for all New Yorkers, is the only choice for caring New Yorkers.
The author is a medical writer who served as Oliver Koppell’s state senate campaign manager in 2014.