New York mobilizes against Trump
Self identifying socialist, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, is poised to win a seat in Congress next Tuesday, representing Queens and parts of the Bronx. | Bebeto Matthews/AP

NEW YORK – New Yorkers, like people across the country, are in their final weekend push for the November 6th elections. Millions are mobilizing to strike a blow to the Trump-GOP regime and its enablers on both the national and state levels.

The stakes could not be higher, New Yorkers are saying. The election results, they know, will determine whether the fight against Trump can be institutionalized at every level of government and whether the GOP agenda can be blocked until Trump is finally gotten out of office.

In the New York State primary elections, a strong tenant movement helped kick out six of the eight members of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) — Democrats who were caucusing with Republicans in the New York State Senate, blocking a long list of progressive reforms that had already passed in the New York State Assembly. Ousted IDC leader Jeff Klein was the number one recipient of real-estate money in the New York State Senate.

Former IDC members who lost their primary races have chosen to stay on the ballot as Independence Party candidates rather than throw their weight behind the Democrats.

Progressives also launched a strong challenge to the Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo with the Cynthia Nixon, Jumaane Williams, and Zephyr Teachout platforms. These candidates embraced core demands of the grassroots and helped push Cuomo in a more progressive direction on certain issues, like restoring voting rights to people on parole, increasing funding for public housing, and legalizing cannabis.

Mobilized by the NYC Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), Make the Road Action, and other progressive organizations, thousands knocked on doors for self-identifying socialists Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Julia Salazar, who are poised to win seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and New York State Senate repectively. In the primary Salazar defeated Martin Dilan, another favorite of the real-estate industry.

Both of New York’s U.S. Senators, Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, are Democrats. Nine of New York’s 26 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, however, are pro-Trump Republicans. One seat is vacant, previously held by the deceased Democratic Congresswoman Louise Slaughter.

At the state level, Democrats hold more than two-thirds of the 150 seats in the NYS Assembly. If the people of New York are able to elect a solid Democratic majority of the 63 seats in the NYS Senate, progressive legislation can be won to protect New Yorkers from Trump’s racist, anti-worker, anti-immigrant, anti-women, and anti-planet policies.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, the Republican Party holds seats representing more than 32 percent of New York’s population, and over 90 percent of the state’s land. In the NYS Senate, the situation is even worse, with more than 45 percent of the people, and over 95 percent of the land controlled by the Republicans.

Democratic forces are fighting to flip the only Congressional and NYS Senate seats held by Republicans in New York City. Max Rose is running in Congressional District 11 (NY-11) against Rep. Dan Donovan to represent Staten Island and South Brooklyn. Andrew Gounardes is contesting Republican State Sen. Martin Golden with strong grassroots support for the 22nd NYS Senate District (SD).

In Long Island, Perry Gershon and Liuba Grechen Shirley are fighting against Republican members of Congress Lee Zeldin and Peter King in Congressional Districts 1 and 2. Among the seven seats in the NYS Senate held by Republicans, Senate Districts (SD) 3-7 are competitive. James Gaughran (SD5), Anna Kaplan (SD7), and Monica Martinez (SD3) may stand the best chances of winning. The Kathleen Cleary campaign in SD2 is an important challenge to John Flanagan, the current Senate majority leader.

The anti-right coalition is likely to score some victories in the Hudson Valley as well, north of New York City and extending up into Albany. Antonio Delgado is leading in the polls against the racist John Faso in the 19th Congressional District. He is an African-American running in a majority white area. James Skoufis’ campaign against right-wing Thomas Basile in the 39th NYS Senate District is considered by some to be a “top tier” race. Peter Harckham, Karen Smythe, Jen Metzger, and Aaron Gladd in districts 40-43, and Pat Courtney in SD46, are also running competitive campaigns.

Republicans could also be defeated in Central New York near Syracuse, and in Western New York near Rochester, Buffalo and Ithaca, particularly in the State Senate.

In northern New York, Tedra Cobb is running against pro-Trump Republican Elise M. Stefanik for the 21st Congressional seat, but this part of the state is likely to remain under Republican control.

In Central NY, Democrat Anthony Brindisi is leading in the polls against Claudia Tenney for the 22nd Congressional seat, encompassing areas surrounding Binghamton, Cortland, Syracuse, and Utica. Dana Balter is going against Republican John Katko in the 24th Congressional district. Balter has strong union endorsement, and is backed by Our Revolution, Peace Action NYS, and other grassroots groups, but is still behind in the polls. In the NYS Senate, however, Democrat John Mannion’s campaign to flip SD50 in Beacon and Poughkeepsie is another potential win. Rachel May, who defeated former IDC member David Valesky in SD53, which includes Oneida and Syracuse, is likely to win her election as well, although Valesky’s decision not to vacate the ballot on the Independence Party line exposes all New Yorkers to the risk of handing the seat over to the far-right.

In Western NY, people are trying to flip the seat held by Trumper Tom Reed. The latest polls put Democrat Tracy Mitrano two points ahead in this 23rd Congressional District seat, which stretches from Binghamton, Ithaca, and Elmira out west to Dunkirk and Jamestown, and up into Geneva. The 25th Congressional District, previously held by Slaughter, includes the city of Rochester, and will probably remain controlled by the Democrats. Joseph Morelle is running against Republican Jim Maxwell. Some polls have Nate McMurray leading against Chris Collins in the 27th Congressional District, near Buffalo. Collins is the most extreme Trump supporter in New York. He voted with Trump 98.9 percent of the time.

In the NYS Senate, the seats currently held by Republicans Rich Funke, Joseph Robach, Thomas O’Mara, and Christopher Jacobs in SD55 and 56 near the gerrymandered city of Rochester; in SD58 encompassing Ithaca and Elmira; and SD60, which includes part of Buffalo, are worth watching, but will likely remain right-wing controlled. Unions and grassroots organizations are fighting to elect Jennifer Lunsford, Jeremy Cooney, service worker Amanda Kirchgessner, and Carima El Behairy for these positions.

Many of these districts voted against Trump in 2016, and a majority of them voted for Obama in 2012.

A few seats held by Republicans in the NYS Senate have no Democratic challengers, including district 52, which represents Binghamton.

Congressional Trumpers

Environmental issues loom large in many GOP-controlled areas of New York. Yet every single one of the state’s Congressional Republicans voted with Trump to repeal the Interior Department’s Stream Protection Rule, put into place by the Obama administration, which required coal firms to “clean up waste from mountaintop removal mining and prevent it from going into local waterways.” All nine voted to repeal an Obama administration rule to “provide greater public and scientific input into federal land management decisions.” And they all opposed a carbon tax.

Across the country, small and mid-sized farmers face many challenges, including falling prices, labor shortages, health care costs, and climate-change related natural disasters. The level of desperation felt by farmers unable to pay their mortgages and stay on the land they till, is reflected by the fact that farmers are killing themselves in record numbers across the United States.

Yet most GOP Congressional reps representing the main agricultural areas of New York State voted for the 2018 House Farm Bill which according to Farm Aid was a “huge payout to corporate players at the expense of farmers and ranchers.” Those who voted against it did so because it wasn’t nasty enough to immigrants, even though immigrant workers make up “70-80% of farmworkers,” according to Farmworker Justice.

The Farm Bill also cut many programs helping small and organic farmers, added onerous work requirements to SNAP beneficiaries, and removed millions of people from the supplemental nutrition program, which provides more than $19.4 million in revenue for farmers’ markets. It also eliminated the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), threatened the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act with extinction, and created pressures on programs helping veteran and minority farmers without providing any new or permanent funding.

All the Congressional Republicans in New York also supported a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, a ban on using federal funds (including Medicare) for health coverage that includes abortions, and the “right to try” bill, which allows pharmaceutical corporations to use terminally ill people in experimental treatments. “Right to try” was lauded by some Republicans in the 2016 Presidential primary election as a great way to provide affordable healthcare for low-income people, who are disproportionately Black and Brown.

All of the Congressional NY GOPers voted for a pro-ICE resolution, for bills to criminalize immigrants based on alleged “gang ties,” and to withhold Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies from recipients until they fully resolve any questions associated with their immigration or citizenship status, speciously claiming that half a million undocumented immigrants have obtained the tax credits.

Every single Republican Congressperson from NY voted to repeal an Obama administration rule that required companies receiving federal contracts to report violations of labor laws. All of them voted to allow corporations to “[force] workers into taking comp time … instead of overtime pay.”

They also all voted to repeal the Obama-era Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a “sea change” supported by the American Federation of Teachers, which allowed states and districts to “move beyond top-down, test-and-sanction-based reforms” being used to close schools, break the teachers’ unions, and impose heavy testing and disciplinary regimes on students.

No single area of Trumpian policy received such consistent support from New York’s Republicans as the moves to deregulate banks and corporations. All of the NY’s Republican Congress members voted to repeal Dodd-Frank, to protect banks from class action lawsuits, to eliminate protections for borrowers from discriminatory markups on auto loans, and axed other financial and corporate regulations. All also voted to get rid of a rule requiring energy companies to disclose payments to foreign governments.

Every single New York Congressional Republican also voted to approve a special waiver allowing Iran-hawk and Iraq War general James “Mad Dog” Mattis to serve as secretary of defense. All of them supported ramping up the military budget, and all voted to impose sanctions on Russia, Iran, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, aka North Korea). By way of contrast, seven of the current Democratic challengers support the Iran deal. Six of them support peaceful diplomacy with the DPRK and the Middle East, and support repealing the Bush-era Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), which Californian Congressperson Barbara Lee has said gives “a blank check” to any POTUS to promote endless war. Five of the Democratic challengers are also opposed to increasing the military budget.

Obstructionists in the NYS Senate

New York City, Albany, Rochester, and Buffalo have already elected Democrats to Congress. Democrats have also been elected to many of these area’s State Senate seats — except for Rochester. Gerrymandering has split up this city into three separate districts, each eating into the heart of the city from outside areas controlled by the extreme right.

Many bills and amendments have already passed the Democratic-controlled NYS Assembly that have been blocked by the Republican-controlled NYS Senate. The Assembly passed early voting, automatic voter registration, and other voting rights bills. Assembly members passed the NYS Dream Act, and the Liberty Act — a sanctuary state bill. The Democratic legislature also passed the NY Fair Pay Act to protect workers of color, women workers, and LGBTQ workers from super-exploitation, wage increases for home health care workers, expansion of family leave, and made it illegal for employers to discriminate against survivors of domestic violence.

The Assembly also passed the single-payer, Medicare-for-all New York Health Plan; the Reproductive Health Care Act and the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act. The body voted to end rent de-regulation by repealing vacancy decontrol. It passed the Child Victims Act, protecting victims of child abuse; the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act and a ban on conversion therapy. The HALT Solitary Confinement Act was passed by the Assembly. The Assembly voted to close the LLC loophole, which allows corporations to make unlimited political contributions. Assembly members also passed the Climate and Community Protection Act, which mandates 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, and a Constitutional Right to Clean Air, Water, and a Healthful Environment. A ban on bump stocks, on weapons on school grounds, and other gun control legislation has also passed the Assembly, besides many other positive measures.

With the passage of these bills, New York can become a true sanctuary state and a strong force in the fight against Trump. However, none of these bills will become law unless New Yorkers flip the New York State.


CONTRIBUTOR

Cameron Orr
Cameron Orr

Cameron Orr is a musician and writer living in Brooklyn, New York.

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