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Movement Updates

We were part of a political revolution in New York State

We were part of a political revolution in New York State

By Nicole Catania and Aracely Jimenez-Hudis, Sunrise NYC

Last night, after months of door-knocking, and making calls and texts to voters, Sunrise NYC helped create the conditions to flip the Senate in New York State and get the votes to pass the strongest climate legislation in the country into law.

We put a nail in the coffin of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), a group of Democratic State Senators who caucus with Republicans. Three of our six endorsed candidates won their elections, unseating powerful incumbents who’ve disregarded the needs of working families for years.

We proved that when young people unite, we can topple the most entrenched, powerful figures in state politics, and make climate action to protect millions of New Yorkers’ lives a reality.

It was an honor to work with courageous candidates like Zellnor Myrie (my new State Senator!) who took on the corrupt Democratic Party establishment in our district. He won by 3,463 votes and Sunrise volunteers knocked on over 3,500 doors for him. We worked with courageous young women like Alessandra Biaggi and Julia Salazar, who — just a few years older than most Sunrise volunteers — went up against powerful male corporate-funded incumbents and won by landslides. We contacted over 4,300 voters for Biaggi, a critical difference in a race won by just 2,986 votes.

We began working with Zellnor Myrie in February of this year. Yesterday, he was a charismatic, young housing rights activist and lawyer with hopes of unseating IDC member Jesse Hamilton. Today, he’s a State Senator. From early on, Zellnor (affectionately referred to as “Z”) would attend phonebanks and information sessions at our apartments. He was swift to sign the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge, refusing donations over $200 from the fossil fuel industry. Z’s honesty, generosity, and vision for Brooklyn is what fueled us to knock on thousands of doors and contact even more voters through phone banks, events, and social media. That same honesty, generosity, and vision will now be what shapes State Senate District 20 in Brooklyn.

We met Alessandra Biaggi in March. Like Z, she was eager to sign the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge and take down an IDC member incumbent. The race was different, however — Biaggi was taking on the leader of the IDC, Jeff Klein. It was deemed impossible. There was no way a young woman could defeat a thirteen-year incumbent, the man who led seven other Democrats to betray their constituents. But we believed in her, and the community did too. We trekked up to the Bronx and knocked on doors, we made phone calls, posted on social media. And last night, that young woman from Westchester took down the leader of the IDC. Alessandra Biaggi showed how a fiercely honest and trustworthy woman can engage an entire community and defeat even the most powerful of men.

In addition to Zellnor Myrie and Alessandra Biaggi, four other IDC challengers won their primaries last night — Jessica Ramos (SD 13), Robert Jackson (SD 31), John Liu (SD 11) and Rachel May (SD 53). In a non-IDC led district, our endorsed candidate Julia Salazar also won her primary last night, unseating a 16-year incumbent. Salazar also signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge and is vocal about her support for the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA) which would move New York to 100% renewable energy by 2050 — a bill that has been consistently blocked at the Senate floor by the IDC and their Republican allies.

While our top-of-the-ballot candidates didn’t win, we are so proud of the work we did for Cynthia Nixon (Governor), Jumaane Williams (Lt. Governor), and Zephyr Teachout (Attorney General). These candidates reached millions with a message about ending corruption in our state. Cynthia Nixon gave the most powerful governor in the country a run for his money. Jumaane Williams defined a new standard of leadership for the position of Lieutenant Governor. Zephyr Teachout, the nation’s leading anti-corruption expert, fought through a four-way race and only trailed the victory by 10 points with zero corporate funding.

As Cuomo heads into his third term, he’ll have to contend with thousands of New Yorkers demanding he faces the challenge of governing a state whose people have always been more progressive than its politicians. And with the IDC gone, he’ll have to work with a State Senate that refuses to be corrupted fossil fueled interests; a state legislature that won’t back down from turning the most progressive climate legislation in the country, the New York Climate and Communities Protection Act, into law.

I feel so proud and so powerful. Our team of young people made a difference this election cycle, and we’ve caught a glimpse of what a safer, more just world could look like. But the fight is far from over. I hope you’ll stay tuned as and join us as we continue to build an army of young people across this country powerful enough to remove corrupt and complacent politicians from office and send a new generation of leaders into power.