The Working Families Party held a Progressive Insurgence Rally at Medgar Evers College in Crown Heights yesterday aimed at supporting Democratic challengers opposing incumbents who are members of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), which has a coalition with the majority Republicans.
Medgar Evers College is in the heart of State Sen. Jesse Hamilton‘s (D-Central Brooklyn) district. Hamilton, an IDC member, is one of the hardest working electeds in Brooklyn with a stong legislative record and a number of district initiatives to his credit.
The WFP rally came as Hamilton led a ‘Black Minds Matter’ rally outside the school in what is increasingly becoming a political ideology fight with racial overtones. The conflict pits the white run WFP/ultra liberal wing of the Democratic Party opposing a mixed racial group of Democratic lawmakers that feel more can be done working across the aisle in political compromise.
The first part of the rally centered on Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-NY) acceptance of the WFP endorsement, and not taking sides in the WFP/IDC conflict. She departed after going over the progressive goals that she supports and hopes to accomplish in Washington but left a few in the crowd yelling “what about the IDC?”
They were not disappointed however when WFP Co-Chair Jonathan Westin said that the second part of the rally was dedicated to fighting Trump on a local level and led a call and response: “No Trump Democrats. Stop the IDC”
Before hearing from the IDC challengers that the WFP brought to endorse, Alliance for Quality Education spokesperson Natasha Caper and Empire State Indivisible spokesperson Claudia Stewart went down the list of issues they blame the IDC for stymieing because they believe the conference handed the Senate Republicans their majority though the IDC-GOP coalition.
Some of their specific grievances include: favoring charter schools and failing to adequately fund public schools through the Foundation Aid Formula, not codifying Roe v. Wade in state law, blocking a vote the Assembly’s DREAM Act and the Climate and Community Protection Act, holding up early voting and bail reform, and negligent MTA funding.
They took particular issue with two members of the IDC conference leader Sen. Jeff Klein and Hamilton.
Stewart criticized Klein saying, “Because of Jeff Klein, who in the middle of the Me Too and Black Lives Matter movements, a white man, thinks it is his turn to lead, the 2018 New York Sexual Assault and Workplace Harassment Policy is going to be negotiated without one woman in the room.”
Caper went after Hamilton.
“I know many of us saw the counter protest outside led by my very own senator outside. He claims we are going against him because we don’t want to see black history in our schools and that is a lie. He has put forth a bill claiming it is for black history and to increase it in our schools but yet that is not what that bill is for. It is for a three-year commission, with no money, no real timeline, and no teeth. He lied to my face and if he will lie to his own constituents, what would he do to everyone else and what will the IDC do to gut public education as a whole,” said Caper.
After the criticisms, the WFP introduced its endorsed candidates running against the incumbent IDC members: Zellnor Myrie running against Hamilton in District 20 (Brooklyn), Jasmine Robinson running against Sen. Diane Savino in District 23 (Staten Island and Brooklyn), Robert Jackson running against Sen. Marisol Alcantara in District 31 (Manhattan), Jessica Ramos running against Sen. Jose Peralta in District 13 (Queens), John Duane running against Sen. Tony Avella in District 11 (Queens), Alessandra Biaggi running against Sen. Jeff Klein in District 34 (Bronx & Westchester), and Rachel May running against Sen. David J. Valesky in District 53 (Syracuse).
The theme was clear through each candidate, they will not consider any accomplishment won by IDC members as gains, but as crumbs handed out by Republicans who don’t deserve to be in leadership.
Zellnor went last, as the event was held in the district that he is hoping to represent, and finished saying, “Lets bring the fight to the ballot box because we are no longer satisfied with a slice when we deserve the whole damn pie.”