New Kings Democrats’ “Rep Your Block’ Hits Ground Running

The New Kings Democrats (NKD) held a meeting last night to dispense information about their “Rep Your Block” movement, and to allow its members to tell stories about their experiences petitioning for county committee seats.

The initiative has NKD club members going to various assembly districts throughout the borough in an attempt to get people to become part of the Democratic Party’s County Committee, the first step to active participation in local party politics.

Supporters of the controversial initiative say ‘Rep Your Block’ will bring much-needed reforms to the Kings County Democratic Party. Detractors of the initiative say it is political gentrification as the mainly white NKD are going into a number of traditionally black Central Brooklyn neighborhoods and attempting to impose their politics and views on longstanding political clubs and organizations.

“This is kind of like a meet-and-greet version of our general meeting,” said NKD President Brandon West. “We’re not gonna have politicians coming in to lecture you the whole time; this is a more active, interactive part of the work that we do.”

NKD VP of Organizing Angela Lascala-Gruenewald explains the “rhythm of the campiagn.” Photo by William Engel

NKD VP of Organizing Angela Lascala-Gruenewald said that the purpose of the meeting was to give attendees a sense of what the “rhythm of the campaign” will look like between now and the end of the month, when the petitions of county committee candidates will be collected.

“This is the time to hit the ground running, hit the doors and talk to people in any capacity,” said Lascala-Gruenewald. “So if you see people with petitions, go talk to them, see if you like the candidate on the sheet, and sign for them. We can all help each other in this process.”

NKD Community Organizer Sara Shoener said that they’ve had over 750 individuals confirm that they’re interested in running for county committee; however, of those, only 548 have arrived at NKD offices to pick up their petitions. As such, she encouraged attendees to help others participate in the process by hand-delivering petitions to aspiring county committee candidates who may not be able to pick them up themselves.

“We’ve got a lot of places where folks can pick them up, but because of childcare or an extra job or physical accessibility issues, there are some folks who need some special accommodations,” said Shoener. “We’re going to be going around the borough as much as we can, helping folks collect signatures and getting those petitions out to them, but it’s a place where some additional hands on deck would be greatly appreciated.”

After the NKD board members spoke, they gave the floor to the attendees running for county committee, allowing them to publicly talk about their experiences. Gail Davis, a candidate from the 56th Assembly District (Bedford-Stuyvesant, Northern Crown Heights), said she was pleasantly surprised with the level of success she enjoyed when she first started petitioning, considering the fact that the county committee is such a little-known part of the political process.

“We’ve just been knocking on doors, explaining what county committee is, and most people were willing to sign,” said Davis.

Yaneth Lombana, who’s also running in the 56th district, said that she was lucky enough to be running alongside another candidate on her block, and that the Rep Your Block initiative enabled them to get in touch and collaborate their efforts.

“In my district, there are two other people running with me, and they happen to live, like, three houses down from me,” said Lombana. “Through the Rep Your Block campaign, we were put in touch, and I kind of gave them the rundown. They were very encouraged, and now they’re actually beating me with collecting petitions. So I’m really excited.”

Afterwards, the attendees splintered off into separate groups according to their respective districts, and were given additional time to exchange stories about their recent petitioning experiences.

The candidates have roughly two more weeks to petition for their candidacy. Between June 30 and July 4, the NKD will collect completed petitions, which will then be sent to the Board of Elections on July 12.

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