City Council Member Carlina Rivera (D-Manhattan) announced Wednesday that 1199SEIU is throwing its considerable weight behind her bid to represent the newly redrawn 10th Congressional District – support she says will help her campaign come out on top in the crowded August 23 primary.
“Our unions and all that they do for their members and the community are a critical component of the winning coalition that we’re putting together for NY10,” Rivera said. “It’s an incredible honor to have the support of 1199. This is a very big deal. I’ve been in the trenches with their members for years now fighting to improve conditions for health care workers. A fight that really only became even more urgent with a pandemic.”
In the virtual news conference where the council member announced the powerful healthcare workers union’s endorsement, she was joined by 1199SEIU Secretary Treasure Milly Silva, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D–Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens) and Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. Velazquez and Reynoso, both progressive powerhouses, threw their support behind Rivera’s campaign at an event on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall last month.
Silva said this isn’t just a statement of support from the union, but a commitment of union members’ time and resources to help aid Rivera’s campaign in any way they can.
“At 1199, when we make an endorsement, it means that we’re all in,” Silva said. “So, it means that we are going to be asking 1199 members who live in the district to vote for her. It means that we have 1199 members who work in the district. We’re going to ask them to volunteer and to help knock on doors, make phone calls and do outreach and visibility to help support the candidacy of the campaign. And so those are some of the resources that we think are going to be critical in this race. So that everyone understands that this is not a paper endorsement, this is an endorsement of the people.”
The union’s resources are considerable, with approximately 6,000 1199 members residing in the district and thousands more working there, according to campaign spokeswoman Alyssa Cass. The district covers much of lower Manhattan as well as parts of Brownstone Brooklyn and Sunset Park.
The highly influential union chose Rivera over some of her fiercest big name competitors like former Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Rep. Mondaire Jones (D–Rockland, Westchester Counties). While 1199 was the first union to back de Blasio’s first run for mayor in 2013, Silva said 1199 members believe Rivera will be a more effective advocate for the issues they care about in Congress than de Blasio or any of the other candidates in the race.
“We have a lot of friends, but we also recognize that there are moments where we have to decide who our champions are going to be,” Silva said. “And she is the one that, through our process with our membership, emerged as the clear leader who we want to endorse and we want to support in the selection.”
Chris Coffey, CEO of political consulting firm Tusk Strategies, told PoliticsNY he thinks 1199 went with Rivera over de Blasio because they see her as a rising star in the Democratic Party who has a real chance of winning this race.
“I think they see her as part of the future and she is a progressive Latina woman,” Coffey said. “Bill de Blasio has higher name ID, but it’s harder to find people in the district that I think are voting for him. And I think [for] Carlina, my guess is having Reynoso and Nydia and Lincoln Restler is a big validator for 1199. And, endorsements help beget other endorsements and people want to be part of that.”
Although Rivera nabbed the 1199 endorsement and the backing of progressive leaders like Velazquez, Reynoso and City Council Member Lincoln Restler (D–Brooklyn), she still has stiff competition for the progressive lane of the race. Other powerful left-leaning organizations and figures like the New York Working Families Party (NYWFP) and former gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon have thrown their support behind Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou (D-Manhattan).
But Coffey said that Rivera and Niou are appealing to slightly different groups of progressive voters.
“They’re almost in different lanes on the progressive side, where it feels like Yuh-Line is all the way to the left and has kind of the activist crowd with her,” Coffey said. “And Carlina is not just progressive, but appeals to the kind of normal Dems who probably are a little bit more on the left. You know, appealing to Park Slope folks, probably appealing to Cobble Hill folks as well.”