PSC-endorsed candidates Bill de Blasio (running for mayor) and Tish James (for public advocate) at a rally in Union Square in support of the August 29 fast-food workers’ strike. Strikers are demanding an end to poverty wages.
Bill de Blasio, who was at 10% in the polls when the PSC endorsed him in June, finished strong with 40% in the September 10 primary election to choose the Democratic candidate for mayor. PSC-endorsed candidates also placed first in the other two citywide races, and four-fifths of the union’s candidates for City Council were victorious.
“This is an important step for shifting New York City politics in a more progressive direction,” said PSC President Barbara Bowen. “New Yorkers want a change from the inequality and austerity of the Bloomberg years, and the PSC will work hard for the same result this November.”
“In a city this rich,” added Bowen, “there is no reason why CUNY should be poor. De Blasio’s plan to end tax breaks for well-connected corporations like Fresh Direct and to increase City funding of CUNY by 50%, is a prime example of the change in priorities we need.”
As Clarion went to press, it was not yet clear if de Blasio would face a runoff in the contest for the Democratic nomination. He had captured 40.3% of the vote reported the day after the primary, far above his nearest rival but just above the runoff threshold. Either way, de Blasio’s surging support was the main story of the September 10 election.
“People are responding to Bill de Blasio’s campaign because of his clear and consistent message – that New York is increasingly a ‘tale of two cities,’ and that the city is at-risk if we allow that to continue,” said PSC First Vice President Steve London. “Last year, the richest 1% of New Yorkers received 39% of the city’s income, while close to half the city lives at or near the poverty line. De Blasio’s message – taxing the rich to fund education, ending the racial profiling of stop-and-frisk – resonates with voters who want New York to move in a new direction.”
PSC members worked hard in the primary, mounting the biggest election effort in the union’s history. Calling thousands of fellow PSC members, and leafleting at campuses CUNY-wide, volunteers spread the word about who the union was supporting, and why. “We heard a lot of encouraging remarks from other faculty,” said Nivedita Majumdar, co-chair of the PSC chapter at John Jay college. “It felt good to be supporting someone who both has a good program and is a winner!”
Candidates backed by the PSC also came in first in the other citywide races. Public advocate candidate Letitia James, currently a City Council member from Brooklyn, drew 36%, and is campaigning to win the nomination in an October 1 runoff. In its endorsement of James, the PSC cited her strong support for CUNY, her role on the City Council in demanding an investigation of the disastrous CityTime payroll project, and her clear-sighted criticism of the NYPD’s discriminatory practice of stop-and-frisk.
Scott Stringer, currently borough president of Manhattan, clinched the comptroller nomination with 52%. A trustee of the NYC Employee Retirement System, Stringer has emphasized the importance of protecting public employees’ retirement security and is a longtime advocate for CUNY.
Several insurgent candidates won primary races for City Council, with PSC support as part of a broad progressive coalition. In Brooklyn, community activist Carlos Menchaca defeated incumbent Sara González in Council District 38, despite a massive infusion of money from the real estate industry’s political action committee in support of his opponent.
Ben Kallos, a reformer who has worked for more transparency in government, also beat the real estate lobby to overcome Assemblymember Micah Kellner in Manhattan’s CD 5. At press time, another candidate fiercely opposed by real estate interests, Daneek Miller, was in the lead in CD 27 in Queens. Miller is president of ATU Local 1056, the union for drivers and mechanics in NYC Transit’s Queens Bus Division.
Other notable council victories include Antonio Reynoso in Brooklyn’s CD 34, who defeated political boss Vito Lopez’s attempt to move to the council from the State Assembly, where he had resigned his seat after a sexual harassment scandal. In CD 15, Ritchie Torres, a dynamic young organizer who has worked closely with tenants in his Bronx district, won the primary with backing from a wide range of progressive organizations.
“This year PSC members have organized the union’s strongest-ever election effort,” Bowen told Clarion. “We can secure the progressive victories in this year’s primary if we continue our efforts through the general election on Tuesday, November 5.”
[For updates on PSC election action, go to the PSC website and click on “Endorsements for 2013 Elections.”]