New York’s own “squad” heads to Albany

Progressive wins accompanied by gains for Republicans

New York /
Nov.November 06, 2020 09:30 AM
From left: State senator Jabari Brisport and state Assembly members Jennifer González-Rojas and Phara Souffrant,  (Photos via Victory Fund; Facebook; Pharaforassembly)

From left: State Sen. Jabari Brisport and Assembly members Jennifer González-Rojas and Phara Souffrant  (Photos via Victory Fund; Facebook; Pharaforassembly)

Numerous progressive state candidates, some endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America, will take their seats in the state legislature next year and try to push their chambers further left.

Meanwhile, Republicans were on track to pick up several seats in the state Senate, pending counts of mailed ballots, but will still be far short of the majority needed to have a significant impact in the upper chamber.

In Queens, in Brooklyn and in Rochester, progressive candidates for state Senate won their races, the Times Union reported, although in Democratic districts that were essentially decided in the June primary. Some of the newly elected officials were supported by the DSA, which triumphed in all of its primary races except for one in the Bronx.

The DSA continues to push for the decommodification of housing and for what they call social housing, as well as for eliminating developers’ tax benefits, making rent control universal through good-cause eviction legislation and funding the New York City Housing Authority.

Those policy goals may not come quickly, if at all, but the political organization’s continued electoral gains are a concern to the real estate industry.

Four candidates — Jabari Brisport and Phara Souffrant in Crown Heights, Zohran Mamdani in Astoria, Queens and Marcela Mitaynes in Sunset Park — were endorsed by the DSA and benefited from its campaign infrastructure.

Others, including Emily Gallagher in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Jessica González-Rojas in Jackson Heights, Queens, Samra Brouk and Jeremy Cooney in Rochester, campaigned on similar platforms.

The contingent bears some similarity to the “squad,” a handful of ultra-progressive House of Representatives members led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a rock star of the left wing who has built a massive social media following but has not passed significant legislation in her first term.

Although the legislature has become more progressive, the future policy impact remains unclear, with leadership in the two chambers answerable to conferences of perhaps three dozen Democrats in the Senate and 100 or more in the Assembly.

With respect to good-cause eviction, which is anathema to landlords statewide, Mamdani previously told The Real Deal that he would “make a real issue of something if [Assembly Speaker] Carl Heastie refuses to let it come to the floor” for a vote.

But in a statement Thursday, a spokesperson for Heastie told Times Union that “nothing really changes” because the Assembly Democratic conference has always been diverse and progressive.

Although mail-in ballots have not yet been counted, the progressive gains were accompanied by overall losses for Democrats in the state Assembly and Senate, which could further strengthen Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s formidable negotiating position and moderate any radical proposals from the legislature.


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