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Giving New York Voters a Real Choice New York States government is broken because our electoral system

denies voters the ability to hold politicians accountable. It denies voters the opportunity to elect people who actually represent their communities and their interests. In short, it denies voters a choice. New Yorkers understand that our government is broken because they look around and see our weak economy, our underperforming schools, our dilapidated transportation system, and our overcrowded prisons. As a longtime youth and community organizer running for New York State Assembly in a special election, I am experiencing first hand how our broken electoral process lies at the root of these problems. Every day, I see how our system favors party bosses and monied interests over the people who live in the working class communities where I grew up. Incumbents and party leaders can ignore the very real problems of their constituents because there is so little chance that those voters will ever throw them out. I am running for State Assembly because I believe that voters need a real choice and that this system can be fixed. Citizens, activists and legislators have spent many years fighting for a more democratic electoral process, and I am eager to join their fight. This year, the New York State Legislature and Governor passed an important ethics bill that, while it did not go far enough, represents a solid step forward. Many aspects of New Yorks electoral system need reform, but my experience as a grassroots candidate struggling to provide voters with a real choice has led me to focus on three reforms. I believe these reforms will provide New York voters with a real choice. Organizing and advocating for passage of these three reforms will be a priority for me as soon as I arrive in Albany: 1. Special Election Reform: The Problem According to a report by Citizens Union, by the end of this year one out of every three New York State legislators will have been elected by special election. Party bosses and insiders dominate these contests by having the power to essentially choose who gets to have the Democratic and Republican lines on the ballot. New York City, like much of the state, is dominated by a single party, which means that party bosses and insiders basically choose our elected officials. Considering the fact that an Albany legislator is more likely to die in office or be indicted on corruption charges than actually lose a reelection campaign, the voters are shut out of the electoral process. They do not have a choice. In my special election, for the 54th Assembly District, the entrenched Brooklyn party machine chose a favorite son to run as the Democrat. His 1

primary qualification is his pious loyalty to the machine. I am a proud life-long Democrat, but I am running on the Working Families Party line in order to give voters the choice they deserve. The Solution Special elections should be non-partisan, so that voters not party bosses choose whom they want to elect. If I am elected, one of my first priorities will be to push forward on the bill sponsored by Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries and Senator Daniel Squadron, which would allow anybody to get on the ballot if they show sufficient community support (750 signatures for Assembly, 1500 signatures for Senate). This way, even if communities are dominated by one party, multiple candidates will be able to run and voters will have the power to choose their representative. 2. Redistricting Reform The Problem Every ten years, after the Census, incumbents and party leadership redraw election lines to preserve their political careers, protect their allies, and punish and eliminate any threats to their power. Too often, voters dont chose their legislators instead, legislators chose their voters. This terrible system of redistricting has been condemned by every good government organization in the State of New York. I understand this reality well, because if the voters of the 54th Assembly District give me the honor of serving as their Assemblymember, theres a very good chance that party bosses and entrenched powerbrokers in Albany will try to redistrict me out of office, and immediately try to nullify the voters choice. The Solution There are two very good redistricting reform bills in front of the legislature. Either would go a long way towards improving the process and returning choice to the voters. Governor Andrew Cuomos legislation, called the Redistricting Reform Act, would establish a non-partisan redistricting commission that would (a) hold a series of public hearings throughout the state with ample opportunity for public participation, (b) require the commission to answer questions, consider alternative proposals, and explain the rationale for its final plan, and (c) submit the plan to the legislature for approval. If the legislature rejects the plan, the commission would go back and come up with a new plan. The legislation ensures that new districts protect the civil rights of minority voters and instructs the commission to recognize and preserve communities with shared interests whenever possible. In short, the Redistricting Reform Act would create a transparent, non-partisan, and fair system for determining our electoral districts. As a member of the Assembly, I would be a leader in the fight for this important reform. I also would support the similar proposal sponsored by Senator Mike Gianaris and Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries. 3. Campaign Finance Reform The Problem Money dominates our government. Rather than listening to voters talk about the problems in their neighborhoods and developing solutions to address those issues, candidates and elected officials spend their time listening to lobbyists and major donors.

I am living with this reality every day. I was born and raised in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Its a working class neighborhood. I dont have a large network of rich friends and business partners who can bankroll my campaign. My opponents, in contrast, come from established political families who can call on wealthy slumlords, corporate donors, and party bigwigs to fill their campaign coffers. Its called permanent Albany money and its how the political establishment keeps its power by giving favors to the wealthy in exchange for protection money during election season. This system often makes it unattainable for working class folks like me to represent our own communities, it results in laws that favor the privileged over the public, and it denies voters any real freedom to choose their public servants. The Solution New York State needs comprehensive campaign finance reform. Although there are various proposals for improving our current system, New York City actually provides the legislature with an excellent model that has already proven itself effective. NYCs Campaign Finance Program provides $6 in public matching funds for every $1 in private donations raised by qualifying candidates. In order to qualify, candidates just have to show that they have a reasonable base of support (e.g., 75 in-district donors for a City Council candidate or 1,000 donors for a Mayoral candidate). Then, the program sets a cap on expenditures so that grass roots democratic support, and not just big money, can determine the outcome of the election. I believe we should enact a similar system at the state level. One good version of this model was passed by the Assembly in 2008. Sponsored by Speaker Sheldon Silver, this bill would have created a $4 to $1 matching system. Assembly candidates like me, for example, would qualify if we raised $10,000 from 100 voters, including 50 in their district. We would be limited to $150,000 in total expenditures and individual donations would be limited to $2000. I would champion this legislation, or a similar proposal, which democratizes the campaign financing system, lets candidates focus on listening to voters instead of lobbyists, and prevents corporations and wealthy donors from buying elections. Conclusion These three proposals will not fix all of Albanys problems, but they are systemic reforms that will bring real democracy back to New York State. These proposals go to the heart of whats wrong with the 54th AD special election next month. Enacting these reforms into law would go a long way towards giving New Yorkers a more responsible and accountable state legislature, and ensuring that New York voters have a real choice.