By: Hadassa Kalatizadeh
The New York Democratic Party primary is coming up at the end of June, and something of a civil war is breaking out, with big bucks coming in from both sides.
As reported by the NY Post, the NYS Democratic Party and its political allies are making hefty donations in an effort to save Assembly members being targeted by democratic socialist challengers. Progressives including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are supporting new candidates whose interests align with the Democratic Socialists of America. AOC, the 32-year-old who was elected in 2019 to represent the 14th congressional district, is working to expand “The Squad”, which infamously also includes Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Rep. Ilhan Omar, and has been pushing a progressive agenda. “These are people who want to take over the Democratic Party, want to take over the Legislature and we disagree with them … We’re not going to stand idly,” state party Chair Jay Jacobs told The Post on Friday.
Embattled Assembly incumbents, who have their seats at stake include: Erik Dilan (D-Brooklyn), Kevin Cahill (D-Ulster) and Michael Benedetto (D-Bronx). Each of them was sent a check for $4700 from the state Democratic Party, to help before the primaries. In recent days, the state party has received contributions—including $25,000 from the AFL-CIO, which is the county’s biggest federation of unions, and $117,000 from the Transportation Workers Union Local, as per newly released campaign finance records. Apparently, the labor unions are rallying behind the incumbents, fearing what progressives may do.
“I’m very lucky,” Benedetto said of getting at least $6,700 from several unions in recent days. In late May, he reported having just $10,489 on hand in his war chest. He and Assemblywoman Nikki Lucas (D-Brooklyn) both recently received thousands from organized labor, to bring up their campaign funds to about $50,000 each.
On the left side of the party, groups like the Working Families Party and the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America have been working to replace Democratic incumbents in legislation ahead of the primary election on June 28. They considered the last legislative session difficult, as they couldn’t get things on their agenda passed. “We’re calling in all the help that we can get because we just had an incredibly depressing legislative cycle, where the Democrats didn’t pass any of the priorities that we were fighting for,” said Sumathy Kumar, co-chair of the DSA chapter.
Climate activist Sarahana Shrestha is targeting Cahill after he didn’t move forward legislation requiring a carbon tax for NYS. “We have to have all hands-on deck and make sure we win this thing,” Cahill commented to The Post. Cahill had reported $52,631 on hand last month, compared to $69,377 reported by Shrestha, with an additional $4,700 donation she got from the AOC-affiliated Courage to Change PAC.
The donations are part of a widespread infighting between AOC and the party establishment, which includes clashes of late with Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-Hudson Valley) and even NYC Mayor Eric Adams.