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Alessandra Biaggi's next move
A deep dive into one of New York State's premier progressives. How Alessandra Biaggi went from "cutting the head off the IDC," to running for Congress in a contentious five-county Democratic Primary.
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A lot has changed in four years - from the district lines themselves to the prevailing narratives orbiting local politics - not to mention the faces who occupy the highest offices across the City and State.
Even for Alessandra Biaggi, who announced her bid for the newly redistricted NY-3 Congressional District, this election cycle promises to bring new challenges.
Biaggi’s breakout came in 2018, as she scored a landmark upset over State Senator Jeff Klein that ascended her to progressive stardom. In a left wave year, Biaggi overcame the incumbent’s significant financial advantage with energy, organizing, and a shift in the narrative against Klein and his allies.
While she does not have the socialist inklings of an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Julia Salazar - Biaggi is firmly positioned in the progressive, or “new liberal left”, ideological faction of New York Democrats - similar to the likes of Brad Lander, Yuh-Line Niou, and Harvey Epstein, among many others.
Now, as the proverbial narrative - with respect to crime, policing, and bail reform - has shifted against the left, Biaggi finds herself caught in the crossfire, as a high profile progressive running in a new district against several more conservative candidates.
Four years ago, Biaggi was the insurgent underdog with the political winds at her back - she had nothing to lose, or at least much less than she does now. Meanwhile, Klein, the embattled incumbent fighting for his political life, had everything to lose.
Today, Biaggi is undoubtedly taking a sizable risk, giving up her secure seat in the State Senate to run for a Congress in a race that promises to be close and contentious.
Alessandra Biaggi was well-acquainted with politics at early age.
As the granddaughter of ten-term Congressman Mario Biaggi, she was forced to contend with the conflicting nature of her grandfather’s legacy.
One of the most decorated officers in NYPD history, who later served the Bronx for nearly two decades in Congress, Mario Biaggi was ultimately befallen by scandal, resigning after being convicted twice for receipt of unlawful gratuities.
Editor’s Note: Mario Biaggi was an early frontunner in the 1973 Democratic Mayoral Primary, before news broke that he
to answer questions before a Federal grand jury. His campaign struggled to recover and he ultimately placed third behind Comptroller Abe Beam and Rep. Herman Badillo.
Biaggi herself, like her family’s four generations of Italian-Americans who preceded her, grew up in and around the district she would later represent. Born in Mount Vernon, Biaggi spent her early childhood in Fort Lee, New Jersey before moving to Pelham during her adolescence.
Like her grandfather, Biaggi was intrigued by both law and politics. After graduating from NYU in 2008, she interned with Rep. Joe Crowley, before going on to Fordham Law School, where she worked for both the Brooklyn District’s office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
Upon graduating Law School, Biaggi forayed into State politics for the first time, working as an Assistant General Counsel to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Office of Storm Recovery.
Soon after, Biaggi joined Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign as Deputy National Operations Director, where she managed two hundred staff members in addition to a $500 million dollar budget.
Clinton’s stunning defeat pushed Biaggi to deepen her involvement at the local level, especially concerning women’s issues. Through advocacy organizations like Indivisble - which spawned in the wake of the Trump era - Biaggi began teaching civics classes to adult audiences, before beginning her second stint in the Cuomo administration.
In what she later described as “a dark moment in my life,” Biaggi said her experiences were defined by bullying and intimidation:
“The governor has people that he believes are ‘his people,’ and those who are not, those are the ones who are treated not only with vindictiveness, but with political retribution.” (News 10)
As counsel to the Governor’s Council for Women and Girls, Biaggi’s primary objective was for the State Government to pass the Reproductive Health Act, which would codify Roe vs. Wade.
It was here Biaggi met her antagonist, State Senator Jeff Klein.
The fourth most powerful Democrat in Albany, Klein was infamous for leading a group of breakaway Democrats known as the Independent Democratic Conference, who collectively were integral in stonewalling the Reproductive Health Act, among other Progressive legislative priorities.
For Biaggi, Klein was long past due for a reckoning. And, in a fateful twist to the tale, Biaggi lived in Klein’s Senate District.
The district (Senate District 34 to be exact) included the Bronx neighborhoods of Riverdale, Morris Park, Castle Hill, and Throggs Neck - the latter of which was considered Klein’s base with many moderate homeowners - while also stretched up north into Westchester County to include the town of Pelham - where Biaggi lived.
If Klein was to be stopped, perhaps Biaggi would have to be the one to do it.
In December of 2017 she took that chance, launching her insurgent campaign to unseat Klein, intent to raise awareness about the IDC and hopefully help deal a fatal blow to the discordant group.
She would not be alone.
The roots of the IDC could be traced back almost a decade.
What began as a cynical power grab manifested into something much more sinister. In 2011, while the Senate chamber was still controlled by Republicans, Klein and three other State Senators spurned their Democratic colleagues and formed their own caucus, the IDC. While the renegades branded this move as merely a “dissatisfaction with Democratic leadership,” in reality it represented an effort to curry favor with the Republican majority, to which Klein and his compatriots were handsomely rewarded with desired committee appointments, better offices, increased staff funding, and most importantly, greater influence over the annual budget negotiation.
While Democrats picked up State Senate seats in 2012, without the IDC, they lacked the necessary votes to select the Majority Leader, leading Klein and Senator Dean Skelos, the leader of the Republican caucus, to alternate as Majority leader every two weeks.
In effect, this allowed Republicans to shape the State’s legislative agenda into the foreseeable future - all with the tacit support of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who was content to posture for progressive politics while enabling bad actors to undermine his party’s priorities.
As the IDC steadily grew from four to eight members over the next few years, members of the conference were able to craft a narrative - rather than disloyal Democrats, they were merely opposed to corruption and dysfunction - all while creating a “political force field” that would insulate them from traditional criticisms slung towards Democrats or Republicans.
An effort to unseat Klein took hold in 2014, as he was primary challenged by former City Council Member Oliver Koppell. Progressive organizations like the Working Families Party were keen on portraying Klein as an untrustworthy foe who enabled Republicans to further his own power. While the effort initially seemed promising, Klein cut deals behind the scenes with both Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Cuomo, that if Democrats picked up enough seats, the IDC and the Democratic caucus would form an alliance and govern in coalition - with Klein co-leading. As such, many Senate Democrats and formidable labor unions backed off from Klein’s challenged, allowing him to cruise to victory by over twenty points.
However, come November, it was the Republicans who picked up crucial swing seats, netting a stalemate in the Senate, 31 Democrats to 31 Republicans. The difference maker for the 63 member body would be Simcha Felder, a nominal Democrat who represented the more conservative neighborhoods of Hasidic Borough Park and Orthodox Midwood. Felder, despite his party affiliation, backed the Republicans, once more tipped the balance away from the Democratic Caucus.
Thus, the Democrat-IDC alliance that Klein had reluctantly agreed to, was essentially deemed irrelevant, and the IDC remained allied with Republicans, despite Klein losing his role as co-leader of the Senate.
Progressives, fed-up with inaction, blamed Klein for emboldening Republicans and failing to pass the DREAM Act or codifying abortion rights. Klein cynically countered that he dragged Republicans to left to help pass $15 statewide minimum wage.
To those aware of the everyday workings of Albany, Klein’s deception and power hungry instincts were evident. Yet to those not actively in-tune with State government, his sleight of hand went largely unnoticed. The malaise of local participation amidst a national fervor helped Klein coast without accountability.
Ironically enough, it was the defeat of Alessandra Biaggi’s former boss, Hillary Clinton, which catapulted Donald Trump into the White House, that ultimately played a critical role in accelerating the downfall of the IDC.
Thousands of Democrats within New York State experienced a moment of internal reckoning after the 2016 election, awakening from a slumber to find their local representatives in State government abetting Republicans to stall the legislature. Liberal and progressive activists were eager to tap into this heightened enthusiasm and channel it towards unseating the IDC members.
Quickly, challengers assembled ahead of the 2018 State Senate primaries, forming an informal slate of sorts - all united under the banner of banishing the breakaway Democrats.
No member of the IDC was safe.
In Northeast Queens, former Comptroller John Lui set up a rematch with Tony Avella, after losing narrowly four years prior. Jessica Ramos, an aide to Mayor Bill de Blasio, faced Jose Peralta in Jackson Heights and Astoria.
In Central Brooklyn and Sunset Park, housing lawyer Zellnor Myrie opposed Jesse Hamilton, an ally of Borough President Eric Adams. While along the West Side of Manhattan, incumbent Marisol Alcantara was taken on by former City Council Member Robert Jackson.
Yet the headlining race was between Klein and Biaggi, who was intent on “cutting the head off the snake.”
Klein, who had been accused of forcibly kissing a staffer and was later ordered to return hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions by the State Board of Elections, was everything Biaggi sought to fix in Albany - the culture of sexual harassment, corruption, and permissive deference to a Republican agenda.
As the anti-IDC chorus grew louder, Andrew Cuomo took notice, as his implicit support for the dissident group had only added fodder for the Governor’s primary challenger, Cynthia Nixon, who was intent to reveal Cuomo's fraudulent progressive credentials.
Cuomo sought to simply make the problem go away. Over lunch at a Manhattan steakhouse, the Governor, alongside the state’s most influential labor leaders and Rep. Joe Crowley, successfully brokered a deal between Klein and Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the leader of the main Democrats, to dissolve the IDC and have Klein and co. rejoin the caucus.
“Under the terms outlined by Mr. Cuomo, Ms. Stewart-Cousins would become the sole Democratic leader, and Mr. Klein would become her deputy.” (The New York Times)
Problem solved? Not so fast. While the former IDC members hoped their “reconciliation” would curtail the momentum behind their challengers, the opposite proved to be true. Resentment had built up and Klein was viewed as dishonest by his colleagues in Albany - who told The Times they would, “sleep with one eye open - we’ve been sabotaged before”.
As Winter crested into Spring, in spite of Klein’s incumbency and his large dollar fundraising, the political winds were behind Biaggi, who was endorsed early by the Working Families Party, True Blue NY, and NO IDC NY. Klein, realizing his troubles were not going away, started to unravel as he hunkered down for a difficult campaign.
However, a tidal wave would come on June 26th. In New York’s 14th Congressional, Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez toppled Rep. Joe Crowley, the notorious “King of Queens” and fourth ranking House Democrat, in a stunning upset that sent shockwaves across the country. The insurgent, anti-establishment fever was felt right in Biaggi’s backyard, as Ocasio-Cortez’s district overlapped with the 34th Senatorial district, including Bronx neighborhoods Throggs Neck, Morris Park, Pelham Parkway, and City Island.
“Voters are waking up,” said Biaggi.
Two days after Ocasio-Cortez’s Tuesday night triumph, Biaggi received a monumental endorsement from political heavyweight, 32BJ, after Klein declined to sit down with union president Hector Figueroa, who remarked “I see the I.D.C. as a zombie, and only a blow in the head can kill a zombie.” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, a close ally of Joe Crowley, also endorsed Biaggi on the same day. As the weeks rolled on, the press focused heavily on Biaggi and the other challengers, sensing the Democratic Party was amidst a sea change.
Ocasio-Cortez herself, in the wake of becoming a celebrity overnight, was eager to highlight the issue of the IDC to her growing audience, culminating in an enthusiastic endorsement of Biaggi in late August. The very next day, The New York Times did the same, calling Biaggi’s race, “the most important of the primary challenges” but “also one of the toughest.”
“Ms. Biaggi, who has raised more than $260,000 in smaller donations, is working voter by voter to promote affordable housing and voting and ethics reforms… Alessandra Biaggi, who describes herself pointedly as “a real Democrat,” is the kind of smart, dedicated reformer so desperately needed in Albany.” (The New York Times)
Others soon followed, including the likes of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Comptroller Scott Stringer, Representatives Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney, in addition to Council Members like Brad Lander and Carlina Rivera.
However, the embattled Klein would not go quietly. Buoyed by heavy fundraising from the real estate industry and corporations, Klein spent a staggering three million dollars plus to keep his seat - more than Cynthia Nixon spent on her entire Gubernatorial campaign - resulting in a nearly 10 to 1 margin over Biaggi. Organized labor, led by 1199 SEIU, DC37, and the Hotels Trade Council, still largely backed Klein’s re-election. Lastly, the Bronx County Organization, and almost all its electeds, uniformly supported the incumbent - with Borough President Rubén Diaz Jr, State Senator Jamaal Bailey, and City Council Members Rafael Salamanca and Mark Gjonaj headlining the coalition.
Notably, both Andrew Cuomo and Rep. Eliot Engel declined to endorse in the race.
Going into the final days, Biaggi and Klein were neck and neck.
Yet, the momentum Biaggi rode into election day was ultimately the difference, as a re-energized and engaged electorate powered her to a narrow victory - as she defeated Klein 19,318 votes (54.25%) to 16,290 votes (45.75%).
Overall, voter turnout skyrocketed compared to four years prior - 35,608 votes in 2018 compared to just 14,219 in 2014.
Biaggi crushed Klein in both Riverdale (she got nearly 70% of the vote in AD81 - a margin of almost 5K votes) and the Westchester County portion of the district (83% of the vote). These large margins were bolstered by her quality results in Klein strongholds Throggs Neck and Morris Park, where she eclipsed 40% of the vote.
Across the state, the vast efforts to dismantle the IDC bore fruit, as Jessica Ramos, Zellnor Myrie, John Liu, Robert Jackson, and Rachel May all emerged victorious alongside Biaggi. Their collective defeat represented a monumental upset, and an inflection point in the history of New York State government.
“We have now cut the head off the IDC snake.”
When later asked by City & State if the anti-IDC sentiment would have coalesced had Donald Trump not been elected President, she responded, “I don't actually, I really don't, because him winning that election was the catalyst for everyone mobilizing. Even though we all wished that it didn't happen, what we're seeing is a lot of positive that has come out of the loss.”
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Biaggi entered the Senate chamber already as one of the body’s most progressive voices, symbolic of the left shift underway in Albany. She was flanked by other insurgents eager to change the culture in the Capital. In addition to her anti-IDC comrades, the “class of 2018” included Democratic Socialist Julia Salazar, whose own primary victory over Martin Malavé Dilan in North Brooklyn, marked another landmark victory for the Left.
As Chair of the Ethics Committee, Biaggi chaired the state’s first hearings on workplace sexual harassment in twenty seven years. Later that year, the Senate passed “sweeping anti-harassment” legislation that Biaggi sponsored.
According to The New York Times:
“The legislation eliminates the state’s ‘severe or pervasive’ standard for proving harassment” while “also restrict[ing] employers’ ability to avoid liability for the behavior of their employees; provide for attorney fees and punitive damages in discrimination cases; expand the time frame to file complaints about workplace harassment with a state agency; and ensure that anti-harassment training is provided in multiple languages.”
Much of the legislation Biaggi campaigned on - the Reproductive Health Act, the Dream Act, and the Child Victims Act - have been signed into law. Biaggi has also routinely opposed efforts to roll back the bail reform laws of 2019, calling cash bail “inherently unjust.”
Pushback to bail reform, which was originally praised as a landmark progressive achievement, came almost immediately after its passage - mirroring similar efforts led by Governor Kathy Hochul and Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin to tweak the law today. Biaggi frames such discussions about bail reform as “really just a narrative war, communications war, that we lost.”
Despite having twice worked inside the Cuomo Administration, Biaggi’s relationship with her former boss throughout her time in the legislature can be best described as contentious, as she frequently admonished the governor and top aide Melissa DeRosa for their infamous displays of verbal abuse.
When the Governor was first accused of sexual harassment last February, Biaggi was one of the first Democrats in the legislature to publicly call on Cuomo to resign.
As her status grew, Biaggi’s endorsement was soon sought after by many eager to prove their progressive bona fides. However, it is worth noting that her two most high-profile endorsements were actually rescinded.
In 2020, Biaggi backed sixteen-term incumbent Eliot Engel in his difficult reelection bid against Justice Democrat-backed Jamaal Bowman, stating “It’s not the time to be endorsing Democrats who are running against incumbents.”
Yet, when Engel self-destructed, infamously uttering “If I didn’t have a primary I wouldn’t care” in an effort to secure speaking time at a press conference concerning the death of George Floyd, Biaggi un-endorsed Engel and backed Bowman, who went on to trounce Engel - 63% to 36%.
When City Comptroller Scott Stringer announced his much-anticipated campaign for Mayor, Biaggi was front and center - along with fellow-Senators Julia Salazar and Jessica Ramos, and Assembly Members Yuh-Line Niou and Catalina Cruz, among others - as one of Stringer’s premier surrogates. Hoping to thread the needle between older liberals and younger progressives, early endorsements from Biaggi, Salazar, Ramos, Cruz and Niou was crucial to shedding Stringer’s reputation as a Manhattan clubhouse politician - with the eventual hope to consolidate the left vote around his candidacy.
However, after an allegation of sexual misconduct was levied against the Comptroller, Biaggi released a joint statement with Bowman, Salazar, Niou - in addition to Catalina Cruz and Gustavo Rivera - collectively withdrawing their support from Stringer. After much of his institutional support eroded virtually overnight, Stringer’s campaign limped to the finish line, ultimately winning only 5.5% of the vote.
Having long been rumored to be a prospective candidate for higher office, Biaggi could have conceivably held her current Senate Seat for as long as she pleased. Yet, given all the Democratic gains in the State Capital over the past four years - both in terms of progressive legislation once stonewalled under Cuomo and the IDC and for the party at large, which now holds a supermajority in both houses - perhaps Biaggi saw this as both the right time to move on, and the most opportune time.
The first seeds for Biaggi’s run for Congress were planted late last November, when Long Island Congressman Tom Suozzi elected to forego seeking another term in the House to launch a primary challenge against incumbent Governor Kathy Hochul. Suozzi, whose stock transactions Business Insider rated as “Dangerous”, is considered one of the most conservative Democrats in the state.
Suozzi’s open seat presented a golden opportunity for many aspiring Democrats, the vast majority of whom reside in Nassau County, the geographical epicenter of the district and the county with the highest vote share.
However, New York’s Third Congressional District was significantly altered during the State’s decennial redistricting process, thus turning the tables in the race and opening up a window for Biaggi’s entrance. The district, which traditionally ran along Long Island’s North Shore - uniting Nassau, Suffolk and Queens counties - was further stretched in both directions.
Most consequentially, the Eastern portion of the newly minted NY-3 was radically overhauled, as the district now extended across the Throggs Neck Bridge up the Eastern part of the Bronx, before carrying over into Westchester County, including the towns of Pelham, New Rochelle, Mamaroneck, Rye and Port Chester.
As Biaggi’s home was admitted to the district, rumors began swirling about her potential bid. On February 7th, Biaggi confirmed the rounds of speculation, she would be running for Congress - making her the race’s only entrant from the Bronx / Westchester portion of the district.
Yet unlike four years ago, the narrative around Biaggi’s run will be different this time. In 2018, Biaggi was the spirited underdog who - combined with a progressive slate - punctuated a wave year for the left by banishing the State’s most disloyal Democrats from office. Now, Biaggi will have a target on her back, given her name recognition and reputation as a leading voice on progressive issues.
In a climate ripe with backlash against the left, especially with respect to bail reform and policing, Biaggi could be on the defensive - given her past comments. The liberals of Riverdale or Fieldston in the Northwest Bronx, an essential part of Biaggi’s winning coalition in 2018, are a world away from the conservative Democrats along the north shore of Long Island.
The electorate, which skews moderate, will have many candidates to choose from.
Robert Zimmerman of Great Neck, a longstanding Democratic National Committee member, appears quite formidable, having raised over $900,000 since launching in January, while eschewing Corporate PAC contributions. Zimmerman, a former aide on Capitol Hill who has not run for office since the 80’s, has been endorsed by multiple North Hempstead elected officials. While Zimmerman has prioritized progressive legislation like Medicare-for-All, he is likely to support a more mainline position on issues like restoring the SALT deduction and supporting Israel, with a record of “conservative immigration stances” to boot.
Twenty-eight year old Josh Lafazan, an Independent who caucuses with Democrats in the Nassau County Legislature, appears to be running in the mold of Suozzi. Lafazan, whose legislative district gave Trump a majority in 2020, has raised over $700,000 since December, while branding himself as a “Common Sense” Democrat. His website noticeably lacks any type of policy page whatsoever, and I remain skeptical of Lafazan’s electoral prospects, given his relatively small legislative district and the fact he has never been forced to compete in a Democratic primary.
Former North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman is also back again for the open Congressional seat, having tried his luck in 2016, placing third in the primary with 21.6% of the vote. Ironically, Kaiman, now Suffolk County Deputy County Executive - a role he has held since 2017 - struggled considerably in Suffolk County during the 2016 primary, winning a meager 6.87% of the vote. Now having worked in leadership positions within both of Long Island’s counties, Kaiman could be hedging his bets and increasing his name recognition. Notably, when asked about the future of the Democratic Party, Kaiman said, “I think that we have lurched into uncharted territory taking us into extreme positions.”
Reema Rasool, a small business owner from Oyster Bay, has also raised over six figures. The founder of South Asian Young Women Entrepreneurs, Rasool is a proponent of Medicare-for-all and the Green New Deal, but has also expressed support for a suspension of the gas-tax while railing against “ridiculous progressive slogans” like defunding the police.
Yet, on the other side of the electoral spectrum, Biaggi’s abrupt entrance into the race rankled some progressives, especially in Queens and Nassau County. Why? Because Melanie D’Arrigo, who challenged Suozzi from the left in 2020, had already declared her candidacy months prior - in anticipation of a rematch. The optics of such a late entrance, given D’Arrigo’s previous status as the premier progressive in the race, remain dubious to some on the left. Many organizers were hoping to build off D’Arrigo’s run two years ago - where she amassed 14,269 votes (25.73%) against the incumbent, despite being outraised by a 9 to 1 ratio. Now, progressives are confronting whether their endorsements, donations, infrastructure, and most importantly votes will be split between both D’Arrigo and Biaggi, clearing the way for a more conservative candidate.
This paradigm is presently on display. Already, NYPAN, Brand New Congress, Our Revolution, Zephyr Teachout and Melissa Mark-Viverito are behind D’Arrigo. Furthermore, many organizations integral to Biaggi’s 2018 coalition, like No IDC NY, Empire State Indivisible, and Progressive Women of New York, have also pledged their support to her.
Moreover, a plethora of leading progressive activists and organizers in Queens, which could potentially be the swing county in the race, are committed to D’Arrigo as well, including Bright Limm, Shawna Morlock, Jaslin Kaur and Lauren Ashcraft, among countless others.
At the other end, Biaggi has already begun consolidating her progressive State Senate colleagues, including Brad Hoylman and Gustavo Rivera, Socialists Julia Salazar and Jabari Brisport, and fellow anti-IDC victors Rachel May and Robert Jackson - all of whom have already endorsed her. Almost instantly, both Congressman Jamaal Bowman and Comptroller Brad Lander also came out in support of Biaggi.
In a district where progressive voters are not in abundance, the D’Arrigo-Biaggi dynamic could ultimately define the race’s outcome.
To help make sense of the primary electorate, which is conveniently spread out across five separate counties, reporter Jeff Coltin generously shared this graphic - meant to outline the potential vote share per each county, as compared to the number of Democrats registered according to the Board of Elections.
Coltin also notes that from a geographical perspective, all five of Zimmerman, Lafazan, Kaiman, Rasool, and D’Arrigo are from Nassau County - which seemingly gives Biaggi a crucial advantage: her electoral base, Westchester and the Bronx, is relatively secure - giving her a high floor. However, the oversaturation of candidates from Nassau County could hinder Biaggi’s ability to make inroads along the North Shore of Long Island - an area which comprises roughly 56% of the electorate.
So let’s do some quick math of how these scenarios could manifest based on the expected vote share:
If Biaggi wins…
60% of the vote in Westchester
(0.60 x 0.22) = 0.132
Logic: Westchester is Biaggi’s home base, rendering her a massive advantage when it comes to reaching these voters, many of whom she already represents in the Senate. Her name recognition is easily the highest of any candidate in the field for this part of the district. To win, she will need to run up heavy margins here, a similar strategy to her race four years ago.
45% of the vote in the Bronx
(0.45 x 0.06) = 0.027
Logic: The portion of the Bronx in NY-3 is markedly different from the rest of the borough. Along the eastern part of the Throggs Neck peninsula, there are many white homeowners who lean more conservative amongst the Democratic electorate. While Biaggi has experience pitching herself to these voters, Klein outpaced her in said Assembly Districts four years ago. Progressive politics doesn’t play particularly well in this area, as there are swaths of Republican voters here too, who could eagerly turnout for the November general election. In spite of this, many of Biaggi’s considerable advantages mentioned above are also relevant here. Given the Bronx is a relatively small share of the electorate, I expect many of the Long Island-based candidates to infrequently campaign here, letting Biaggi pick up votes off name recognition. For what its worth, Biaggi’s grandfather was very popular in this area.
25% of the vote in Queens
(0.25 x 0.16) = 0.04
Logic: The Queens portion of NY-3 includes Douglaston, Little Neck and Great Neck - three largely White and Asian neighborhoods in the borough’s northeast. Amongst the Democratic primary electorate, it leans conservative, with a near even distribution of Kathryn Garcia-Andrew Yang-Eric Adams precincts from the June Mayoral primary. This vote is essentially a toss up for Biaggi, and I penciled her in at 25% with a solid, but unspectacular showing. In a narrow race, a strong or weak performance in the Worlds Borough could ultimately be the difference between winning and losing.
Editor’s Note: City Council Member Sandra Ung endorsed Robert Zimmerman this past week.
18% of the vote in Suffolk
(0.18 x 0.26) = 0.0468
12% of the vote in Nassua
(0.12 x 0.3) = 0.036
Logic: Here lies Biaggi’s most pronounced weakness in this race, which also happens to coincide with where the greatest turnout will likely occur. Basically, there are 4+ candidates from Nassua, many of whom - the moderates - will be eager to brand Biaggi as the out-of-touch progressive that lives off the Island. In a race where she enters as the presumed frontrunner, making inroads here will be difficult, especially if she is tagged as a “New York City” candidate. Fewer candidates have an explicit “claim” to the Suffolk County voters, and as such I have estimated Biaggi’s percentage to be a few points higher there, given more votes will be available.
All together, this very rough estimate adds up to 28.18%. Let’s also throw in a margin of error of +/- 3% for good measure.
Is that enough to win a competitive multi-candidate primary? Maybe. Ideally, Biaggi wants to reach a vote share in the mid-to-high 30’s to have the best chance at victory. Yet, the more candidates on the ballot, the lower Biaggi’s win number will be.
For context, when Tom Suozzi won this open seat in 2016, he did so with 35.11% of the vote, which was enough to win comfortably by over thirteen points in a five-way primary.
Granted, the turnout in that election was atrocious, as Suozzi won with just 7,142 votes out of 20,343 overall. In comparison, there were 35,608 total votes in Biaggi’s 2018 primary victory, and the whopping 55,460 vote turnout in 2020’s Suozzi-D’Arrigo matchup. Who shows up, and where, will ultimately determine the victor.
Biaggi can build her numbers with: (1) a VERY strong showing in both Westchester County and the Bronx (2) lower turnout in Nassau County (3) a stalemate in Suffolk County (4) plus a respectable showing in Queens. As with most elections, she must turnout her base while not being blown out in her most vulnerable areas.
Here is the math:
67% in Westchester County
(0.65 x 0.22) = 0.143
50% in the Bronx
(0.55 x 0.06) = 0.033
25% in Queens
(0.25 x 0.16) = 0.04
18% in Suffolk (higher end turnout)
(0.18 x 0.27) = 0.0486
12% in Nassau (lower end turnout)
(0.12 x 0.29) = 0.0348
As you can see, very little changes from our previous equation, except for an increase to Biaggi’s vote share in both the Bronx and Westchester, coupled with a more favorable turnout ratio between Nassau and Suffolk counties, bumping her estimate up to 29.94% - which puts her in a solid, but unspectacular position.
Keep in mind, a different variation of this math is necessary for each candidate to win. What chance would a Nassau based candidate have who: ran strong in their home county + Suffolk, relatively well in Queens, and then bled voters in the Bronx and Westchester to Biaggi? Let’s do the math for this scenario.
40% aggregate between Nassau and Suffolk
(0.4 x 0.56) = 0.224
20% in Queens
(0.2 x 0.16) = 0.032
15% in the Bronx
(0.15 x 0.06) = 0.009
10% in Westchester
(0.1 x 0.22) = 0.022
This equation puts this template candidate at 28.7% of the vote share. If a Nassau-based candidate can run up margins in both of Long Island’s counties that peak past 40% - while avoiding a complete blowout in Queens, the Bronx, and Westchester, this race could get very tight. Whether Zimmerman, Laifazan, Rasool or D’Arrigo can replicate, re-engineer, or exceed these numbers remains to be seen.
How do you think the candidates will fare in each county? Comment below.
As alluded to earlier, Biaggi has already faced criticism from Zimmerman, Laifazan and Rasool for third-rail issues like bail reform, crime, and the police - all three of which could become a lightning rod in the race, especially on Long Island. Biaggi has already frequently mentioned her grandfather, an NYPD Medal of Honor recipient who was wounded eleven times in the line of duty, in an effort to assuage concerns that she is “anti-police.”
Upon her entrance, I for one, was monitoring whether Biaggi measured her approach with respect to these issues - a walkback, a double down, or somewhere in between.
So far, it appears she is remaining firm and holding the course. In an Interview with Jeff Stein of The Washington Post, Biaggi was asked if she regretted tweeting “Defund the Police”, in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. Her response is below:
“Using that phrase, at that time, was an act of solidarity. I am not ashamed of using that phrase, because that was what the world was experiencing emotionally at that time and, frankly, still is. I'm also not ashamed of having an evolution of thought, which a lot of people in public office seem to have a problem with.”
“I'll be 100 percent honest with you. The reason I dislike the phrase is because it doesn't define the solution to the problem that we're facing regarding public safety, and it really has scrambled people's brains. We're asking police to respond to things that they should not be responding to. I'm not saying anything revolutionary here: They shouldn't be responding to a mental health crisis.”
As the political climate around New York State grows more tense by the day, Biaggi could triumph over the proverbial “Narrative War”, or be the latest electoral casualty.
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