Six of the eight former IDC state senators were unseated in decisive fashion, including the former leader of the IDC, Jeff Klein, who lost to challenger Alessandra Biaggi.
Although Governor Andrew Cuomo and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul won re-election, and establishment-backed Letitia James won the nod for attorney general, liberal insurgents across the city scored major victories in a predicted “blue wave.”
Ramos tops Peralta in District 13
In Queens, former mayoral aide and community leader Jessica Ramos defeated incumbent State Senator Jose Peralta by 2,160 votes, nearly 10 percent, according to unofficial Board of Elections results.
“I was having a ball at City Hall. I was really enjoying my job,” Ramos said. “But sometimes, it’s time to come home and make sure that your community is taken care of.”
“Having lived in this district my entire life, having served on our community board, having been district leader,” she added, “we needed to make sure that we’re making a statement about how we couldn’t accept a turncoat Democrat as our state senator.”
Ramos said her race was also about “fixing the Democratic Party,” which includes taking money out of politics and building a “people-powered movement.”
“If we do the work of talking to each other and knocking on those doors, we can make change possible,” she said.
The State Senator-elect –– Ramos has no Republican challenger in November –– celebrated the victory with her family and hundreds of supporters at Barriles Sports Bar in Jackson Heights. Throughout the night, the overflowing crowd cheered and chanted, “Jessica!” as the returns came in, favoring the challenger.
When Ramos was on the precipice of victory, extending her lead over Peralta with each update, her mother, Melfy Londono, teared up when interviewed.
“I’m very proud of my Jessica. She was a brilliant student. She was always looking for something to do for the community,” Londono said. “It’s special to have a daughter like that. She’s getting her dreams.”
Chelsea Ramos, the candidate’s youngest sister, said the campaign was intense, and there were lots of “tears and tribulation,” but the effort was all worth it.
“My sister deserves it. She’s been fighting for this ever since she was a little girl,” she said. “I’m very proud of her, and very happy she’s finally accomplishing everything she’s ever dreamed of.”
In her victory speech, Ramos highlighted her family’s immigration story. Her mother crossed the Mexican border at 24 years old. Her father was arrested in an immigration raid at a factory in New Jersey when she was a baby.
But the Astoria native, who has lived in different neighborhoods throughout the district, said her family’s story helps her understand the reality her immigrant neighbors face. She said New York will need three measures to help protect immigrants: the Liberty Act, the Dream Act and driver’s licenses for all.
“I’m going to count on all of you to help me make that happen,” Ramos said to the crowd.
When asked if she thought the IDC was through, she replied that the renegade group “better be dead.”
“New Yorkers are pissed. We’re tired of being lied at,” Ramos said. “We’re tired of New York state government not working for us. We’re sick of it.”
Ramos said she will turn her attention next to other districts, like in Long Island, where she went to college, to help Democrats defeat Republicans for State Senate.
“We’re going to hop on a bus and go knocking on some doors,” she said. “That’s the whole point of making sure that we’re not only electing better Democrats, but more Democrats.”
In a statement, Peralta said his campaign knocked on tens of thousands of doors and made hundreds of thousands of phone calls to talk to neighbors. He ran on the issues and accomplishments, including the SAFE Act, paid family leave and a $15 minimum wage.
But looking toward November, Peralta said he’s committed to help achieve a Democratic majority in Albany’s upper chamber.
“If we want to move New York forward, all Democrats must work together,” Peralta said. “In that spirit, I will be supporting Ms. Ramos in the general election, and I will assist her in whatever capacity to ensure a smooth transition so that our constituents do not go without the vital services they depend on.”
Peralta concluded that after spending 16 years serving his community, he’s looking forward to spending time with his family.
Liu edges past Avella in 2014 rematch
Four year ago, State Senator Tony Avella beat back a challenge by former comptroller and city councilman John Liu by just 894 votes.
This time around, it was Liu who got the best of the incumbent by 1,287 votes, or roughly 5.5 percent, according to Board of Elections results.
Liu entered the race in mid-July. Prompted by anti-IDC activists, who collected the necessary signatures to get him on the ballot, Liu said he was disappointed and angry that Avella was initially unchallenged.
When asked earlier this year what changed in the four years between his two runs, the Democratic nominee for District 11 pointed to Trump and the need for stronger laws to protect the vulnerable in New York.
Despite his victory, Liu will face a crowded field in the general election. He will take on Republican nominee Vickie Paladino, Conservative Party pick Simon Minching and Avella again, who will be on the Women’s Equality and Independence party lines.
Brooklyn insurgents crush incumbents
The blue wave swept also through Brooklyn, where two key State Senate races tilted in favor of the challengers over the incumbents.
In central Brooklyn, lawyer and activist Zellnor Myrie defeated former IDC State Senator Jesse Hamilton by 3,463 votes, a little more than 8 percent. Hamilton defected to the IDC in 2016, despite previous promises to remain in the mainline Democratic conference.
Myrie ran on strengthening protections for renters, safeguarding immigrants and fullying funding public schools, among other issues. Like his fellow IDC senators, Hamilton campaigned on his experience and accomplishments.
Many Brooklyn elected officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio and several of Hamilton’s colleagues in the Assembly, backed Myrie’s bid, despite previously supporting the incumbent. Progressive advocacy groups like New York Communities for Change (NYCC) also jumped to the reformer’s camp.
But Myrie may have to face Hamilton again in the general election. In November, Hamilton will be under the Independence and Women’s Equality party lines.
Another incumbent in Brooklyn also lost his race against a liberal challenger. Though he was not a member of the IDC, State Senator Martin Malave Dilan lost to community organizer and democratic socialist Julia Salazar by nearly 6,000 votes, a 17 percent margin.
Salazar campaigned on confronting gentrification and displacement in the fast-changing neighborhoods of north Brooklyn. She pledged to not take corporate donations from developers, and instead pointed to Dilan’s contributions as evidence of his coziness to real estate interests.
Dilan, meanwhile, ran on his accomplishments in a long political career, including bringing affordable housing, new schools and a youth center to the district.
But in the waning days of the campaign, Salazar was heavily criticized for embellishing her background. Media reports unearthed that Salazar was not an immigrant, from a working class family or raised in a Jewish household.
Even when she studied at Columbia University, from which she did not graduate, Salazar was a registered Republican who spearheaded pro-life student efforts, according to reports.
She was also falsely accused of an affair with former Mets player Keith Hernandez, who was her neighbor in Florida. Salazar then revealed that she was sexually assaulted by the spokesman for the Israeli prime minister.
Despite the accusations and revelations, Salazar cruised to victory over Dilan, who had held the State Senate seat since 2002. In a statement, the outgoing senator said as the son of Puerto Rican bodega owners growing up in Bushwick, he never imagined he would be where he is today.
He added that he will “always look for a way” to serve his community, including fighting for a Democratic majority in the State Senate.
“Ms. Salazar has shown great resolve throughout the campaign and I applaud her tenacity, especially when the world seemed to challenge her,” Dilan said. “That courage is not typical. It will no doubt come in handy in Albany.”
“I look forward to working with Ms. Salazar and ensuring a smooth transition,” he added. “I congratulate her and wish her all the best this November, and beyond.”
Cruz beats Espinal, Sosa in close election
Though there were not many tight Assembly races on Thursday, one in particular stood out. Catalina Cruz defeated incumbent Ari Espinal and candidate Yonel Letellier Sosa in the 39th Assembly District, encompassing Corona, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights.
Cruz, a lawyer and chief of staff to former Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, topped Espinal by 720 votes, equivalent to 10 percent. Sosa, a distant third, collected just 225 votes, 3 percent of the total.
Inside Cruz’s victory party at Club Evolution in Jackson Heights, the candidate’s supporters were glued to the television, anxiously awaiting the returns. Cruz watched coverage privately with her family, and arrived at the party shortly after the race was called.
Cruz, who arrived to the country as an undocumented immigrant, thanked her mother for making sacrifices for her children. She also thanked her mentors Ferreras-Copeland and Councilman Daniel Dromm, who supported her candidacy from the start.
“Danny, you saw in me the kind of leader that our community needed,” she said. “Thank you for encouraging me and I will be forever grateful.”
“Catalina is the truth. She is one of a kind, and we need to protect her and keep pushing her,” Ferreras-Copeland added. “Now I can humbly say, I’m officially retired.”
The Democratic nominee said she will continue to be a fighter for the community in Albany.
“That is going to be the hard work,” Cruz said. “Making sure that we’re able to push through legislation, make budgetary changes, fight for our Dreamers, our parents, our workers, our sisters and brothers in the Muslim community, that we make sure everybody is protected.”
In a statement, Espinal, who was elected in a special election in April, said it was an honor to represent her community. She said her work for her neighborhood “does not end now.”
“We are in an important moment in our nation’s history, and this race saw historic voter turnout,” she said. “Democrats are engaged and we must continue this momentum into the midterms and in 2020. I wish Catalina Cruz the best of luck in the Assembly.”
What the primary results mean for Albany
With a half-dozen former IDC state senators beaten in the Democratic primary, Queens elected officials in the State Legislature were hopeful about the changes ahead.
Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, who attended the Ramos election night party, said she’s excited to partner with “true progressives” like Ramos in Albany.
“What we’ve seen is that, with all these insurgents and candidates running against IDC members, it means that voters are hungry for change, voters want something different” she said. “It’s actually a breath of fresh air for our State Legislature to have young, progressive people up there making decisions for all New Yorkers.”
State Senator Michael Gianaris, who opposed the IDC before the group folded back into the mainline Democrats, said when voters are enlightened about what’s happening in their government, they speak out.
When people learned what the IDC truly was, he said, they made it clear it was “unacceptable.”
“I’m going to have a bunch of new colleagues, and I know many of them,” Gianaris said. “Now we have a much more unified Democratic conference, and will focus on November so we can secure a majority and go from there.”
The Queens pol added that the division within their conference “is over.” With the wind in their backs, he believes Democrats are “in very good shape” to start enacting progressive policies they’ve been waiting to achieve.
“It’s going to be revolutionary for New York State,” Gianaris said.