UPTOWN, MANHATTAN — Democrats living in Manhattan’s 31st state senate district — which stretches from Hudson Yards to Marble Hill — will head to the polls on June 23 to cast their ballot in this year’s primary race.
On the ballot will be incumbent state Sen. Robert Jackson, who has held the seat since 2019, and Tirso Santiago Pina, a challenger from Washington Heights and also ran against Jackson in 2018.
Jackson, who also lives in Washington Heights, currently chairs the Cities Committee and is a member of the Education, Higher Education, Labor, Civil Service and Pensions, New York City Education and Housing, Construction and Community Development committees, as well as the New York State Black, Puero Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus. He previously held a seat on City Council and was president of Manhattan’s Community School Board 6.
The 31st District spans much of Manhattan’s west side, including parts of the Garment District, Hell’s Kitchen, the Upper West Side, Washington Heights, Inwood, Harlem and a slice of Marble Hill in the Bronx.
The primary election, slated for June 23, is open to registered Democratic voters. All New York voters may request a mail-in ballotdue to the coronavirus pandemic. Ballots must be postmarked by the date of the election for the vote to count.
For those who want to head to the polls, click here to find your poll site. Early voting is available from June 13 to June 21.
Patch reached out to all candidates in the primary election to create these profiles. Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.
Age as of Election Day (Nov. 3)
NYC neighborhood of residence
Wife Faika, and three grown daughters – a doctor, an educator, and assistant manager for an arts organization
Does anyone in your family work in politics or government?
NYC Public Schools; BA, SUNY, New Paltz
State Senator (2019-present); City Councilmember (2002 – 2013); Regional Director, PEF (1982 – 2001)
Previous or Current Elected or Appointed Office
President, Community School Board 6 (CSB6), Co-founder, Campaign for Fiscal Equity; City Councilmember (2002 – 2013); Co-Chair, City Council Black, Latino and Asian Caucus; Chair, City Council Education Committee; District Leader
Why are you seeking elective office?
Two years ago, we launched our campaign to defeat the IDC and make New York a progressive leader. While I am proud of the progress we’ve made together strengthening rent laws and reproductive rights, enacting climate change protections, sensible gun laws, election reforms, Child Victims Act, Farmworkers Bill of Rights and the DREAM Act and much, much more, there is still a lot of work to do. I’m fighting to finally fully fund our public schools, pass real #FairElections legislation to reduce the undue influence of big money on campaigns and to pass the NY Health Act to make quality healthcare accessible to all.
The single most pressing issue facing our nation/state/community is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it.
Our families and individuals were vulnerable long before the Coronavirus hit, and this health crisis has laid bare so many stark inequities in our society, not just in the availability of health care and the outsized impact on communities of color, but also terrible truths about our criminal justice system, food security, and the inequities of education funding, availability of learning resources, and the opportunity to succeed. We can’t accept just getting back to what was, we need to make things better for vulnerable communities through finally fully funding our schools, making health care accessible, protecting tenants and affordable housing, and creating good jobs for people to raise a family.
What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?
My record of fighting for justice and equality for all and against bigotry and intolerance everywhere. As community organizer, tenant leader, City Council leader, and now in the State Senate, I’ve taken on the tough fights and gotten results to improve our public schools, strengthen rent laws, and increase opportunity for all. I’ve worked to knock down barriers and advance equality, progressive values and opportunity for all. Many can talk the talk, but you know you can count on me to walk the walk – to stand on principle and fight for what we all believe in… to take on the status quo and fight for the people. That is what I’ve done and what I will continue to do with your support in the State Senate.
Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform
Government must level the playing field and fight for our children, our seniors and those least fortunate. We must give every child the chance to succeed, health care is a right not a privilege, and we must protect affordable housing. We are made strong by our diversity and we must promote equality, justice and fairness. Workers deserve good jobs with good benefits and we all need clean air to breath, clean water to drink and open spaces to enjoy. Those are the principles that have guided me as a labor representative, tenant leader, City Council leader, and now as State Senator
What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?
Two years ago, I ran for State Senate to end Republican control and change Albany. The movement we started here led to wiping-out the IDC and achieving a large Democratic majority that has enabled us to finally pass important legislation like strengthening rent laws and passing reproductive rights protection, enacting climate change protections, sensible gun laws, election reforms, Child Victims Act, GENDA, the DREAM Act and much, much more. Previously, I served as a Community School Board President, where I launched the Campaign for Fiscal Equality school funding lawsuit, walked 150 miles to Albany to highlight the cause and won a court judgment that awarded $16 billion for NYC public schools, and as a City Councilmember for 12 years where I chaired the Education Committee, sponsored the Small Business Survival Act, and fought for fairness, justice and equality.
The best advice ever shared with me was:
Education was my salvation. I wouldn’t be here today, if it wasn’t for a teacher – Irwin Goldberg, my track coach at Benjamin Franklin High School, who took an interest in me, pointed me in the right direction and made sure I went to college. And that has made all the difference in the world.
What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?
Being an elected official is truly an honor. It is public service – literally serving the public. I take that trust very seriously. Growing up in upper Manhattan, we didn’t have much. I could never have dreamed that one day I would serve on the City Council and in the State Senate. I was able to succeed through hard work, a good education and the help of people in the community. I have worked to give every child this same chance to succeed. I worked as a labor representative and then as a Community School Board President. I got into politics as an outgrowth of my work to improve our schools. I look forward to continuing my work for the people with a second term as State Senator. I ask for your support in this Primary. Just as important, I want you with me as State Senator — providing ideas, letting me know what needs to be done and telling me when you disagree. Together, we can continue to make a difference for families today, and for generations to come.
This article originally appeared on the Washington Heights-Inwood Patch