Pelham Alumna Alessandra Biaggi Secures Nomination for State Senate


Zach Leonard

Alessandra Biaggi (c) responds to reporters following her win as the Democratic nominee for New York Senate in District 34.

Zach Leonard, Senior, Sports Editor

In a year filled with progressive politics, PMHS alumna Alessandra Biaggi continued the ongoing trend. Biaggi, a 2004 Pelham graduate, knocked off 14-year incumbent Jeffrey Klein to get the Democratic nomination for the New York Senate in District 34. After polls closed on September 13, Biaggi and supporters celebrated her win in the Bronx. District 34 encompasses Pelham, parts of Mount Vernon, and the Bronx.“[It was] one of the most exciting moments of my life,” said Biaggi. “The early mornings, late nights, [and] hard work made it all worth it.”

Biaggi won 53.11 percent of the vote. Biaggi, a former attorney, was formerly a member of Governor Cuomo’s Storm Relief Office after Hurricane Sandy and also worked for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Her campaign took a major step when she secured endorsements from The New York Times and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Also, Biaggi said she was encouraged by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez‘ upset win in her June Democratic Party primary. In fact, she even received Ocasio-Cortez’ endorsement.

Klein has served as a state senator since 2004 and has served as the deputy leader of the Senate Democrats. Klein turned back challenger Oliver Koppell in 2014, winning with 65 percent of the vote. Controversially, he founded and ran the Independent Democratic Conference, also known as the IDC, which caucused with state Senate Republicans to shift the majority. It was this move that caused many in his own party to rethink support for the incumbent.

Although Klein is a Democrat, Biaggi’s win sheds light on the support Klein has given Republicans in the past. Klein caucused with Republicans for seven years after starting the IDC, solely to vote with Republicans in the New York State Senate. This has allowed Republicans to control the Senate since 2010. Under scrutiny, these lawmakers agreed to go back into their party mainlines in the spring. However, this did not help these senators in their primaries, as six of the eight members of the IDC were defeated.

“If this [outcome] doesn’t prove that political currency is people over money, I do not know what does,” Biaggi said at her victory party. She also highlighted the imbalance of campaign finance in the race. Klein spent more than $2 million on his campaign, whereas Biaggi spent one-tenth of that.

Biaggi ran on a platform supporting affordable healthcare, gun safety, and stronger education networks. In her campaign, she emphasized how IDC senators prevented key legislature, like abortion rights and gun control, from being voted on in the Senate.

By acting on these issues, Biaggi looks to help pass the New York Health Act, which would create a universal, single-payer healthcare system in New York. Also, by passing the Reproductive Health Act, Biaggi hopes to ensure safe and legal abortions in NY, regardless of the ruling on Roe v. Wade nationally.

In terms of gun safety, she aims to “strengthen and protect the SAFE Act, including fully funding the ammunition database and expanding safe-storage requirements.”

The Biaggi campaign received major publicity after NowThis News, a network with 2.1 million Twitter followers, released a video of Biaggi talking about her core values and beliefs, and why she decided to run against Klein.

Biaggi also made significant strides after debating Klein on BronxTalk and NY1, and publishing her official campaign video, gaining 81.5 thousand views on Twitter.

However, Biaggi attributed her victory to the people. “We were outspent 10-1. Because of people, we were able to knock on doors, call phones, and write postcards. Having passion from volunteers is one of the biggest reasons,” she said.

These volunteers came from different cities and even several states to help Biaggi, but some were right here in Pelham.

Pelham senior Nora Tahbaz worked as an intern on the Biaggi campaign over the summer.

“Working on the campaign was not only exciting, but it taught me more about the political process from the inside,” Tahbaz said.

The impact of volunteers like Tahbaz was a key factor in her victory.

“We brought an energy that the opposition didn’t have. It made me so proud to run in a place I grew up in, especially with help from students from PMHS,” Biaggi said. “It was important to bring them to the table; they are the future.”

“From Prospect Hill to PMHS, teachers and parents are engaged and encourage leadership roles,” Biaggi said. “In high school, these roles are even more open and available.”

Biaggi also talked about the duty that Pelhamites have.

“Recognize the opportunities we have, but realize the responsibility we have to lead,” she said. “Understand how [government] works, and advocate your views. I look forward to meeting students and telling you my experience.”

After the victory was declared, Biaggi and her supporters celebrated in the Bronx. This came after a whirlwind of an evening. After the first numbers came in, Biaggi was down, but quickly made up for it. At around 10:30pm, with 86 percent of precincts reporting, Biaggi held a ten point lead, and The NY Times declared the win. Supporters, like Tahbaz, celebrated.

Tahbaz said, “It was amazing to be surrounded by people who all wanted to see Alessandra win. All of the hard work that was put into the campaign began to feel worth it.”

As for Biaggi, she plans to continue her push for the general election and for the people of District 34.