Two men showed up at a woman’s house over the weekend to present a rose.
But it wasn’t two lovers, competing for the affection of the same lady. It was New York City Democratic Socialists of America (NYC-DSA) endorsed State Senator-Elect Jabari Brisport (D-Brooklyn) and State Assemblymember-Elect Zohran Kwame Mamdani (D-Astoria, Long Island City) welcoming two city council candidates in Queens into the DSA fold –– City Council Candidates Jaslin Kaur and Tiffany Cabán.
“To have them sort of pass the baton, or pass the rose, on to the next generation of socialist leadership in our city council I think it’s something that’s not only symbolic, but also really powerful and a testament to the kind of deep organizing that DSA does, and the kinds of relationships that they’re really invested in building,” Kaur said in an interview on Tuesday evening.
After a lengthy endorsement process, the NYC-DSA announced this past weekend that it was endorsing two candidates from Queens in the 2021 city council elections. Cabán and Kaur are two of six candidates citywide to be backed by the NYC-DSA.
Cabán is running to replace term-limited City Councilmember Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Woodside) in District 22. She was previously backed by the DSA in 2019 when she ran for Queens District Attorney and narrowly lost in a weeks long ballot recount. Kaur is running in District 23 to replace City Councilmember Barry Grodenchik (D-Bayside Hills, Bellerose, Douglaston, Floral Park, Fresh Meadows, Glen Oaks, Hollis, Hollis Hills, Holliswood, Little Neck, New Hyde Park, Oakland Gardens, Queens Village) who is not term-limited but decided to not seek re-election in 2021.
“In 2019 the NYC-DSA threw down and threw down early,” said Cabán in a statement released over the weekend. “I have seen firsthand how NYC-DSA has redefined what is politically possible in New York, and with them throwing down with us again I know we can achieve our movement’s goals of ending the carceral system, creating a care economy, and bringing a Green New Deal to New York City.”
The NYC-DSA is selective in its endorsements with many candidates running with policies aligned with the DSA platform despite not receiving their formal backing. In the recent elections, they only backed one candidate in Queens –– State Assemblymember-Elect Mamdani, one of the rose bearers this past weekend. In the upcoming 2021 elections, they did not endorse former co-chair of the Queens DSA City Council Candidate Jonathan Bailey who is running to replace term-limited City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City, Astoria, Dutch Kills) in District 26.
Cabán’s endorsement was expected. The NYC-DSA threw all of their support behind her in 2019, and helped her nearly win the Queens District Attorney’s race. She is also running in a district with a strong and active progressive presence that overlaps with Mamdani’s assembly district and has an electorate that has shown it is willing to vote for a socialist candidate.
But Kaur’s district is more of a wildcard. Located in Eastern Queens and filled with more homeowners than renters, the district is known to be more conservative and doesn’t have a strong DSA presence.
But Kaur said she thinks there’s a lot of untapped potential for the DSA there.
“This is a part of Queens that has really not been activated or tapped into in terms of organizing in terms of DSA presence,” said Kaur. “There’s a massive amount of potential to not only build out a base with organizing here, but to also create a new level of civic engagement, and a new level of democratically elected officials who are really going to shift the consciousness of folks who have either been disengaged or have not had the candidate that’s really speaking to their needs.”
According to DSA Emerge, a caucus in the NYC-DSA, Kaur’s responses on her endorsement application implied that she may not run as an openly socialist candidate in her campaign for city council. The caucus did recommend her for endorsement in the end, however, after clarifying that Kaur would indeed be running as an openly socialist candidate.
Kaur, who’s been a member of the DSA and a socialist for a few years, said that running as an open socialist is important to her.
“It’s really a long term commitment to movement,” she said. “It was really important for me to be explicit about where my political leanings are and say, ‘Yes, I am currently running as a socialist and ready to champion some of the most important policies that are going to impact and improve the quality of life for so many working class standards in this district.’”