CLAREMONT — Health care reform, fair taxation, climate change, workplace harassment and reproductive rights were the key focus of New York State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi’s list of reasons why she endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren at The Women’s Weekend of Action canvassing rally on Sunday.
“It is freezing outside, it is slushy and you could be home watching a movie right now, but your here and that means a lot that you showed up,” said Biaggi, relating to the challenges that come with finding the motivation to stay informed while also informing others about political candidates.
A little more than two year after her inaugural ceremony on Jan. 6, 2018, the New York state senator spoke in Claremont on Sunday about why she endorsed Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at a presidential campaign rally in New York and why supporters should inform and recruit Warren voters through canvassing on the local level.
“She’s got a solid plan,” said Biaggi, who showed her enthusiasm for the Feb. 11 primaries.
As she spoke to a crowd of Warren supporters on the second floor at 24 Opera House Square, Biaggi opened her speech with her canvassing experience in New Hampshire in January 2016 when she said she saw more than 50 people at their doorstep for then-Democratic presidential candidate Hilary Clinton.
“I had never canvassed before. I had no idea what I was doing,” said Biaggi about her icebreaking experience and the challenges that came with doing something unfamiliar.
Biaggi said she would sometimes spend a full hour at a voter’s front door talking with them about why she chose the candidate. Although that wasn’t necessarily efficient, Biaggi said she learned about people, their needs and what will move people to vote.
“For me, going door to door is a sacred adherence. This is a ritual of democracy. This is democracy in action,” Biaggi said.
Like Warren, Biaggi, chair of the newly-revived Ethics and Internal Governance Committee, expects big changes in structural government, such as increased accountability in political seats and more accessible voting methods.
During her speech, Biaggi used herself as an example of how an underdog can make unpredictable headway in political pools of doubt.
“I ran like many women in 2018, who ran and won. I was one of the women who ran against the machine, literally, in New York. How many of you are familiar with the New York political machine and how corrupt it is? We still have remnants of Tammany Hall in New York state government. From reproductive health to climate change to early voting to criminal justice reforms to housing reforms everything — everything — you could imagine had been dropped because of eight Democrats decided that they wanted to caucus with Republicans and they would run as Democrats and tell the voters they were Democrats then they would go to Albany and only caucus with Republicans. This went on for 10 years and nobody knew about this,” she said referring to the IDC that was dissolved after negotiations with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Biaggi was part of the disbanding of the IDC. By many, it was seen that if she took these groups on, her chances of winning were in a marked grave.
“I was ready to blow that up and the long and short of it is I was told from the beginning that it was too much, too big, too soon, wait your turn and get in line,” said Biaggi about the risks she faced and the hope that motivated her to push through the climate of political doubt. “I was told, ‘This is political suicide. I knew if I didn’t use my voice to show in that moment to show people what was going on that would be political suicide for everyone even if I lost.’ I won that race despite all the uphill battles. I raised $230,000 from small donors [and] my opponent raised $3 million. I won by 10 points, which was considered to be impossible, but I knew it was possible.”
Biaggi continued. “The analogy I can draw from there to here is that at the beginning of every single race, it’s the beginning of the primaries It is an uphill climb to get to the top of that mountain takes every single step one in front of the other inch by inch by inch to knock on every single door to talk to every single person because that is what is required to win,” she said.
Biaggi sees the value in the citizens, something that she shares with the presidential candidate and is one of the reasons why she supports Warren.
“I know people are our greatest value,” Biaggi said. “It is one of the reasons I support Elizabeth. The idea of what it means to run for president, to be president is about unity, it’s about climate change, to care about student loan debt.”
Biaggi said she is in a debt she may never come out of as far as her student loans are concerned.
“It’s about investing in the next generation of people.who be the ones creating the jobs creating the industry It’s an investment in our next generation,” she said. “We are not in a place right now unfortunately where we can even begin to think about dreaming and that I think (dreaming) is part of what it means to be here in the United States.”
Biaggi comes from the third generation of Italian immigrants, a reality that she has spurned her on to be a force of change.
“That is what the American dream is. I am also the granddaughter of Italian-American immigrants who came off the boat on Ellis Island and started as janitors,” she said of her humble beginnings. “So when you think about Elizabeth’s story, how she really came from the edges of a middle class family and thought about how hard it was or maybe that her only opportunity was to be a teacher but then she wound up becoming a law professor and then ending up working in bankruptcy -a place she didn’t think she would end up- it really signals to me, that is the essence of the American dream and that is what she is about.”
Biaggi said although reproductive rights are in effect, they are at great risk and vary by state.
“The Women’s Weekend of Action is a very significant thing to me. We are days away from it being the 47th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. A woman’s right to choose was in the penal code or the criminal code (in New York) until we changed it last year,” Biaggi said. “These are the things that are at risk. But because we changed the demographic of the state senate in New York, we have an unprecedented amount of women, 18 still not very many.”
Biaggi continued. “But the point I am raising is these are the issues at risk, in addition to anti-corruption measures,foreign policy and making sure we have someone in that seat who will challenge that and who I believe is Elizabeth and she will be careful in the use of force.”
In her speech, Biaggi described the current administration’s policy as dangerous to U.S. citizens.
“The use of force in the federal government it putting us at risk everywhere,” Biaggi said.
She urged the audience to get more involved and inform other people about Warren’s record and position as a candidate.
“We need every single person and this is the way to get them so that every single person can be represented,’ she said.
In an interview with the Eagle Times, Biaggi elaborated on use of force, the risks of not being responsible and Warren’s stance on Native American issues.
“When you look at the way that our current president is using our military to become deployed, it’s not acceptable. It’s not acceptable to put those American lives in danger. It’s not acceptable to put American lives in the United States or on American soil in danger, it’s not it’s not acceptable to put any lives in danger over violence.”
Biaggi said she thinks the U.S. in a dangerous position with the current administration.
“That’s unfortunately what we’ve seen and only what we’ve seen from this president and she creates this incredible juxtaposition,” said Biaggi about the current climate regarding foreign policy, immigration, and people of Muslim culture being singled out as imminent threats to U.S. soil.
Warren’s support of indienous Native Americans was a simple no-brainer according to Biaggi.
“She has an incredibly extensive plan on how to deal with this; how they have been disenfranchised as a set of people and I’ve never seen that before,” Biaggi said.
According to Biaggi, Warren stands apart because she has a plan for Native American voters.
“I think people talk about indigenous people, but they don’t really create anything for them and that’s what she’s done. So I think that if anything her plan creates a space for us to talk about it, to think about how to allow them to be part of the conversation is something she is also doing,” said Biaggi.
Biaggi also spoke at Dartmouth College on Sunday and is one of five female politicians who spoke in 10 population dense state areas as part of “New Hampshire For Warren: Let’s Take Action” primary kickoff.