After canvassing efforts of the Queens Democratic Socialists of America nearly tipped the scales for Tiffany Cabán’s primary campaign for District Attorney, the organization’s Queens branch only made one recommendation for an endorsement in the 2020 elections.
Though four candidates made it past the first phase of the organization’s endorsement process, only Zohran Mamdani, a 28-year-old housing counselor for Chhaya CDC, won the branch’s recommendation in his campaign against incumbent Aravella Simotas for State Assembly District 36, encompassing Astoria and Ditmars Steinway.
“Zohran has been a DSA member for many years,” said DSA spokesperson Matthew Thomas. “I think people are very familiar with him and very familiar with his commitments to DSA’s values. I think that was a big influence.”
Mamdani’s experience campaigning with the organization goes back as the paid canvas director for Khader El-Yateem–a DSA-backed City Council candidate in Bay Ridge in 2017. He also participated in the campaign against Amazon HQ2 and was key organizer for Cabán’s campaign.
His campaign platform revolves around a housing guarantee for all, school desegregation, the elimination of cash bail, banning solitary confinement, and funding the MTA.
A DSA endorsement involves has three parts. It first involves getting at least 50 percent of the support of electoral working group, a team focused on recruiting socialist candidates for office. Then candidates need 60 percent of the vote among all of their branch’s membership to get a recommendation. The final step involves securing at least 60 percent of the vote of the Citywide Leadership Committee.
Mamdani will go before the CLC at their next meeting on Dec. 7.
Mel Gagarin, Shaniyat Chowdhury and Peter Harrison, the three candidates who did not win the Queens branch recommendation are all Congressional challengers.
Gagarin, is running against U.S. Rep. Grace Meng in the 6th Congressional District, Harrison is challenging Rep. Carolyn Maloney in the 12th and Chowdhury is running against Rep. Greg Meeks in the 5th.
“Our members are politically active and often support candidates in their personal capacities, even though they’re not endorsed by NYC-DSA, so for example many of our members canvassed for members of No IDC,” said Thomas. “Just because a candidate does not receive our endorsement that’s not a negative commentary on the candidate.”
Even though Harrison did not received the Queens branch support, it’s still possible he could receive citywide endorsement, because his district spans three different DSA branches. He would need to get a recommendation from the other two branches in order to proceed to a CLC vote.