RESTORING OUR DEMOCRACY
For too long, our political system has been designed to serve the interests of corporations and the super rich at the expense of working people. I am a Black person in America who is extremely frustrated that people who look like me have an unnecessarily difficult time voting all across this country. I am a gay person who is horrified by what has become an annual ritual: spending the month of June, every year, waiting to see if the Supreme Court will vote to take away my civil rights.
And this issue isn’t just personal to me: it’s personal to all of us. Strengthening our democracy must be our priority if we truly want to enact change. We will not make strides toward guaranteeing healthcare access for all, addressing the climate crisis, or making our schools safer if we don’t address the root of the problem.
That’s why we must fight to increase public participation in our electoral process and get big money out of politics. Since day one, I have refused to take money from corporate PACs, and I pledge to work towards public campaign financing and a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. In Congress, I’ll fight for Automatic Voter Registration, to make Election Day a national holiday, and to eliminate discriminatory, so-called “voter ID laws.” We should explore the possibility of enacting ranked-choice voting, which is in use in cities like Cambridge, Massachusetts, and states like Maine, for all federal elections. I’ll also work to end reckless, partisan gerrymandering through mandating independent redistricting commissions, and I support restoring balance to the Supreme Court.
GUARANTEEING HEALTH CARE AS A RIGHT, NOT A PRIVILEGE
The coronavirus pandemic has exposed many of the gaps in our existing social safety net. The global pandemic we face demonstrates the need for health care as a human right, regardless of income or employment, as well as mandatory paid sick leave. Timely testing and treatment are essential to stopping the spread of coronavirus.
Even before the pandemic, 87 million Americans were either uninsured or underinsured, preventing them from getting necessary medical care. In the richest nation in the history of the world, health care should be a right, not a privilege. That’s why I support Medicare for All, which would insure every American with comprehensive health care while lowering overall costs to families, small businesses, and the government. Medicare for All would also help close the racial gaps in healthcare coverage and outcomes; Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely to be uninsured than white people, and they are more likely to suffer from treatable, preventable diseases.
CHAMPIONING THE RIGHTS OF WORKING PEOPLE
My grandfather was a janitor, and my grandmother cleaned homes. I was raised by a single mom who had to work multiple jobs just to put food on the table. I understand the struggles facing American workers because I’ve lived them myself, and in Congress, I’ll be a strong champion for working people.
Although the cost of living in this country is soaring, wages have remained stagnant for decades. I will fight for a $15 federal minimum wage permanently indexed to inflation, for all workers, including tipped workers. Although New York has seen some increases in recent years, this is simply not enough for families in the Lower Hudson Valley, which ranks among the most expensive places to live in the country.
I know that our country is strongest when we have a vibrant middle class, and that’s why we must enact labor laws that protect all of our communities. All workers deserve the right to negotiate for proper pay, safe working conditions, and the benefits they deserve. I support the power of workers to organize and bargain collectively, and in Congress, I’ll support legislation like the PRO Act, which ensures working people can organize without fear of retaliation. I’ll also fight to end misleading “Right to Work” laws and close tax loopholes that encourage jobs and investments to be outsourced. I’m proud to be supported by a number of local and state labor unions, who know I’ll fight for them, not wealthy donors or corporations. That also means treating our essential workers with the dignity they deserve. I support hazard pay, providing the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) they need to work safely, and instituting changes that will outlast this pandemic.
PROVIDING EQUAL ACCESS TO EDUCATION
As the product of public schools in the East Ramapo Central School District, which helped me rise from humble economic circumstances, I know firsthand the transformative power of public education. I owe so much to my incredible teachers, administrators, and other staff, who provided the support and encouragement that got me where I am today. I also know that, unfortunately, my story is the exception and not the rule. We must fight harder for equal opportunity in our country.
As a member of Congress, I will be a champion for public school students and teachers, and I’m proud to be supported by the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and the National Educators Association (NEA). In Congress, I’ll fight to increase funding for public education, including the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, which Congress has failed to fully fund since it was passed 45 years ago. I also support expanding access to free pre-kindergarten through a partnership between the federal government and the states.
I also know firsthand that America faces a crippling student debt crisis. Thousands of people in New York’s 17th Congressional District, despite having college degrees, must live at home with their parents because they can’t afford to be out on their own as renters or homeowners. We must forgive college debt to liberate an entire generation to fully participate in our economy, such as through homeownership, the single biggest generator of wealth in the United States. And, in order to prevent crushing student debt from accumulating in the future, college debt forgiveness must be paired with tuition-free public college moving forward.
FIGHTING FOR OUR FAMILIES
Thousands of children in New York’s 17th Congressional District live below the poverty line, and I was one of them. Growing up, when child care was too expensive, my grandmother was forced to take me to work with her in the hamlets of Congers and Hillcrest, where she cleaned homes. No child should have to accompany a guardian to work.
Today, in more than half the states in America, a year of child care costs more than a year of in-state college tuition. My mother was lucky to have my grandparents’ help in taking care of me, but many children are not so lucky. We cannot leave our children behind. In Congress, I will support universal child care, and I will fight to provide 36 weeks of paid parental leave, so new parents can care for their child at the child’s most formative time.
STANDING UP AGAINST DONALD TRUMP’S TAX PLAN
In 2017, Donald Trump and the Republican Party passed a tax bill that gave corporations and billionaires tax breaks at the expense of working people in New York’s 17th Congressional District. Our families in Rockland and Westchester Counties already pay the highest property taxes in the nation. I am committed to repealing Trump’s giveaways to corporations and the super rich, and working with my colleagues, on a bipartisan basis, to fully restore the SALT deduction when I get to Congress.
PRESERVING OUR PLANET
Our planet is in peril. According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, we have 10 years remaining to prevent irreversible damage to Earth due to global warming. And, as Superstorm Sandy reminds us, this is a local as well as a global issue. We must address the climate crisis with the urgency this moment demands.
That’s why I support a Green New Deal, which would create 20 million good-paying jobs while transitioning America to 100% renewable energy. The Green New Deal ensures a just transition to green jobs for workers in the fossil fuel industry who are displaced and provides dedicated support to our most at-risk communities. We have a responsibility to end corporate tax cuts to fossil fuel companies and invest in new, sustainable infrastructure across the country.
We also need to limit our reliance on automobiles and transition to high-speed and light rail powered by clean, renewable energy sources. In most parts of Rockland County, an individual has to drive or take a bus to get into New York City or Westchester County. I will fight for a one-ride train from Rockland into New York City and Westchester, which will make Rockland County more accessible and more attractive to young families. I will also fight to restore and expand light rail, which we previously had in communities like Ossining and Peekskill.
PROTECTING A WOMAN’S RIGHT TO CHOOSE
It should not be the place of the government or politicians like Donald Trump to intervene in a woman’s ability to make decisions about her own body. I support women’s access to the full range of reproductive healthcare services, and I believe that women should be able to make these deeply personal healthcare decisions for themselves. That’s why I’m proud to be endorsed by leading pro-choice groups like Planned Parenthood Action Fund and NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Unfortunately, the Trump Administration and the Republican Party have systematically undermined women’s reproductive freedom. The federal government must step in to protect civil rights — and it cannot leave those rights up to the extreme conservative majority on the Supreme Court. As a member of Congress, I will work to codify Roe v. Wade by statute, repeal the Hyde Amendment, and ensure that any Medicare for All legislation includes coverage for the full range of reproductive services.
TACKLING SYSTEMS OF OPPRESSION
Growing up Black in America, it is my lived experience that people of color face unique and pervasive challenges in this country. I got my start in politics as a freshman at Spring Valley High School, when I reactivated the Spring Valley NAACP Youth Council. At the age of 19, I chaired a committee on the NAACP’s National Board of Directors. Institutional discrimination touches all facets of life in America, from health care to employment to criminal justice to housing. I will fight to achieve equality and dismantle systemic racism so that we are all able to participate fully in this society.
With law enforcement officers engaging in miscarriages of justice on both systemic and individual levels, I believe Congress has a responsibility to enact comprehensive federal oversight measures, in conjunction with state and local action. We must honor the memories of people unlawfully killed by the police by listening to the demands of their family members for justice, ensuring that law enforcement officers are held accountable, and moving towards a society where the institution of policing plays less of a role in Black and Brown communities.
We also need to overhaul the way we approach criminal justice policy in this country and invest in policies and programs that support formerly incarcerated individuals and prevent them from returning. That’s why I support banning the consideration of criminal convictions in hiring decisions when the nature of the conviction is irrelevant to the job’s duties. We must also guarantee the right to counsel for defendants in civil cases and give judges discretion to consider the totality of a defendant’s circumstances in making sentencing decisions by ending mandatory minimums in sentencing. It also means supporting the legalization and regulation of cannabis.
As a member of Congress, I will fight for civilian oversight boards designed to investigate police departments that have patterns of racial discrimination. I will also fight to establish alternatives to incarceration, including mental health support, drug treatment, and diversion programs for non-violent offenses. We must also ensure that officers are trained in de-escalation strategies, racial equity, and how to acknowledge and root out implicit bias. As studies show, people in this country, especially people of color, are over-policed, over-arrested, over-prosecuted, and over-sentenced. Jails and prisons have been used as substitutes for investments in education, employment, drug treatment, and restorative justice.
FIXING OUR BROKEN IMMIGRATION SYSTEM
I would not be here today had my paternal grandfather not immigrated to New York City from Kingston, Jamaica generations ago. Immigrants are the backbone of our society, from our economy to our personal relationships. Immigrants are our family members, friends, neighbors, and loved ones.
As a member of Congress, I will fight to end President Trump’s racist and inhumane family separation policy that locks kids in cages and tears families apart. I support creating a fair pathway to citizenship for our undocumented brothers and sisters, revamping our visa system, and and codifying DACA in order to protect our young people. I will also advocate to reform our immigration court system to provide the capacity to process asylum claims and hear all immigration cases.
ADVOCATING FOR OUR LGBTQIA COMMUNITY
If elected, I would become the first openly gay, Black member of Congress in United States history. While there is no question that tremendous progress has been made for our LGBTQIA community, we still have so far to go.
Unfortunately, with rates of transphobic and homophobic hate crimes rising, many in our LGBTQIA community live under the threat of danger. LGBTQIA youth are twice as likely to be homeless than their straight and cisgender counterparts. In Congress, I will fight to pass the Equality Act, which adds federal protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. I support comprehensive changes to our housing and education systems so LBGTQIA youth have a guaranteed roof over their heads and access to a quality education. I also fully believe that gender-affirming procedures and treatments should be covered for any transgender individual who chooses them through Medicare for All.
KEEPING OUR COMMUNITIES SAFE
I was in sixth grade when Columbine happened. As afraid as I was back then, I never imagined mass shootings would become the new normal. Gun violence is an epidemic in this country, and Americans deserve to live without fear of violence in our schools, movie theaters, nightclubs, synagogues, churches, and mosques.
I’ll always put the safety of our communities first, which is why my campaign does not take a dime from corporate PACs or the gun lobby, and why I’m proud that I earned an “F” rating from the NRA. As a member of Congress, I’ll support common-sense policies like universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and a mandatory buyback of all assault weapons in the hands of civilians. I also support closing loopholes on gun sales such as the gun show loophole, boyfriend loophole, and Charleston loophole, as well as creating civil liability for manufacturers, distributors, and sellers of firearms who negligently market or provide their products to people who should not have them.
FIGHTING FOR OUR VULNERABLE COMMUNITIES
As Americans, I believe we have a responsibility to make sure every member of our society is looked after and taken care of. In Congress, I’ll fight to make sure all members of our communities have the support and resources they deserve. Tens of millions of Americans live with a disability, and millions more care for a loved one with a disability. For too long, their needs have been overlooked, and they can and should be incorporated into our broader public policy.
That’s why I’m fighting for Medicare for All, which guarantees healthcare services and support without waitlists or asset or income restrictions. I also support expanding Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income to end the backlog of over 800,000 cases, which forces people with disabilities to wait years for needed assistance. I also will fight to end the subminimum wage — which in some jobs is currently less than $1 per hour — for workers with disabilities, while guaranteeing jobs and living wages in the community for all.
In Congress, I will support efforts to expand social security benefits and fight to protect Social Security and Medicare, including standing up to efforts to privatize Social Security and cut Medicare benefits. I will oppose efforts to narrow eligibility requirements for Social Security and SNAP benefits and fight to lower prescription drug prices.
We also have a responsibility to ensure the well-being of veterans who put their lives on the line to serve our country. Too often, veterans do not receive the care and support they deserve after returning home. 20 percent of veterans experience major depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, and many do not receive adequate and timely treatment. Over 40,000 veterans are homeless, and 1.4 million more are at risk of homelessness. That’s why I’m committed to expanding veteran access to jobs and training, as well as making it easier for veterans to access education benefits. We must also provide disabled veterans with quick and streamlined access to the support that they need, which is often delayed due to bureaucratic backlogs.
STOPPING ENDLESS WARS
The United States has been at war for most of my life — wars that have led to hundreds of thousands of people being killed and millions more displaced. We were led into the disastrous war in Iraq under false pretenses. The war in Afghanistan has been raging for almost 19 years. We are contributing to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, in Yemen, by providing weapons to the Saudi-led coalition. Extreme war powers, and a reluctance by members of Congress to exert oversight, have enabled the Trump Administration to bring us dangerously close to the brink of war with Iran. Climate change is already helping to fuel further conflict and violence, due to its impacts on food and water sources, droughts, and other natural disasters.
Enough is enough. Our national security depends on a sane approach to American foreign policy that centers diplomacy, peace, human rights, and cooperation on the challenges facing our world. We must stop fighting endless wars. As a member of Congress, I will fight to finally repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which has given the executive branch a blank check to pursue foreign wars having nothing to do with the September 11th attacks. I will work to bring an end to existing conflicts, including the war in Afghanistan, through inclusive peace processes that center human rights, including women’s rights. I will support barring the sale of weapons to human rights violators, including Saudi Arabia, and I will support redirecting funds towards conflict prevention, including through development aid to reduce poverty and inequalities and combat climate change.
ADVANCING A DIPLOMACY-FIRST FOREIGN POLICY
Our budgets reflect our values and priorities. Currently, the United States has chosen to prioritize investing in war and weapons ahead of providing for the basic needs of our people. The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) allocates a whopping $738 billion dollars for military spending. We spend more than approximately the next seven countries combined. It is estimated that we have spent almost $6 trillion dollars on the Global War on Terror alone. The United States maintains hundreds of costly military bases in dozens of countries throughout the world. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has gutted funding for the State Department and USAID, making the United States less able to lead on diplomatic and humanitarian efforts to address our world’s biggest challenges.
As a member of Congress, I will push to reduce military spending and reinvest this money in the State Department, to strengthen diplomacy and peacebuilding, as well as domestically, in programs that meet the needs of our civilian population. I will fight to prioritize investment in human security approaches, which focus on meeting the human needs of people and protecting our environment
As humans, we share our earth with millions of species of animals. All too often animals are not treated with the respect and care they deserve, and instead are exploited and abused for profit and human sport. Our modes of agriculture and economic development have often come at a terrible cost: climate change, environmental degradation, and the destruction of habitats. We must act to ensure animal welfare and protect wildlife habitats.
Why I'm Running
I’m running for Congress to fight for bold, progressive policies that will help everyday people and allow all children in New York’s 17th Congressional District to dream big like I did.