Victory was sweet for Alessandra Biaggi Primary night 2018, with City Comptroller Scott Stringer, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, former Councilman Oliver Koppell, and over 200 people who came to celebrate the the victory of the new Democratic candidate for the 34th State Senate District Alessandra Biaggi.
So how did Alessandra Biaggi defeat a seven term, fifty-eight year old state senator who became the Fourth Man in-the Room as head of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) in the state senate? Jeff Klein was elected to the state senate the same year that Congressman Joseph Crowley had his last Democratic primary, 2004.
With the election of Donald Trump as President in 2016 the old line way of Democratic politics was changing to bring in new younger voters for the first time. Congressman Crowley didn't realize that until it was to late, whereas Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was mobilizing these new young voters, who had moved into the 14th Congressional District. In those fourteen years since Crowley had his last primary the congressional district changed. Then in June of this year Joe Crowley lost the Democratic primary to a 28 year old woman named Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
When looking at the 34th State Senate district, Jeff Klein as the head of the IDC was given extra privileges such as a larger budget for staff, more monies to dole out to his district, and a bigger persona by being the forth man in-the room when it came to state budget negotiations. One of the pitfalls of all that was that he was being accused of keeping Republicans in control of the state senate.
When Donald Trump became President in 2016 things started to go wrong for Jeff Klein. In 2017 it seemed that the backlash against Donald Trump was aiming at him. Klein was eventually forced to give up the once coveted position as head of the IDC, disband the IDC, and rejoin the Senate Democratic Conference or face tough primaries for all eight members of his conference. It was well known that Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda was going to replace Ruben Diaz Sr. (now Councilman Diaz Sr.) in the state senate, and it had been rumored that Sepulveda would become the ninth member of the IDC because of his friendship with Klein, but now that would not happened.
As Luis Sepulveda got the Democratic nod for the special election in April of 2018, Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Senator Michael Gianaris were in the audience. I asked Senator Gianaris if this deal with Jeff Klein would last through the election. He laughed and said 'not even that long'. Once Alessandra Biaggi and others declared their intentions to run against Klein and other former IDC members things changed again for Jeff Klein. Two months later Congressman Joe Crowley was defeated, and Senator Gianaris came out with the following statement. 'The Senate Democratic Conference is not siding with the former IDC members or their challengers'. That was a slap in the face to all eight former IDC members including Jeff Klein.
Momentum continued to build against Jeff Klein and the other former IDC members. It seemed that the Anti-IDC movement had grown so that it was now so large it could not be stopped. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who defeated Congressman Crowley in the June congressional primary and others like Congressman Jerry Nadler and former Riverdale Councilman Oliver Koppell also had endorsed Biaggi. Mayor Bill de Blasio was endorsing two opponents of former IDC members (one in Brooklyn and one in Queens). City Comptroller Scott Stringer and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson then also endorsed Alessandra Biaggi. Oliver Koppell ran against Klein in 2014, but while Koppell edged out Klein in Riverdale, Koppell was badly beaten in the Morris Park and East Bronx side of the district. That however was while Jeff Klein and the IDC were riding high in the state senate.
The Biaggi plan was simple, if Alessandra Biaggi could do better than Oliver Koppell in Morris Park and the East Bronx the plurality of votes from South Riverdale would hold up. There were two target areas, seventy election districts in Riverdale, and seventy election districts in Throggs Neck. Since Ms. Biaggi was from the Pelham area of the Westchester County part of the district it was felt that she would win there also. More and more people joined the campaign for Alessandra Biaggi, and against Jeff Klein. There were mailings and mailings galore from both candidates, but it seemed that the voters wanted a new voice for them as they did in the congressional primary. After the three debates it seemed that Alessandria Biaggi came out ahead in all three. In fact she did so well in the City Island debate that she won the area which had been solid for Jeff Klein in past elections.
The September primary day arrived, and voters went to the polls. There was a larger than usual turnout, and it seemed that more younger people were voting. They no longer wanted politics as usual, but wanted new faces in office. The polls closed at 9 PM, and results came in slowly, but Biaggi never trailed. By 10 PM she held a slim but steady lead. After 11 PM there was a huge roar of "BIAGGI, BIAGGI, BIAGGI." it was at that point that Alessandra was being declared the winner of the 34th State Senate District. In all five other former IDC members lost on primary day, leaving only Brooklyn/Staten Island State Senator Diane Savino, and Rockland County State Senator David Carlucci the only two former IDC members in office less than one year after the break up of the IDC.
Scott Stringer on Primary day outside the Riverdale Kingsbridge Academy, (the largest poll site in Riverdale) with Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz. Dinowitz was giving out palm cards for Jeff Klein.