Ex-legislative staffer challenging Maloney - Queens Chronicle: Queenswide

Ex-legislative staffer challenging Maloney

by Ryan Brady, Editor | Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2019 10:30 am

The June 2020 congressional primary elections are a little less than a year away, but the field has already been shaping up for months across the city. And, in what observers say is partially due to now-Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-Queens, Bronx) historic win over former Rep. Joe Crowley last year, the list of insurgent progressive House candidates is growing.

Former legislative staffer Erica Vladimer, 32, intends to unseat Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens). The lawmaker for 26 years has held the 12th Congressional District, which covers sections of Manhattan and Brooklyn, along with Long Island City, Roosevelt Island and parts of Astoria and Sunnyside.

Vladimer, a Manhattanite, worked for the last three years as a lawyer and education analyst for the city Independent Budget Office. Before that, she worked as a junior policy analyst for the state Senate, resigning in 2015 after, she said, then-Sen. Jeff Klein forcibly kissed her outside a bar in Albany. Vladimer did not go public with her accusation until last year.

As the head of the now-dead Independent Democratic Conference, he was one of the four most powerful men in state government for years.

“Senator Klein shoved his tongue in my mouth,” she said. “I carried that shame with me for so long.” Klein has denied the allegation.

The #MeToo movement inspired Vladimer to come forward, which she did after The New York Times broke its story about allegations of sexual assault and harassment against entertainment mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Vladimer linked up with other women who used to work for the state Legislature and have accused its lawmakers of sexual harassment. She and six others formed the Sexual Harassment Working Group, which has highlighted the issue and the lack of accountability for it in Albany.

“We worked to get the Legislature to hold the first joint legislative public hearing on sexual harassment in the workplace in 27 years,” she said.

If elected to Congress, Vladimer said, she would focus on improving the laws surrounding workplace harassment and discrimination, reforming the National Labor Relations Board and other workplace issues, like ensuring a livable minimum wage for tipped workers.

The candidate disagreed with Maloney when the incumbent championed the later-scuttled HQ2 deal that Amazon struck with Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio.

“Everything was done in a back room, the way it’s been done in New York for so long,” said Vladimer, adding that Amazon had no real interest in getting input from impacted residents.

And, unlike Maloney, the challenger supported the Obama administration’s deal with Iran to prevent that country from building nuclear weapons.

In an emailed statement to the Chronicle, Maloney campaign communications director Rachel Brody said, “Competition is good and a strong sign of the activism and energy in the Democratic Party right now.”

Vladimer isn’t the congresswoman’s only challenger. Lauren Ashcraft, an activist whom the Chronicle tried to reach before deadline, is also running in the three-borough district’s Democratic primary race.

Last year, Maloney fended off a primary challenge by activist and attorney Suraj Patel, winning with 59 percent to his 41. He has not officially filed to run in 2020 but has been mentioned in reports as likely to be a NY-12 candidate again, according to City and State.