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Queens Chronicle

LI progressive activist challenging Suozzi

Melanie D’Arrigo, a member of Moms Demand Action, runs to pol’s left

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Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2019 10:30 am

In another sign of the left’s high energy level, one more 2020 primary challenger is taking on a House Democrat representing Queens.

Port Washington, LI-based progressive activist and wellness professional Melanie D’Arrigo is taking on two-term centrist incumbent Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Suffolk, Nassau, Queens), running to his left. The district includes large chunks of the well-off North Shore in Nassau and Suffolk counties, along with Whitestone, Floral Park, Glen Oaks, Bay Terrace, Little Neck and Douglaston in northeast Queens.

“I think that the situation we’re facing as a country today is unprecedented, certainly in my lifetime,” D’Arrigo told the Chronicle. “We really need a representative who is speaking for all of the people in the district.”

She is the second Democrat to announce a 2020 challenge to Suozzi. The other is attorney Michael Weinstock of Great Neck, LI, an openly gay volunteer fireman who served at Ground Zero and worked as a sex crimes prosecutor in Brooklyn. Independent candidates Daniel Craig Ross and Joshua Sauberman are also running.

A mother of three children, D’Arrigo is an active member of the Moms Demand Action gun control advocacy group. D’Arrigo has also been a frequent protester against the Trump administration’s immigration policy. Her activism includes canvassing for Planned Parenthood, and she also recently volunteered for three days with friends at a shelter for migrants near the U.S. border in Ciudad Ju·rez, Mexico.

Her experience also includes managing Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso’s (D-Nassau) re-election campaign last year and helping to organize the 2017 Women’s March in Atlanta.

“We need to develop policy solutions to make the whole system run better for everyone,” said D’Arrigo.

She does agree with Suozzi in some areas, like expanding background checks for firearm purchases. But D’Arrigo and the congressman do differ on major issues, with the challenger saying President Trump should be impeached. Unlike him, she also supports the Medicare for All bill in Congress.

The candidate has pledged to not take corporate campaign contributions, which she criticizes Suozzi for accepting in large volumes.

Although a Nassau County resident, the candidate is no stranger to Queens. She lived in Long Island City for six years but, due to the cost of living, moved out east with her family. D’Arrigo said she looks forward to “getting to know the different communities” in the Queens section of the district in the coming months.

D’Arrigo is also opposed to the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group of 46 centrists in which the incumbent serves as vice chairman. Progressives recently criticized the group and the Blue Dog Coalition for pressuring Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to pass the Senate’s version of a border aid bill. The legislation lacked amendments that the House Democratic leadership initially planned to pass, which were crafted to improve safety and care standards for migrants at federal facilities.

D’Arrigo also took issue with Suozzi’s voting last year in favor of a pro-U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement resolution sponsored by Republicans. She did not go as far to say that the agency should be abolished, but said “we need to have a real hard look” at it.

“The abuses that are being committed by the border right now need to be answered for,” she said.

“As a lifelong Democrat with a proven record of working across the aisle to get things done, I work hard to represent all of my constituents in Queens and will continue to do so,” Suozzi said in a statement. “There will be plenty of time next year for politics. Right now it’s imperative that we focus on working together in a realistic way to address the serious issues facing Northeastern Queens.”

D’Arrigo and Weinstock are just two of the Democrats running primary challenges to New York City’s House incumbents in 2020. Observers have credited now-Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-Queens, Bronx) historic win over ex-party boss Rep. Joe Crowley as a major factor inspiring more people to run. In other districts that include Queens, insurgents are running against Reps. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens) and Gregory Meeks (D-Queens, Nassau), the chairman of the Democratic Organization of Queens County.

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