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Queens Chronicle

Meng faces primary challenger in 2020

Mel Gagarin attempts to continue progressive push for Congress

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Posted: Thursday, August 8, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:13 pm, Thu Aug 15, 2019.

Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) will be facing some competition when she runs for re-election in 2020.

“We’re at a particular moment in history that I think requires members of Congress that are going to take bold action to really push back on this President’s dangerous agenda,” Mel Gagarin said.

“The Constitution calls for an election every two years and here I am.”

Gagarin, a stay-at-home father and community organizer, said the seed for running was planted in November 2016 with President Trump’s election and the idea germinated for a couple of years as he saw the progressive movement with its “real energy and desire for change.”

Volunteering for Tiffany Cab·n during her campaign for district attorney pushed him over the edge to run.

Gagarin announced his campaign with an open letter to Meng. In a Queens Eagle story, Gagarin said he wants Trump impeached. Several days later, Meng said she supports impeaching the president.

Does Gagarin think there’s a link?

“I’m not going to speculate but there has been plenty of opportunity over the course of the past year to take a stand on an impeachment,” he said. “The first vote she’s ever taken on an impeachment resolution came five days after we filed to run. I leave it up to folks to decide on their own.”

Meng and four other members of the House announced their support for an inquiry on July 30.

He’s not a political neophyte. Gagarin, who graduated from American University with a bachelor’s degree in political science, worked for Congressman Anthony Weiner and state Sen. Jose Serrano.

“I know how the sausage is made,” Gagarin said.

Among other jobs, he worked with the National Foundation for Women Legislators, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Planned Parenthood and the College and Community Fellowship.

“2016 happens and there’s this belief that checks and balances are going to take care of it. 2018 rolls around and you feel like, OK, there’s all this new blood in Congress and maybe this is going to make a difference and then Democrats are really going to push back and hold this president accountable,” Gagarin said.

“And that doesn’t happen and there’s sort of a lot of politics going on and not seeing the danger that this presidency represents. And I think being outside of the Beltway gives you a completely different perspective on what the stakes are.”

Gagarin ran an unsuccessful City Council campaign in 2009, failing to gain traction in a crowded race eventually won by Karen Koslowitz.

“There really wasn’t much of a progressive movement,” Gagarin said. “It was a very crowded field and my passion has always been on issues on the federal level.”

He added, “There’s a desire and a need for change in the electorate and I think that we offer that opportunity. And I think that’s why things will work out differently this time around.”

Gagarin believed his chances of becoming a politician were done and had begun working in the nonprofit world and dealing with public policy advocacy.

“I thought that was probably going to be a better use of my time in terms of effecting change,” he said. “It wasn’t until it became apparent that there was a need for bolder action that things sort of changed for me.

“It’s surprising to me that things have gone so south that it’s had to force me back into it.”

If he wins, Gagarin will introduce legislation to create 25 million new environmentally sustainable social housing units, which would be federally-subsidized, by 2050. He is refusing campaign contributions from corporations.

Gagarin also said the Green New Deal is a big priority for him, saying “I think addressing the climate emergency” is paramount.

He supports abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement as well as investing in Universal Basic Income experiments.

And Gagarin would introduce the Golden Years Security Act for seniors, which would prevent discrimination against LGBTQIA residents in nursing facilities as well as address medical needs for all seniors, including subsidizing home care services.

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