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Off The Trail: How Alessandra Biaggi toppled a political powerhouse

Bronx Connections Off The Trail Alessandra Biaggi

WFUV reporter Julia Agos interviews Senate District 34 candidate Alessandra Biaggi (D) ahead of the midterm elections.

(Screenshot courtesy of BronxNet)

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On a blustery October evening, in a park in Soundview, Bronx, Alessandra Biaggi was preparing to canvas in a nearby residential building. She wore pink jeans and a leather jacket. With minimal makeup and long brown hair, she looked more like an activist, than a women running for New York State Senate.

“Many industries, including the political sphere, have created a story about how women should look, without women really having an input,” she said. The 32 year-old political newcomer is ready to take control of her own narrative and be true to herself.  Early in her campaign, Biaggi grew frustrated by questions about her choice of shoes or lipstick color, “I have so many important things to tell everyone! And you’re focusing on this?”

Biaggi managed to steer the focus away from her looks during the primary. Starting her days at 6am, Biaggi could be found at train stations and bus stops talking to constituents. She’d head to meetings and rallies -- non stop before crashing into bed at midnight. “I keep my energy going because I have a lot of anger,” she laughed.”It's dangerous to make me angry because I will definitely channel it into action, no matter what.”

Her campaign hustle lead to one of the largest upsets in New York’s Democratic primaries: Biaggi ousted Jeff Klein, founder of the Independent Democratic Conference, and one of the most powerful lawmakers in New York.

Though to many it seems like Biaggi made a sudden splash on the political scene, politics is in her blood. Her grandfather, Mario Biaggi, was a New York Congressman from 1969 to 1988. So her political mindset was instilled in her at a very young age. The adults around her always asked her to not only identify the problem, but also come up with a solution. “I could never really get out alive without talking about politics at the dinner table… and so because of that I did not feel uncomfortable getting involved in politics.”

Before becoming a politician, Biaggi worked as Deputy National Operations Director for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. “When we lost that election, I thought to myself, “What is my role in (the political sphere)?”

She then joined Governor Cuomo’s administration in his Counsel’s office with a focus on women’s issue and public health. But during her time there, she became frustrated with lack of progress on the many bills that never got out of committee.

So, as her family taught her as child, she began to look for a solution. She looked at her representatives, including Jeff Klein, and tried to figure out what was going wrong. That’s when it clicked for her, “(Klein) was the reason why so many bills and so much progress has been stalled.

I figured that nothing would ever change if we have the same type of leadership.” During the primary cycle, Klein’s $3 million war chest outspent her 10-to-1. Biaggi beat Klein by 9 points.

Now she is up against Republican Richard Ribustello in a district that went blue in the last election by more than 84 points. So Biaggi will almost certainly be joining the NY State Senate in January.

Biaggi said that she hopes to be a leader in the State Senate and to work with people of all political perspectives. “I hope that people perceive me as someone who is fierce.”

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Off The Trail is a collaboration with WFUV News, Bronxnet Television, and The Norwood News, where we profile several candidates ahead of the November general election.

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Listen to Prickly Politics talk with Biaggi and other NY Senate Candidates about their campaigns.
 

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