Name: Emily E Gallagher
Office Sought: New York State Assembly District 50
Party Affiliation(s): Democratic
Education: Ithaca College, B.A.; Baruch College, M.P.A.
Previous Offices, Campaigns and Community/Civic Involvement:
Twelve years ago, I began my journey in Brooklyn activism by joining Neighbors Allied for Good Growth and in 2010, I became co-chair of the board. We worked tirelessly for the creation of new parkland, safe streets initiatives like bike lanes and traffic calming, preserving rent stabilized housing and fighting luxury development. Later, I served as NAGG’s representative to the Mobilization Against Displacement.
In 2016, I was approached by members of the New Kings Democrats reform club to run for the position of Female District Leader in the 50th Assembly district. I challenged the machine and narrowly lost by less than 350 votes while winning 53 of 87 election districts.
During my time knocking on doors, I heard from multiple sexual assault survivors who had terrible, retraumatizing experiences with the police who handled their cases. After the election, I founded the Greenpoint Sexual Assault Task Force which organized for a trauma-centered approach to reforming the NYPD’s protocol.
I’ve also served on Community Board 1 for several years, participating on the transportation, environment and women’s committees.
Please state whether you support or oppose the following reform measures. If you wish to elaborate on your answers, you may do so in the provided space at the bottom of this page.
- Replace the Joint Commission on Public Ethics and the Legislative Ethics Commission with an effective and independent enforcement body (S594A/A1282A).
- Limit outside compensation earned by state legislators and statewide officials to 25% of their salaries and eliminate stipends.
Elections and Voting
- Do you support or oppose the following changes to the state’s current registration and voting system?
- No-excuse absentee voting (second passage of constitutional amendment)
- Election Day voter registration (second passage of constitutional amendment)
- Re-enfranchisement of people on parole automatically through legislation, without requiring a Certificate of Good Conduct or Relief
- Automatic voter registration, unless the potential voter opts out
- Mandating poll sites on college campuses
- No-excuse absentee voting (second passage of constitutional amendment)
- Reform the special election process, utilizing a nonpartisan special election for state legislative seats and eliminate delays in filling vacancies.
- Reduce the vote threshold to become a registered party back to 50,000 votes and keep the gubernatorial election as the qualifying election, and reduce the petition requirement for independent candidates back to 15,000 signatures.
- Amend the state’s public campaign financing system, approved in the 2021 budget, by
- Drastically reduce campaign contribution limits
- Set even lower contribution limits for registered lobbyists and those who do business with the state
- Move the campaign finance matching program to be administered by an independent, nonpartisan body outside of the NY Board of Election
- Simplify the matching system by making both in- and out-of-district donations eligible and by eliminating the three different tiers for matching
- Drastically reduce campaign contribution limits
- Require full disclosure of grants and contracts issued by the state, including the budget lines from which the spending is made and reporting on the results of each grant or contract over a certain amount.
- Provide for effective online disclosure and itemization of spending from elected officials’ lump sum appropriations, including reporting on potential conflicts of interest and how the funds are spent.
- Repeal Civil Rights Law, Sec. 50-a, which shields from public view the disciplinary records of police officers, correction officers, and firefighters.
- Restructure the state Board of Elections to abolish the strict two-party division of governance and operation and put in place professional, nonpartisan administration.
- Empower the attorney general to investigate and prosecute election law malfeasance and cases of public corruption.
- Make mayoral control of city schools permanent, with a governance system that provides for accountability, transparency, parent engagement, and democratic participation.
- Simplify and consolidate New York State’s court system by passing the Chief Judge’s proposed constitutional amendment to modernize the courts.
If needed, you may elaborate below on your positions on the previous questions. You may also provide additional information on any actions that you have taken or plan to take to advance your positions on these issues.
Despite its progressive reputation, New York State has been mired in corruption, scandal, backroom deals, machine politics and dismal voter participation for decades. An entrenched party establishment, especially at the state level, has sent an unmistakable signal to voters: leave politics to the professionals, we’ll make the decisions.
We’re starting to wake up. Longtime incumbents are finally being challenged. Turnout in the 2018 elections nearly doubled from the 2014 midterms (though it was still among the lowest in the country). And we’re starting to see new experiments in electoral reform, from early voting to a robust public matching system in New York City races.
But our electoral process is still terribly antiquated. Big money donors still exert too much influence. It’s still way too hard for working class New Yorkers to run for office. And sometimes it seems like our Governor thinks he’s a King.
You can read our Democracy platform at https://www.emilyforassembly.com/issues/democracy/
RESPONDING TO THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK
Government under the COVID-19 outbreak
- Adopt technological solutions and provisions that will allow the New York State legislature to convene and vote remotely if needed.
- Provide public access to observe and participate in government proceedings, in meetings that would be public under the New York Open Meetings Law, via live and recorded video available on government Website:
- Implement immediate programs to facilitate absentee voting for all New York voters as long as the widespread contagion risk of COVID-19 continues, under current state constitutional limitations. This includes electronic submission of absentee ballot applications without a wet signature and a public information campaign.
- What are your concerns regarding the use of emergency powers during this crisis, and how do you think NY government can maintain public accountability standards at this time?
In early March, we warned against granting Gov. Cuomo emergency powers. “I’m glad the state is mobilizing to contain COVID-19, especially given federal incompetence,” our campaign tweeted on March 5. “But this bill, passed in the middle of the night, included an alarming expansion of Gov. Cuomo’s emergency powers.” We asked our opponent, Assemblymember Joe Lentol, to explain his vote in favor of these new powers. He never did.
Many of our fears have now been realized. The Governor also had far too much power over the budget process but these emergency powers extended them further; now he’s threatening even deeper cuts to Medicaid and other essential lifelines for working and poor New Yorkers.
His approach to elections during this crisis has also been unnecessarily confusing, imperious and not thought out. The cancelation of the June 23 Democratic presidential primary is just one prominent example. And while we’re happy people will be able to vote by mail in our primary, the Governor has not implemented a clear and transparent plan. I’m afraid he wanted very low turnout to protect vulnerable incumbents and now he’s likely to get it.
The legislature has the power to maintain public accountability standards if it immediately returns to session and scrutinizes/challenges the Governors emergency powers, some of which must be rollbacked lest he further starves public infrastructure of the funding it so badly needs right now.
Serving the public under the COVID-19 outbreak
- What are the biggest challenges in your district in dealing with the coronavirus outbreak?
We are a very diverse district, and each community has their own trusted sources of information, traditions and limitations. It has been hard to get cooperation and understanding across each part of the district. Many groups are still refusing to practice social distancing or wear masks. Many parts of the neighborhood are densely populated, interrupted by major highways or dangerous roads—we desperately need Open Streets so people can get fresh air without endangering one another.
I’m also very concerned that the financial crisis now confronting the MTA will leave our transportation-dependent district starved for the options and reliable service it needs when the economy reopens. We already had overcrowded trains (the G train is still only four cars long) and limited bus routes.
Finally, given the intense financial speculation on land in my district and the overdevelopment of hyper-luxury buildings, I’m concerned that the economic wreckage left by the pandemic will leave affordable housing, public housing and homeowners even more vulnerable to the predatory real estate market.
- What are the appropriate roles of city, state, and federal governments in a crisis such as this?
The federal government has the power to distribute resources on a scale far beyond the state and municipal level—they must be the backstop and the driver for the largest scale recovery we face. That means securing federal funding to local governments, to help the MTA survive, and to provide urgent and vital resources to public housing.
The state government is responsible for housing rules and thus can play an outsized role in the lives of so many New Yorkers who struggle to pay rent. That makes it crucial to get real estate money out of state politics, to significantly reduce the contribution limits, and to limit outside income so state leaders pursue policies in the public interest. The state government must also provide more equal funding for school districts across New York. And now, more than ever, we need to reform how the state engages in economic development, which will be crucial in the coming recovery but all the more susceptible to corruption and backroom dealmaking.
Finally, the city government must be granted more powers to tax its citizenry and to manage its transportation systems. We can use this moment to empower New York City, which for all its faults, is more responsive to the local population than the state government, which alternates between denying responsibility and cutting funding/hamstringing municipalities.
- How will you help your future constituents, residents and businesses, access potential funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, or any other future government relief funds?
I will make robust and responsive constituent services—for everyone—a cornerstone of my time in office. This doesn’t just mean helping people and small businesses navigate complicated unemployment or loan systems but advocating for those system to be more transparent, easy-to-use and efficient.
I also want to make my Assembly office a hub for local organizing and civic participation. We’ll plan frequent, dynamic and relevant public town halls on key issues facing our community and create a rotating youth advisory council of high school and college-age residents and a community advisory council open to all to discuss, craft and lobby for important legislation.
CAMPAIGN PROMISES MADE TO VOTERS
What are the top five promises you are making to the voters during the campaign?
Campaign Promise 1
I will be relentlessly transparent, taking time to explain every single vote—especially the controversial ones. Too many policies and priorities in Albany are determined by opaque, backroom dealmaking. It’s why we have such dismal voter turnout in this state. My office will seek to change that dynamic.
Campaign Promise 2
I will publicly challenge Governor Cuomo and the legislative leadership when it is warranted. I have not been hand-selected by the machine to inherit this job—my loyalty will be to the people of North Brooklyn. That means speaking truth to power.
Campaign Promise 3
Climate justice will inform everything I do. The science is clear: we have a decade to transform our energy system or face catastrophe. It’s that dire. Working people and waterfront communities will bear the brunt. I will stay laser-focused on moving our state to a just and sustainable future.
Campaign Promise 4
We need someone who doesn’t drag their feet on sexual harassment hearings and laws, and that doesn’t make excuses for serial abusers in power. It’s not enough to be a convenient ally — we need allies when it’s inconvenient and there’s great risk to taking a stand. Only someone who has experienced abuse can understand what it’s like to be left alone and flailing in the face of danger. I will never allow survivors of intimate violence, women or the LGBTQ+ community feel unsupported. They will know I am there because I will be leading the way.
Campaign Promise 5
I will plan frequent, dynamic and relevant public town halls on key issues facing our community. Information is the cornerstone of democracy and my office will not hoard it.
ETHICAL REPRESENTATION OF CONSTITUENTS
Citizens Union believes that all New Yorkers deserve to be represented by officials who work for the public interest and honor the public trust. With the corruption conviction of recent legislative leaders, we seek to endorse a candidate who will demonstrate that she/he will honor the full commitment of the oath of office, and always represent the public interest above all else.
Please tell us how you have and would continue to conduct the political affairs of this office in an upright manner, and maintain the public trust.
New York deserves cooperative, transparent government. I’m so tired of the state and city fighting over who is responsible for what and hoarding information that prevents real solutions. From transportation to housing to the environment, we need to work together. We need real campaign finance and more electoral reform too, reduce the barriers to voting and making it easier for working class New Yorkers to run for office to reinvigorate our democracy. Competitive elections should be normal and expected.
I’m coming to this as a 10+ year community organizer in North Brooklyn outside of the political system. I know what it’s like to build consensus among neighbors and advocate for reform only to see it stymied by backroom dealing. And I know how to blow the whistle. “Emily Gallagher is no stranger to being a squeaky wheel,” Claudia Irizarry Aponte wrote in a December profile for THE CITY news Website: . “Earlier this year Gallagher, a member of Brooklyn Community Board 1, suggested that the board use special City Council funds for a service that tracks constituent issues. The board revealed it bought an SUV instead.”
I’m running against an incumbent who’s been in office since 1972. His father and grandfather had the job before him. Incumbents who hold seats for decades discourage young people from getting involved in politics and increase the likelihood of corruption and back-room deal making. My approach to political affairs will be fundamentally different.