Behind the Scenes: Campaigning for Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio
LCW student Samantha Gursky shares her experience in a personal essay
One week after the semester ended in June, I received an e-mail from Bill de Blasio’s campaign for New York City mayor. “It’s going to be a very exciting campaign, and I am looking to recruit help in Queens,” it said. “A NYC Mayor’s race is bigger than a race for Governor in 36 states, and this is an open seat so it will be even tighter.” The election was less than two weeks ago, and everything I expected to gain from campaigning in the mayor’s race was surpassed by everything I accomplished.
I was hired as the Team Leader for the Rockaway Peninsula and Broad Channel and coordinated the voter outreach in the area. I am a resident of Far Rockaway, and have worked for many of the elected officials who represent the area. With the knowledge I gained from working in the Rockaways, I reached out to voters and recruited volunteers from around the area to contribute to the campaign’s general efforts to address the community issues in South Queens.
My favorite part of the campaign was exploring different neighborhoods and meeting different people. However, the best days were when Bill and the campaign came down to Rockaway. I travelled via the A train to the campaign office in Downtown Brooklyn, the Q53 bus to Howard Beach for my phone banks, the LIRR to a debate watch party in Jamaica before the primary, and in a car from the Colombian Independence Day parade in Jackson Heights to the Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival in Jamaica, Queens.
The people I met are absolutely amazing. I met people from every borough, an ethnically diverse group of people, with different professional experiences. All of us were in search of a candidate who would unite New York City and lead us into an age of peace, prosperity, and progress. Along the way, I introduced a few people to kosher pizza and they introduced me to the sweet and spicy goodness that is jerk chicken.
The weekend before the primary, every campaign staffer and volunteer mustered every ounce of drive and excitement to make sure that voters would go out to the polls on September 10th. Our victory of 40.81% in the polls just made us work harder. In the weeks that followed, I met even more “random” people at the rallies I attended, the phone banks I ran, and the canvasses that I sent out to garner as much support for Bill as possible. These were the people who I spoke to before I went to bed late and woke up early to make Election Day on November 5th the most memorable day ever.
Five months of phone calls, train trips, and door knocks culminated in the greatest celebration of unity I have ever seen. On November 5th, I woke up early, went to the office, and went straight to work, only leaving to go vote and to buy lunch. Countless volunteers walked in to help “get out the vote” in as many households as possible. The mood was bittersweet, as my colleagues and I had gone through the trials of working for the fourth-place candidate, to the jubilation of uniting the Democratic Party behind its mayoral nominee, and after us all parting ways to adjust back into our studies, we reunited on election day for our biggest efforts to elect Bill.
As our operations wound down, the Far Rockaway staging staff left the office for the Park Slope Armory YMCA in Brooklyn for the grand finale. We were chosen to join the group of supporters to stand behind Bill de Blasio for whatever speech he was giving that night. When we arrived, we were overjoyed to find many other members of the Queens Team in the group. We shared our experiences in our respective offices and reminisced about the days before Bill became the frontrunner and the great times we had on the campaign trail. At 9:00 PM when the polls closed, the exit polls showed Bill de Blasio in good standing. We cheered from the sidewalk so Park Slope could hear us. Inside the YMCA were hundreds of supporters waiting for the election night returns. First to appear on NY1, which was shown on a projector set up in the event space, was Scott Stringer declaring victory as NYC Comptroller. Then a cheer rose for the newly-elected Public Advocate Letitia “Tish” James.
At around 9:45 PM, less than an hour after the polls closed, Joe Lhota, the Republican mayoral candidate, came up on the screen. I heard tremendous noise come from the other side of the curtain: Joe Lhota was giving his concession speech. There were cheers, hugs, high-fives, congratulations all around me backstage: Bill de Blasio, our candidate, won the race for New York City mayor. I was elated and so happy to share the moment with all of my friends from the Queens team on the de Blasio campaign. Later, Chirlane McCray, the incoming First Lady and Bill de Blasio’s wife, and then the Mayor-Elect himself, spoke about how we got to victory and that we will keep moving to City Hall to make the changes that will move New York City into a new age where everyone will be empowered to prosper.
I thank everyone involved in this campaign for enriching my life with so much culture, teaching me many more ins and outs of community-political relationships, and giving me the opportunities to see the many sights I have seen in New York City. As someone recently mentioned to me, you know you are on the winning campaign when you unite people because of the beliefs you share, and because we share the beliefs of New York City being the greatest city when we all come together, we came together, won the election, and will continue to work together to ensure that New York City becomes “America’s Finest.”
Essay written by Samantha Gursky.