When I first heard that Cynthia Nixon was running for governor of New York, I rolled my eyes. Good grief, I thought. Another celebrity. Didn’t we have more than enough of those in politics already? Although I now live part-time in New York City, I was born and raised in Rhinebeck and have a house in Columbia County; my heart and home are upstate. I assumed Cynthia’s policy proposals would lean heavily on the crumbling New York City subway and other issues that impact residents of Manhattan, and neglect the problems facing the rest of New Yorkers.
But then I watched her campaign video, and I was impressed. Really impressed. Not only was she fluent in the needs of upstate New Yorkers, but her campaign got at the heart of real issues. She talks about economic inequality and systemic racism, taxing the rich, and closing loopholes for corporations and the ultra-rich. After that I did something that I used to do a lot, less so recently. I went to her website, emailed her campaign, and blindly offered my help.
Soon after, I got the chance to meet her, and I began to develop my commitment to Cynthia. I fully believe she is the right person for the job and is qualified to lead the state forward.
Cynthia has been advocating for better education policy and civil rights in New York state for years. She wants a single-payer healthcare system and to legalize marijuana for everyone and make the industry work for people across the state. She grew up working class, with a single mother, and her three kids attend or attended New York public schools. She understands the importance of investing in public education and has consistently fought for funding that is owed to our children’s schools. In upstate New York, more children than ever are living below the poverty line, and she is the only candidate who wants to give everyone a fighting chance.
Growing up in Rhinebeck in the 1980s and '90s, I always had a job: I worked at Kilmer’s IGA, Del’s Dairy Creme, and the Beekman Arms. I sold anemones out of Pitcher’s barn on days they didn’t use the honor system. When I graduated from Rhinebeck High School in 1994, I was able to pursue what might now be called an impractical curriculum at the University of Vermont: Japanese mixed with rural sociology. That summer, I babysat so I could work an unpaid internship for Senator Bernie Sanders. Ten years later, I was hired by Barack Obama when he was a senator. I eventually became the White House deputy chief of staff for operations for him as president.
I always felt lucky. I had opportunities that I just don’t see for younger people anymore: to explore, to have some confidence in the system’s ability to support me if I needed it. The cost of my college education didn’t follow me around in the form of student loans. Healthcare was cheaper and more reliable. I was confident that if I worked hard, I would get where I needed to go.
Now, young people don’t even have the confidence that they can pay rent, and too many families live in fear that a single health problem will bankrupt them. I don’t support Cynthia because I’m some renegade socialist; in some ways I’m as establishment as they come. I support her because I’ve worked in politics for a long time and understand that governing isn’t a right — it’s a privilege.
I’ve seen firsthand what it takes to govern — patience, empathy, passion, grit, and an unending commitment to make the lives of those you serve better. I believe Cynthia will wake up every day thinking about the families of New York state and putting them first.
I was disheartened when I saw politicians I respected coming out to endorse Governor Cuomo in the primary. Over and over again, he has shown New Yorkers that he will put the interests of himself and his friends above those of ordinary people.
It can’t be business as usual anymore. On Thursday, September 13, we must elect Cynthia Nixon as the next governor of New York.
Alyssa Mastromonaco is the former White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations for President Obama. Views expressed here are her own.