An exclusive interview with New York City District 13 candidate Marjorie Velázquez.
In 2012, Bronx native Marjorie Velázquez suffered life-changing injuries from a workplace accident and a subsequent serious car crash that left her temporarily disabled and abruptly put a hold on her career. Always a fighter, she struggled through seven surgeries and a broken, bureaucratic healthcare and insurance system, but found a path to recovery through giving back to her community.
Marjorie helped elect Ritchie Torres to the New York City Council, serving as his treasurer, joined Bronx Community Board 10 where she now serves as treasurer and executive board member and co-founder Bronx Women United, the first committee of its kind, dedicated to empowering women through political and civic engagement.
She was also elected as the first Latina Democratic District Leader in the 82nd Assembly District, is an executive board member of the Chippewa Democratic Club, and is the former treasurer of the Liberty Democratic Association in the 80th Assembly District.
And now, she's running for City Council. She is the only woman in the seven person race, with one of the men being an anti-choice Democrat who voted against the Women's Equality Act and opposes codifying Roe v. Wade. If she is elected, she will be the first person of color to represent District 13.
Marjorie has received many impressive endorsements for her City Council bid. She has been strongly endorsed by current Council Member Jimmy Vacca, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Council Member Ritchie Torres, and eight female Council Members. Additionally, Marjorie has the support of the Working Families Party, CWA, the Progressive Caucus Alliance and Make the Road Action, all of whom are renowned for their community organizing and strong ground game.
I spoke recently with Marjorie about her candidacy. Below is a transcription of our conversation.
How did you get into politics?
I became involved in politics when I joined my local community board, Bronx Community Board 10, and became the treasurer and executive board member. Community boards are the most local governing bodies in a neighborhood that serve as advisers to Council Members on matters of transportation, land use and zoning. I was motivated to get involved because of a desire to make a lasting impact on my community and this was a way to make that happen. I also cofounded Bronx Women United, an organization to increase women's civic engagement and political activism. Women still struggle to get involved in government and politics, and I felt compelled to elevate women and increase their influence in the Bronx political community.
When did you first know you wanted to run for office?
I realized I wanted to run for office after being in a serious car crash that left me temporarily disabled. Having to navigate the healthcare bureaucracy, dealing with our city's complex medical system, and witnessing how many are left to fend for themselves made me realize that laws must change to help people in their most difficult times. In order to change laws that impact thousands of people, you must have a seat at the table. That's when I realized I wanted to run for office.
How did you choose that you wanted to run for City Council in particular?
I believe that in this current political climate, local city governments are at the forefront of the resistance and have the best chances to push forth progressive policies that protect and uplift vulnerable communities. The City Council is protecting New Yorkers from Donald Trump's disastrous policies, and I believe that my skills will allow me to be an effective Council Member for my district.
What, positive or negative, are your most formative political experiences?
Over five years ago I got into a series of debilitating accidents that led to seven different surgeries, and during this time I had to deal with countless lawyers, medical, and recovery fees as I navigated our nation's healthcare system. However, through these experiences, I was constantly reminded that I was not the only person dealing with these issues, and many of the others in my community don't have the resources or time to fully deal with them. From these experiences, I became more active and civically engaged in my community as a way to help others going through tough times, and prevent future issues before they become serious problems for families.
How do your previous experiences make you a formidable candidate?
My work experiences in accounting and corporate finance thought me the importance of maintaining a budget and how to allocate resources- which is one of the most important duties of a Council Member when negotiating the City budget and fighting for monetary resources for your district. As a founder of a women's political group and executive member of the Community Board, I understand the ins-and-outs of our local government and political structure, and how laws are made.
How did Donald Trump’s Electoral College victory affect you?
Donald Trump's victory further cemented the urgency for me to run for office at this moment in time. It showed that our country is yearning for a new generation of leaders to stand up and take action. His policies seek to dismantle the safety nets that protect vulnerable families, and I will be a strong fighter against that on the local level as a Council Member.
What are the top issues for you?
As a Council Member, I will focus on bringing more affordable housing to the Bronx, improving transportation, increase funding for schools and protecting paid sick leave and women's rights.
What will you do in city council to protect marginalized New Yorkers from Donald Trump and the GOP?
As a Council Member, I will ensure that the legislation I introduce and sponsor uplift marginalized communities, and protect working families and women's rights. I will be a loud and passionate advocate for marginalized New Yorkers throughout the legislative process and City budget negotiations to ensure that safety nets are kept in place and that laws protect the progress we have made on the city-level.
What advice would you give to young women hoping to run for office?
Be true to yourself and stick to your convictions, no matter what. Know what you are fighting for and what you are passionate about, and let that be the driving force that guides you in running for elected office.
Learn more about Marjorie by visiting her website and following her on Facebook and Twitter.
Jordan is the Head Writer at Millennial Politics. She is also an activist, cinephile, and proud queer woman of color.
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