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Ana Maria Archila is Running to Transform the Role of Lieutenant Governor

John Tarleton May 23

In your New York state, the governor is an all-powerful monarch. The lieutenant governor may as well be a potted plant. 

The governor dominates state budget negotiations, is free to raise tens of millions of dollars from well- heeled interests and faces no term limits. For over a decade, Andrew Cuomo reigned supreme in Albany. Now it’s his former protege Kathy Hochul’s turn.

Hochul’s first choice for the number two spot, Brian Benjamin, was indicted in April on federal corruption charges. Hochul is now seeking to install Antonio Delgado, a two-term Hudson Valley congressman, in her old job. 

Delgado appears ready to sit dutifully in the corner and receive an occasional watering for as long as Hochul is in power. But first he has a fight on his hands from Ana Maria Archila who is running on the Working Families Party ticket with NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. 

“We want to move toward a real definition of public safety, away from criminalization, away from incarceration and focus more on investing in communities.”

Archila is the co-founder and former co-executive director of Make the Road New York and the Center for Popular Democracy. Unlike Williams who faces nearly insurmountable odds running against Hochul, Archila’s campaign has been gaining momentum with a steady slew of progressive endorsements in advance of the June 28 Democratic primary. Because the governor and lieutenant governor appear separately on the ballot in the primary, the Democrats could end up with a Hochul-Archila ticket. Were Archila to become lieutenant governor, she would be the first leftist to win statewide office in the modern history of New York. And she told The Indypendent, she would look to use her post to empower the grassroots social movements she has organized with for decades. 

This interview originally aired on The Indypendent News Hour and has been edited for length and clarity. 

THE INDYPENDENT: Tell us a little bit about yourself, your background and what motivates you to run for Lieutenant Governor? 

ANA MARIA ARCHILA: I am originally from Colombia, I came to the United States when I was 17. In my early 20s, I started working out of an organization then known as the Latin American Integration Center, teaching English and helping day laborers recover unpaid wages on Staten Island’s North Shore. It was in that community that I learned a lesson that has carried me through the last 20 years. 

What was that? 

In that community of day laborers, I met immigrants who were 15, 16, 17 years old who had crossed the border by themselves and had come here to be able to send money home. They were working 10-12 hour days. They were taking turns sleeping in a bed, getting paid half of the minimum wage, and just living in really difficult conditions. But even after long days of work, they would come to these tiny storefronts and say, “I am ready to learn English, I’m here to learn.” 

They would come alive in a way that was incredibly moving and powerful. What I learned in that moment is that when people find community, when people are connected to one another, they are able to fully bring forward who they are, their histories, but also their dreams. 

I also learned that our dreams coexist with the things that are challenging in our lives. We could have a more just society if we tackle the things that make life hard for people. So I’ve spent the last 20 years building organizations like Make the Road New York and the Center for Popular Democracy, that are organizations that allow working class communities to envision solutions for the things that are challenging in their lives, and to actually be taken seriously in our democracy. 

What are the top issues that you and Jumaane Williams are running on? 

Jumaane and I are focused on the things that are core priorities to working families, affordable housing, affordable childcare, access to good jobs for people who are in the care economy, in particular, who are primarily women, women of color, working class women. We want to move toward a real definition of public safety, away from criminalization, away from incarceration and focus more on investing in communities, because we know that the safest communities are the communities that are well resourced. 

Four years ago Jumaane Williams ran for Lt. Governor with Cynthia Nixon and finished 25 points ahead of her. This was in part because he wasn’t going up against the governor’s wall of cash. Now it’s Gov. Kathy Hochul with the $20 million war chest, and many observers think you’re the left candidate with the best chance of winning your race. If you were to end up being Kathy Hochul’s lieutenant governor, how would that work as she would clearly prefer her own hand-picked LG? 

For as long as I have been organizing, the governor’s office has been a block to progress. The lieutenant governor has been used just as a surrogate of the governor and for ribbon-cutting ceremonies. And I think that’s a misconception of the Lieutenant Governor’s office, because it is not an appointed office. It’s an elected office. The people of New York should have an ally inside the Executive Mansion — someone who will always be focused on elevating their voices, their dreams, their struggles, their aspirations which often get shortchanged in Albany. 

You’ve never run for or held elective office. What qualifies you to hold such a high office? 

I have spent the last 20 years doing politics from the ground up. The kinds of organizations that I have built are organizations that have internal democracy. So I’m very familiar with how to practice accountability to communities that are organized and how to lead in a way that is very rooted in those values. 

“For as long as I have been organizing, the governor’s office has been a block to progress. The lieutenant governor has been used just as a surrogate of the governor and for ribbon-cutting ceremonies.”

The organizations that I have built also went from very small to very large. When I started leading Make the Road, it was an organization that was quite small. When I left it was a $13 million organization, with 115 staff. When I joined the team at the Center for Popular Democracy, it was in its infancy. When I recently stepped down from my role, it was a $35 million per year organization. So I have 20 years of executive experience. Most importantly, I have 20 years experience fighting to ensure that the lives of working-class communities are improved by those who we elect. 

You made national headlines four years ago during the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings when you publicly confronted Republican Senator Jeff Flake and demanded he listen to your story as a sexual assault survivor. You got him to briefly halt the Republican confirmation juggernaut that was moving Kavanaugh forward. What did you learn from that experience? 

The fight to stop the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh required of me something I had never given, which was to speak my own truth. In that moment, I learned two things. One is that courage is really contagious. When you see people be courageous around you, you are invited to find that seed of courage in yourself. In these moments of compounding crises—the pandemic, climate change, soaring inequality, the attacks on our democracy—what defines these crises for me is actually the courage of people who stand up for one another. The task for elected officials right now is to match the courage of people. I would be honored to bring my experience to Albany and do my very best to honor the courage of people who are demanding a more just society. 

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