In an upset victory that has to hearten those of us in organized labor, and specifically those of us in education unions, Christine Pellegrino—who has been an elementary school reading teacher for the past 25 years—won a special election against Republican Thomas Gargiulo for Long Island’s 9th District Assembly seat. This district, which Donald Trump won by 23 points in the 2016 presidential race, straddles Nassau and Suffolk Counties. (The official margins, as reported in Massapequa Patch, were 3,338-2,282 in Suffolk County and 2,252-1,767 in Nassau.) Pellegrino replaces Republican Joseph Saladino, who stepped down in January after 13 years in office because he was appointed Oyster Bay Town supervisor.
Pellegrino’s victory is significant not least because Republicans in the 9th District outnumber registered Democrats by 12,000 voters. Indeed, not only did Donald Trump win the district in 2016 with 61 percent of the vote; the last time Saladino ran for re-election, he defeated his democratic opponent, Brendan Cunningham, by a hefty 69-31 percent margin. NYSUT played a significant role in Pellegrino’s victory. Not only is she part of the organization’s Pipeline Project, created to help groom union-friendly political candidates, but NYSUT members joined a group of some 200 volunteers who knocked on doors during a series of weekend “labor walks,” as well as the activists who made thousands of phone calls to union members on Pellegrino’s behalf. NCCFT Vice President Dawn Smith, NCCFT Political Action Committee (PAC) Chair Christine Tuaillon, and PAC members Doreen Davis and Caitlin Thurber were among them.
If there is one lesson to learn from this victory, it is that an energized and committed union base can make a real difference in our electoral politics. It’s a difference we need to keep making!
If you’d like to send Christine a congratulatory message, you can do so here, on the NYSUT Member Action Center.