Feb. 3, 2021 By Allie Griffin
The first endorsement by a high-profile elected official in the crowded 26th District council race was announced Tuesday.
Candidate Amit Bagga earned the endorsement of State Sen. Jessica Ramos for the seat representing Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside and a portion of Astoria. The seat is currently occupied by term-limited Jimmy Van Bramer.
“As we fight for a just and more inclusive recovery for all, I’m proud to support Amit’s people-powered mission,” Ramos said in a statement. “Amit will help build a Queens where all residents have access to the resources and economic opportunity they need to thrive.”
Bagga and Ramos have a long-standing relationship after working together at City Hall and more recently on Census outreach efforts.
Bagga spearheaded the city’s $40 million 2020 Census campaign in his role as deputy director. He worked with Ramos to count previously overlooked constituents in her district.
There’s a lot of work to do, and Amit and I have tackled many issues at City Hall together before. We’ll be a good team for Woodside Houses and for all working people as we continue our fight for a fair and inclusive economic recovery. https://t.co/rdoDagzVdt
— Jessica Ramos (@jessicaramos) February 2, 2021
The Sunnyside resident said he is proud to have Ramos’ support and hopes to work with her to support Queens residents in the district.
“New York City will need all the help it can get from Albany, and I’m honored to have the support of Senator Ramos in our people-powered quest to build a Fair Economy for all,” he said.
Bagga also earned the backing of two labor unions on Monday — Local 802 – American Federation of Musicians and the Professional Staff Congress of CUNY (PSC-CUNY).
“As a New Yorker with deep roots in musical performance and a member of a family with three CUNY graduates, these endorsements are deeply personal for me,” he said in a statement. “I am proud and honored to have the support of both Local 802 and PSC-CUNY, and commit to putting them at the heart of our fight for employment with dignity for all.”
Bagga has served as deputy commissioner at the NYC Department of Consumer & Worker Protection, as well deputy commissioner at the Department of Social Services. In those roles, he helped implement protections for workers such as Paid Sick Leave as well as introduce first-of-their-kind protections for freelancers and gig workers.
He said his experience in city government and track record of crafting successful policies sets him apart from the other 18 candidates vying for the council seat.
“I am the only candidate in this crowded field that has nearly 15 years of experience delivering real results for working New Yorkers,” Bagga said. “I have helped negotiate, impact and implement more than two dozen pieces of landmark labor and consumer legislation. I have run a $40 million campaign to count the entire city in the middle of a pandemic.”
He also touched on his role negotiating deals between labor groups, business leaders and government officials and his work as a Congressional aide to reunite nearly 1,000 immigrant families.
Bagga said the city needs experienced leaders to help it recover from the pandemic and resulting economic crisis.
“When it comes to the fact that we are facing a $9 million budget shortfall and entirely new leadership in the Council, having good ideas and having bold vision are important, but they are not sufficient,” he told the Queens Post. “We also need people with experience who know exactly how to get the job done.”
Building off his past work at City Hall, Bagga said his main goals in city council would be to create a “NYC Fair Economy Fund.” The fund would create a training, employment and organizing program dedicated to bringing equity to New Yorkers who have been historically excluded from the economy — such as low-wage workers, freelancers, immigrants and small business owners.
“The number one policy issue I’m running on is rebuilding a just and inclusive economy — what I call a ‘fair economy’ — for all New Yorkers,” he said.
If elected, Bagga would become the first South Asian Council Member in New York City — barring the final results of the 24th Council District special election in which a slate of South Asian candidates are running. He would also be the first LGBTQ South Asian elected official in the country’s history, he said.
To Bagga, his representation on the city council as a member of marginalized groups is not about mere identity politics.
“As a brown person, as a queer person, as a son of immigrants, my entire career in government and politics, I have had to force my way to figure out how to be relevant and respected in rooms that were not designed for me,” he said.
His experience of facing discrimination throughout his political career drives the way he approaches problem solving, he added. His guiding principle is to “make sure the needs of the people who are the most marginalized are always placed at the center.”
“If those of us who have been living life in the margins are not at the very heart of the decision-making table than the challenges that we face and the ways in which our issues need to be addressed simply don’t happen,” he said.
Bagga is one of 19 candidates running for the seat.
Other candidates include Jonathan Bailey, Tavo Bortoli, Lorenzo Brea, Giselle Burgess, Julia Forman, Glennis Gomez, Marvin Jeffcoat, Denise Keehan-Smith, Badrun Khan, Heajin Kim, Jesse Laymon, Sultan Maruf, Brent O’Leary, Emily Sharpe, Julie Won, Ebony Young, according to the New York City Campaign Finance Board.
Jeffcoat is the lone Republican candidate in the race.
A June primary and November general election this year will determine who will represent the district for a four-year term beginning in 2022.
Queens Post interviewed Bagga about his platform in December
To see other candidate interviews, click here