Local Activists Get Behind Liuba

Michelle Chalfoun, Christine Lau, Maria Venuto, Liuba Grechen Shirley and her daughter, Melissa August and Maria Venuto.

While election season may be over on the city and county levels, some campaigns are just getting started. The new year has brought new energy to many local activists who want to see change on a national level and believe it can happen in New York State, with the help of voters on Long Island. A newcomer has entered the race for Congress and in two short months has garnered a lot of support. To spread the word, Indivisible Glen Cove and North Shore Resistance organized a fundraiser last week for Liuba Grechen Shirley, who is running against Peter King for Congress in the Second Congressional District.

“I think it’s important that we have leaders who understand what it’s like to be a parent, raising a family on Long Island, and I think it’s important that we have leaders who understand how difficult it is to juggle school loans, a mortgage and high property taxes,” said Shirley, noting that the majority of the members of Congress are millionaires and only 19 percent are women.

Councilwoman Marsha Silverman, Liuba Grechen Shirley, Assemblyman Chuck Lavine and Brad Schwartz.

Shirley, an independent consultant for organizations such as Vital Voices, Women Deliver, Global Health Visions and PL+US Paid Leave for the United States, a former director of membership for the United Nations Association and former director of operations for economic development and Africa programs for New York University—where she received both a bachelor’s degree and an MBA from the university’s Stern Business School—is also a mother of two young children: a 3-year-old daughter and a 1-year-old son.

“One of the hardest decisions was to run with two small children,” she said. “But, I thought about them growing up in a country with a president who proudly boasts of sexually assaulting women, in a country where our Congress works day and night to make sure they pass a health care bill that would make being a rape or domestic violence survivor a preexisting condition and would pass a tax bill that takes money away from the middle class and gives it to corporations and the wealthy. I thought about having them watch their mother defy all odds and run a race that most people have written off. They were the reason I was hesitant and also the reason that I felt I needed to step up and run.”

She said she first became involved after the election of President Donald Trump. She started a group, New York’s 2nd District Democrats, which now has almost 3,000 members, including Independents and Republicans. She spoke about King’s voting record and his lengthy tenure.

“Our own district is struggling and we don’t have a voice in Congress,” she said. “Peter King has not had a good strong fight against him; this is the first time we’ve had a good chance of taking him on.”

Christine Lau, an organizer of North Shore Resistance, said one of the reasons the group chose to get behind Shirley—who is not a candidate in this district—was that they knew the support could help after Doug Jones was elected in Alabama, partially due to the strong influence of the Flip Alabama Facebook page.

“It feels so good to know you are actively making a change for your country,” said Lau.
Brad Schwartz, who is running for state senate against Elaine Phillips, praised Shirley’s efforts in fundraising and gaining so much support. He noted that District 7 is a critical seat because “Democrats only need to win back one seat in the state senate in order to win back all of Albany.” He said there are 63 state senate seats and 61 are considered “not in play” as they are either solidly Democrat or solidly Republican.

“We have a real shot here,” said Schwartz. “A blue tidal wave is happening.”

Shirley has more than 1,700 supporters and needs the most help with fundraising at this point, as contributions are the best way to support the campaign infrastructure. She estimates she needs between $3 to $6 million to win the election. To win the primary on June 26, she said she’s been told she needs anywhere from $400,000 to $1 million. She has raised more than $126,000 in the past two months and needs to raise an additional $300,000 by April 1.

“If we want to change our leadership in D.C., I think it’s time we start changing the kind of people we send there,” said Shirley. “I want to see more working Americans, more parents of young children who are in the thick of it, more women in general and more people who understand what’s going on.”

The fundraiser was also attended by Glen Cove City Councilwoman Marsha Silverman and Assemblyman Chuck Lavine, who was the first person to endorse Shirley and connected the state of the country today to the Civil Rights movement.

“What’s at stake today is our freedom itself,” said Lavine, who then urged people to donate. “We can change the world—if we don’t, we are simply lost. Liuba is the best person to change the world today.”

Visit www.liubaforcongress.com for more information.

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