STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — November 28, 2009. On Saturday night, newly elected New York City Council member Debi Rose (District 49) hosted a party to celebrate her victory and thank her supporters.
On November 4, Ms. Rose made history by becoming Staten Island’s African-American elected official. Her supporters never wavered — after losing a very close special election last February, Rose and her campaign staff rallied and beat incumbent Ken Mitchell in a September primary.
But Rose’s people-powered campaign would have to beat Mitchell twice.
Rather than supporting his party’s nominee, Mitchell decided to run against Rose — on the Conservative Party line. With the support of labor, peace and civil rights activists and the Democratic Party of Richmond County, Rose hammered Mitchell in the November general election — winning by 30 percentage points. Republican Tim Kuhn finished a distant third.
Debi Rose, Staten Island’s first African-American elected official, is much more than that to her supporters: she is living proof that progressives can win. Rose has protested with antiwar activists, served the North Shore as a longtime member of Community Board One and marched in the streets with the NAACP, as a defender of civil rights. And in January she will serve in the New York City Council.
An organizer and activist with 30 years experience, Debi Rose is an ordinary person who has done extraordinary things for her community. Nowhere was this more evident than at Saturday’s party where her supporters, volunteers and campaign staff were every bit as excited as their newest representative.
During her last campaign, Rose sent out literature that said she was “not one of the boys” — not a part of the political machine. The affection shown on Saturday underscored this point and made another as well: Rose was victorious precisely because the working people regard her as “one of us” — about as grass roots as they come.