Lauren Ashcraft Runs Grassroots Congressional Campaign in Crowded Field to Oust Carolyn Maloney

NY-12 candidate Lauren Ashcraft (Courtesy of Lauren Ashcraft for Congress)

Lauren Ashcraft’s background is eclectic. She worked at JP Morgan Chase and is a Democratic Socialist. Ashcraft was also a standup comedian in New York and a policy analyst in Pennsylvania.

Now, she’s a dark horse candidate in what many see as a two-person race between the insurgent Suraj Patel and the incumbent, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, to be the representative of New York’s 12th Congressional District.

Running a self-described grassroots campaign that has amassed more small dollar donations than any other candidate for NY-12 as of April, Ashcraft spoke with Greenpointers about her plans to reform campaign finance, advocate for a single-payer healthcare system and her participation in the city’s recent protests.

This interview was edited and condensed for clarity. 

To voters who don’t know you, can you introduce yourself and explain why you’re running for Congress?

I’m running for Congress because in a democracy everyone deserves to have an equal voice. We’re living in the third most unequal district in the entire country. That means people are having to choose between having a home and having food on the table or having health insurance and paying their student debt. These aren’t choices we should have to make. 

I bring with me my struggles of my family in everything that I fight for. My grandmother was an immigrant from Japan who faced racism throughout her entire life here. And her husband, my grandfather, was killed by corporate greed in a coal mining accident. My other grandfather fell while he was working and became a quadriplegic. Of course he didn’t have the money to hire round-the-clock caretakers, so it was his family who helped. I grew up understanding that the government isn’t there for you. 

Hearing messages from people calling for people-powered representation, that’s why I’m running. We’re seeing the lack of this representation right now so vividly. Now we’re paying the price every single day. 

You’re billing yourself as a progressive and Democratic Socialist. Doesn’t the fact that you recently worked for JP Morgan Chase run counter to that narrative?

Absolutely not. I became a Democratic Socialist when I was working in the financial sector. I’ve seen corporate greed with my own eyes and how the federal government throws money at corporations. It doesn’t trickle down to the average worker but stays at the top and becomes record-setting bonuses and stock buybacks. 

I am calling to break up the big banks and for proper regulation. Because even after the Great Recession in 2008, we still don’t have the protective barriers that will prevent exactly that. My opponent helped repeal the Glass-Steagall Act in the late 1990s, and that has allowed for big banks to play with consumer funds in a way that leaves all open to the corruption that caused that recession. Continue reading

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Suraj Patel Attempts to Unseat Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney a Second Time

Suraj Patel and team campaigning in McCarren Park (Credit: Sachyn Mital)

Two years ago, Suraj Patel led an insurgent, but ultimately unsuccessful campaign to unseat incumbent Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney as District 12’s congressional representative.

Undeterred, he’s back on the (virtual) campaign trail again, but in a vastly changed political landscape. The pandemic and recent protests have influenced his platform, and the race is heated as Maloney has taken more proactive steps to protect her more than 25-year hold on a congressional seat.

Greenpointers spoke with Patel about his involvement in protests against police brutality that have roiled the city as well as his legislative priority to demilitarize the police if elected to Congress.

This interview was edited and condensed for clarity. 

To voters who don’t know you, can you introduce yourself and explain why you’re running for Congress?

I’m a first-generation American. I’m an attorney and business ethics professor at NYU, and I worked for Barack Obama. I’m running for Congress because this is a moment for change. 

We’ve got an incumbent Democrat who represents some of the worst parts of our times. Why do we have a Democrat in a district this progressive that essentially enabled so many of the things that Republicans for decades have fought for? We need generational change right now. If you look around, people are marching, and their aspirations need to be turned into laws. I think the people who turn those aspirations into laws need to be a different set of people than the ones who created the systemic oppression we see today.


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The last several days have been gut wrenching for millions of Americans who know we’ve reached a breaking point. Let me state clearly, the killing of our Black boys, men, and women can not be tolerated when there are proven evidence-based policies to eliminate police brutality, end mass incarceration, and usher in an era of community healing. Last night, I joined thousands of people in a peaceful vigil and march from Carl Schurz Park through the Upper East Side of New York City and millions others around the globe. Make no mistake, Change isn’t just coming for America, Change is Here. If you’re as angry, frustrated, and heartbroken as I am, know that you have the power to make real change. I join countless Americans in outrage at the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and thousands of other Black people at the hands of police. But you can do more than be outraged. You can help remove people from office who helped build systems of oppression and whose very language around the trauma that is inflicting our nation is arcane and offensive. My opponent’s record on criminal justice reform is abhorrent, it is one of the main reasons that, as an attorney, I decided to challenge her and was the centerpiece of my campaign two years ago. Rep. Maloney came up in an era of “tough on crime” policies that carried forward the legacy of state sanctioned brutality against black people. Like many up and coming politicians of the 1990s, she signed onto the painful 1994 Crime Bill which included, among other things mandatory minimums for non-violent offenses. Many people make mistakes, some admit them, some learn from them, some remediate them. Scores of legislation to remediate that bill have come up over the last 3 decades that she’s been in office; she doesn’t add her name. Some moments we know call for a clean break from the past and they call for a new generation of leaders. We’re at a tipping point as a country and we need fighters to take on Trump, not ones who supply him with the rhetoric he is using to threaten our Cities today. 📸 Credit: Sachyn Mital Photography

A post shared by Suraj Patel (@surajpatelnyc) on Jun 4, 2020 at 9:05am PDT

You’re running to be our representative in the federal government. What would be the first piece of legislation you’d push for if elected to Congress?

We should be legislating to demilitarize police forces in our country. We see millions of people activated by it now across the country. We can’t just let these be like other times. It can’t be sets of protests that then dissipate and no action happens. The action we need is no longer hashtags or posts. The action we need is legislation to change the laws that allow police to brutally murder mostly black and brown men and women in this country with impunity.  Continue reading

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