New York City's only openly Socialist candidate has heavily focused on public safety as she faces an uphill battle against the city's entrenched Democratic and Republican candidates.
In late June, Cathy Rojas - a Colombian American and longtime Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) activist - announced her intention to run for mayor, becoming the only openly socialist candidate on the ballot.
This is a community I know very well. I know that our community is very scared of police, particularly the immigrant community. I also know that a lot of youth are put in the gang database when they're not actually criminals, and it causes innocent people to be constantly arrested by police and funneled into the criminal justice system
Last week, Rojas campaigned in the heavily Latino area of Corona, in Queens. On August 1, two gunmen shot 10 people in the area, seven of whom were civilians and three of whom are believed to be members of the Trinitarios gang.
The shooting quickly drew both Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Adams and Republican nominee Curtis Sliwa.
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Adams, for his part, called on the city to form joint gang and gun task forces in coordination with federal and state police, while Sliwa called for the New York City Police Department to expand its gang database.
In an interview with LPO, Rojas said she believes both candidates are offering voters "very similar" solutions to New York City's issues with crime.
"They're both depending on more police," she said. "This is a community I know very well. I know that our community is very scared of police, particularly the immigrant community. I also know that a lot of youth are put in the gang database when they're not actually criminals, and it causes innocent people to be constantly arrested by police and funneled into the criminal justice system."
Rojas added that she believes her political platform provides the only real alternative to the law-and-order messaging of both Sliwa and Adams, a former NYPD captain who is widely considered the favorite to win the city's November election.
In New York's working-class communities, Rojas has advocated re-allocating police funds to community-focused violence-intervention programs in high crime areas that use activists - many of them former prison inmates - to mediate neighborhood conflicts before they become violent.
Research has shown that similar programs have reduced gun injuries by 50% in particularly violence-plagued parts of New York City, such as the South Bronx.
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Rojas said that she believes that this messaging is resonating with voters in many New York neighborhoods.
"When we explain things to our community in a way that's digestible, they very much agree with us," said Rojas. "For the most part we've received overwhelming support when we do outreach. I'm not going to say that there is nobody that disagrees with us, but it's very rare."
Looking towards the November election, Rojas said that it has been "very challenging" to compete against the well-funded Democratic and Republican campaigns, which have ample resources for TV and radio ads, as well as social media campaigns.
She added, however, that several endorsements will be announced soon, which she believes could help her campaign.
"We've been talking to a lot of progressive political parties, and families that have had family members killed by police violence," she said. "We're hoping that with those endorsements and endorsements from grassroots organizations, that will all help us."
"We definitely see we are at a disadvantage economically. We can't pay for TV or radio promotion every hour," she said. "But we're doing the best we can, and at the end of the day our main goal is for every New Yorker to be exposed to our political platform and for every New Yorker to fight for the goals of our platform and a society that puts workers first, instead of profit."
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