Sujata Gibson

Local attorney Sujata Gibson is bringing a message of outside-the-box change to a State Assembly race that has focused on local progressivism with a batch of candidates almost universally otherwise already involved in politics.?

Gibson is one of seven candidates vying for the Democratic nomination to replace the retiring Barbara Lifton, and the only one who wasn’t actively involved in politics or holding an elected position when the campaign started, other than Family and Children’s Services CEO Lisa Hoeschele.?

“We are in a state of emergency around health care, racial justice, economic equity, and impending environmental extinction,” she said. “We need major systemic change if we want to pull through. While I appreciate all the good people running, most are in a position to stand up for change at the local level and have often failed to do so.”

The race’s last few weeks have been marked by Gibson’s increasing willingness to challenge her competitors, mostly over accusations they have kept the status quo while serving in their elected offices. The main target of those has been Ithaca Common Council member Seph Murtagh and Tompkins County Legislator Anna Kelles, who Gibson has attacked for their development histories.?

Meanwhile, Gibson has touted her work for the “little man” throughout the campaign, noting her involvement in the anti-fracking movement, protesters over pipelines, anti-ICE rally-goers and more. She also touched on her vaccination work: Gibson claims to currently be working on a statewide class action suit on behalf “medically fragile children” who Gibson says face vaccine exemptions that are not being honored by schools. The work fits for Gibson, who’s been vocal about her opposition to instituting vaccination requirements for schoolchildren, on personal freedom grounds, and has cautioned against too much faith in pharmaceutical companies and their vaccine science. Despite these flirtations, she insists that she is not anti-vaccinations, though she’s certainly been accused of such by her campaign counterparts. She was also a union organizer before she began her law career.?

“I have 20 years of experience crafting political strategy to get laws passed and change made,” Gibson said. “I know how to build effective coalitions, draft legislation and work with the power brokers in Albany. I have a proven record of sticking my neck out and successfully challenging the status quo. I did that with fracking, before it was popular or acceptable, with the gas storage on Seneca Lake, despite the financial stress of representing over 650 cases for free, and in many other contexts. I am here because we need big changes. I care about safeguarding our future far more than I do about safeguarding my political career.”

In terms of more specific policy positions, Gibson has been an outspoken advocate for the Green New Deal, as long as it’s accompanied by a green jobs program that she has consistently referred to as “Roosevelt-style.” That has been one of the hallmark points she has made throughout the campaign. As some other candidates have, Gibson endorses eliminating property tax in favor of “a progressive income tax,” and wants to see a coronavirus outbreak recovery led with “investing in small businesses, small farmers, cooperative and worker led initiatives and job creation.” She also joined other candidates in supporting a reinforced electrical grid and universal healthcare through the NY Health Act paired with universal childcare. She has also been the strongest advocate of defunding the police, although that has only become a topic of the campaign of late.?

At the core of her campaign is a belief that someone who’s already been inside the machine, so to speak, can’t help fix what’s wrong with it now.??

“I’ve been a Democrat all my life,” Gibson said. “I believe in the core values our party is supposed to represent: taking care of our most vulnerable, prioritizing working people over corporate profits, and fighting hard for equality, civil rights and human rights.”

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