A well-known Occupy Wall Street activist, hip-hop artist and former district leader has decided to take the plunge back into New York’s electoral politics — by jumping into the suddenly crowded race to take on Brooklyn Rep. Nydia Velazquez.
George Martinez, who is also adjunct professor of political science at Pace University and a cultural ambassador for the U.S. Department of State, announced that he was running last night at a candidate endorsement meeting of the New Kings Democrats, the reform-oriented north Brooklyn political club.
From the beginning, it was fairly clear that Martinez’s candidacy was something different: he began his pitch to the club with a “Mic check. And he spoke at near-yelling volume throughout the speech at a cavernous church in Greenpoint.
“I’m here to ‘mic check’ and have a conversation about a movement,” Martinez said, in his late 30′s, dressed in a suit and tie. “I’m here to ‘Bum rush the vote.’”
Martinez has, in fact, has started a Facebook page and Twitter account called “Bum Rush The Vote,” which encourages Occupiers to get involved in electoral politics. He said he hopes to get enough volunteers to build his own “machine” to take on the Democratic establishment.
Martinez said he did not plan to raise any money for his campaign, but would rely entirely on grassroots organizing.
“It takes $1.2 million to fund the average congressional race, but it took only a bus ticket to get to a [Zuccotti] park,” Martinez said, noting also that he had produced a viral YouTube video during the days of the OWS encampment.
At one point, he threatened to “drop a rhyme” on his political adversaries, which include Goldman Sachs, among others. A former district leader elected in 2002, Martinez touts himself as the first practicing hip-hop artist elected to office in the United States.
Martinez, who ran for the New York City Council in 2001 in Red Hook, said he was not planning on criticizing any of his opponents in the race and that he respected Velazquez’s work – though literature passed out by a Martinez supporter told a different story, slamming Velazquez for some of her votes in Congress.
Meanwhile, Velazquez, who spoke after Martinez, also touted her Occupy Wall Street credentials.
“Before Occupy Wall Street, we had New Kings Democrats – and I was there,” Velazquez said.
The main threat to Velazquez remains Council Member Erik Martin Dilan, who officially announced his intention to run against the longtime incumbent yesterday. A fourth candidate, Dan O’Connor, is also in the race.
On first blush, it seems like it can’t be good for Velazquez to have two other candidates pitching a reform-oriented message in the race.
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