A valuable organizer for the Working Families Party this year, Ava Benezra took on an increasingly high-profile role in the campaign of Cynthia Nixon, the actress and education activist who ran against Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary and pulled him to the left, even though she ultimately lost. But Benezra demonstrated her political knowledge and ability to reach voters during that race – enough to make her a success story in an unsuccessful campaign.
The 2018 Manhattan Watch List
The 2018 Manhattan Watch List
In our Manhattan Power 50 list, we recognize the people in the borough who are key players in the world of New York politics and government. Yet while it reflects the status of power in Manhattan as it stands now, we also wanted to make note of the next generation of politicos who will shape the borough as it moves forward - the “Watch List.”
These 10 people who live or work in Manhattan are on the rise – which is why we’re bringing them to your attention. Here’s why they’re worth watching in the years to come.
“I swear, YOU BETTER VOTE – Every. Single. Election,” Nobles Crawford says on his Facebook page. He has been deploying his digital marketing know-how and online advertising experience to have a political impact on his hometown. With rising influence for his online success, Nobles is known for translating digital influence into votes, especially through his involvement with action potlucks – events aimed at generating discussions and spurring action – in Upper Manhattan and all around New York City this year.
Lisa DellAquila started out as a hotshot lawyer, graduating from Harvard Law School, clerking with the state Court of Appeals and landing at the prestigious law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. She then did education outreach at an Upper Manhattan farmers market and co-founded True Blue New York to oppose the state Senate Independent Democratic Conference. She became John Liu’s campaign manager, rushing to get him on the ballot and helping him knock out ex-IDC state Sen. Tony Avella.
Susan Kang’s day job is as a political science professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and this year she proved that she knows how to put her book smarts to a more practical use. Kang became a key figure at No IDC NY, the group that successfully took aim at the state Senate Independent Democratic Conference, which was dissolved earlier this year and whose former members suffered electoral losses. Look for others in search of political change to emulate her work in New York.
Sean McElwee is a writer at The Nation whose arguments – and lively Twitter feed – can range from abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (he wants to) to canceling student debt (he also wants to). But McElwee’s ability to frame issues also makes some fans of his work wish that he would take time away from the computer to run for elected office. He is also a co-founder of Data for Progress, which uses “data to illuminate the most important stories in the country.”
Corey Ortega has been engaged in borough politics for years, as a tenant organizer, a staffer to then-Assemblyman Keith Wright, and in various political groups for a range of causes. A rising star in the Dominican community, he also served as the director of government and civic affairs for the New York City Veterans Alliance before taking the reins of the New York City Council Black, Latino/a, and Asian Caucus this fall. He’s seen as someone who could serve in elected office sooner rather than later.
Some know her from her time at The New School, while others recognize her work as a program and communications manager for the Women’s City Club of New York. Still others may have seen her recent appearance on “Good Morning America” discussing how workplace behavior is changing in the #MeToo era and related issues surrounding gender equality. Seemangal transcends various roles as she makes a name for herself as a politically aware and involved force in New York City.
Barry Weinberg is the president of the West Harlem Progressive Democratic Club – also known as the West Harlem Dems – and also serves as assistant treasurer and an executive committee member on Manhattan Community Board 9. Weinberg, who also served as the executive director of the Manhattan Democratic Party, is an up-and-comer to watch. He could well run for office himself in the years to come, or perhaps be the person behind the scenes propelling candidates to victory.
This year, Erica Vladimer instantly became a high-profile figure in New York’s political circles simply for telling her story, which included accusations of sexual misconduct against state Sen. Jeff Klein. But Vladimer has become much more than a publicly known victim. She has established herself as a leading voice in the #MeToo movement and helped establish the Sexual Harassment Working Group, which has come up with specific recommendations on reforming the state’s sexual harassment guidelines.
As president and CEO of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, Jessica Walker knows policy. But she also knows from her work at the chamber – and before that at the Partnership for New York City – how to keep residents, neighborhoods and business leaders in the loop, and explain the views of one group to the others. Walker is a rising force who knows how to serve as a liaison between powerful, invested interests in a community.