Do aspiring politicians still need to pay their dues?

a katz
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Do aspiring politicians still need to pay their dues?

Experience can cut both ways for elected officials seeking higher office.
July 15, 2019

Not so long ago, aspiring politicians started at the bottom, paid their dues and waited to be tapped for higher office. Andrew Cuomo put in his time as state attorney general before becoming governor. Bill de Blasio toiled away in the New York City Council and as public advocate before he was elected mayor. U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer spent years in the Assembly and the U.S. House of Representatives before winning his Senate seat. 

But upstarts are finding there’s no need to wait their turn. After Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ousted then-Rep. Joseph Crowley last summer, newcomers like Max Rose, Alessandra Biaggi and Julia Salazar notched upsets of their own.

There are exceptions, of course. Cuomo fended off Cynthia Nixon. Jumaane Williams’ legislative record helped vault him to the public advocate’s office. The establishment-backed Queens Borough President Melinda Katz may yet win her district attorney fight with Tiffany Cabán, another insurgent who came out of nowhere. And in the 2021 New York City mayoral race, the early front-runners all have extensive experience in elected office.

In this week’s magazine, we profile one of those mayoral contenders: Scott Stringer, who took the traditional approach of slowly climbing the political ladder. His path is strikingly similar to the one taken by Katz – and one that Stringer is trying to put behind him by backing young progressives like Cabán.

Jon Lentz
is City & State’s former editor-in-chief.