Asked to introduce herself to New York City voters who will elect a new public advocate on February 26, Dawn Smalls says she’s “a mom, an attorney and a first-time candidate.”
She is, however, no newcomer to politics, having served in President Clinton’s White House, as New York political director for Barack Obama in 2008, and then in the Department of Health and Human Services during the Obama administration.
That would put her firmly in the mainstream Democratic establishment–a body that has been challenged over the past four years, first by Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, then by the 2018 primary victories that drove veteran Democratic lawmakers from Reps. Joseph Crowley and Michael Capuano to State Sens. Jeff Klein and Tony Avella from office. Smalls plays it safe on the ideological shifts in the party, telling Max & Murphy this Wednesday that, “I do think there’s a tilt to the left and some of that is good and it’s pushing us to where we need to be, and other things will work themselves out.”
But she does embrace the notion that the Democratic party’s slate of top-level candidates needs to look more like, well, the Democratic Party. “We can’t continue to say we’re a party of young people and women and people of color and continue to look the way it does, which is generally white and over age 60,” she says. “It’s important that the Democratic party needs to pass the baton to a younger and more diverse set of leaders. I’m putting myself in that group.”
Smalls has built her campaign around the issues of mass transit, affordable housing & homelessness, and voting reform.
“The way I view this job is to be a problem solver. You can’t do that unless you bring to the table every stakeholder,” she says. “You have to engage the governor. You have to engage Albany.”
Below, hear Smalls discuss what she sees as her very realistic chances of winning a race that is crowded with veteran office-holders. Or listen to the full show (featuring two other candidates, Assemblymembers Michael Blake and Daniel O’Donnell) at bottom.
Full show, January 16