Queens political candidates ‘leaning on creativity’
in adapting campaigns during COVID-19 pandemic
Anthony Miranda, a candidate for Queens borough president, distributes food to those in need in late April 2020. His campaign
has shifted to direct aid operations during the COVID-19 crisis. Photo courtesy of Anthony Miranda/Twitter
TIMESLEDGER | QNS.COM | MAY 29-JUNE 4, 2020 3
BY JACOB KAYE
Peter Harrison had a plan. His campaign
was going to knock on every door
in every NYCHA apartment located in
the congressional district he’s hoping
to represent come November. Then the
As was true for many candidates,
Harrison’s ambitious ground game
came to a halt. The message would
have to be spread through the phone,
online or other non-traditional campaign
But despite the change in his physical
campaign, Harrison, whose messaging
revolves around equitable housing
policy, found that his policy goals
and political convictions didn’t change
As many candidates running for office
have come to believe, the COVID-
19 crisis has only amplified the issues
they were fighting for prior to the pandemic,
and has made their policy goals
more pertinent than ever.
“Just like so many other issues,
COVID hasn’t created the housing crisis.
It’s just heightened it so much,”
Harrison said. “It’s really clarified why
Leaning on creativity
Most politicians and candidates
agree — nothing beats connecting
with voters in person. But as the novel
coronavirus crisis ravaged the city
and campaign events like town halls,
knocking on doors and handing out flyers
at subway stations became matters
of public health, candidates turned to
“We’ve moved to being 100 percent
digital,” said Lauren Ashcraft, who,
along with Harrison, is challenging
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney in
New York’s 12th Congressional District.
“It’s been a pretty smooth transition,
but we are also kind of leaning on
our creativity, as well.”
Every Monday, Ashcraft takes to
social media to livestream her lunch.
While she cooks, Ashcraft takes questions
about her platform. On Saturdays,
she takes questions as she makes her
way through the COVID-19-free world
But the candidate hasn’t gotten rid
of all traditional campaign methods.
With many people in their homes, the
first-time candidate has a slew of volunteers
across the country calling voters
on behalf of the campaign. Ashcraft
has also hosted several virtual town
halls on Zoom.
Many candidates have mobilized
their volunteers and utilized their organizing
skills to deliver direct aid to
the people and communities they hope
to soon represent.
Anthony Miranda, a retired NYPD
sergeant running for Queens borough
president, began making welfare calls
to Queens residents and getting food
and supplies to residents and first responders
“The first thing that changed is that
we focused on getting emergency supplies
to individuals,” Miranda said.
The former president of the National
Latino Officers Association said that
he and his team organized to deliver
100,000 masks to hospital workers and
that they soon plan on donating 100,000
Councilman Donovan Richards,
who is also running for Queens borough
president, has mobilized his campaign
to get food and supplies to his
constituents as well.
“The bread and butter issues that
are important to the community are
the priority,” Richards said.
But Richards, who’s been in the City
Council since 2013, has also embraced
“There’s no shortage of Zoom meetings,”
In fact, the southeast Queens representative
believes that the digital
changes made during the COVID-19
crisis might become standard practice
in future campaigns.
“You can’t replace the one-on-one
human aspect of a campaign,” Richards
said. “But this crisis is actually
going to change the face of how campaigning
is done in the future.”
Validating the thesis
While physical campaigning has
changed, many candidates believe that
the issues that made up their platform
prior to the pandemic have only become
Across the political spectrum, candidates
feel the COVID-19 crisis has only
highlighted and heightened the issues
they hope to address once elected.
For Iggy Terravnova, an Astorian
challenging Michael Gianaris for the
incumbent’s state Senate seat, Amazon’s
HQ2 withdrawal is what brought him
into politics. According to Terranova,
the issue couldn’t be more relevant now.
“So many people are losing their jobs.
If Amazon was here now, Queens would
be in such a better position because
there would be jobs here,” Terranova
said. “COVID-19 emphasized how selfish
everyone was because they were short
minded. Here we are, a year and change
later, and we could really use them.”
Candidates who have run on issues
related to health care have found their
message more pertinent than ever.
“My platform is for universal healthcare,”
said Jessica González-Rojas, who’s
challenging Michael DenDekker in the
New York state Assembly. “They say the
virus doesn’t discriminate but it does.
Health inequalities are multiplied for
people of color and low-income communities.
That’s something I’ve been fighting
my entire life.”
For Richards — who represented the
Rockaways during the Hurricane Sandy
recovery — the COVID-19 crisis, while
distinct and devastating in its own right,
is nothing new for the community he represents.
“As a black man from southeast
Queens and the Rockaways, we’re living
a real moment,” Richards said. “The people
dying in large numbers are people
who look just like me and my community.
This only reinforces and heightens
my purpose in running and fighting for
people from my community.”
Harrison said that the public health
crisis, which has touched nearly every
aspect of New Yorkers’ lives, has only
validated his campaign’s thesis about
He’s gone back to his roots as an organizer
and has shifted his campaign to
focus more on rent strikes – New York’s
12th Congressional District is mostly
comprised of renters.
For Harrison and others, COVID-19
has put political campaigns into perspective.
The policy issues they want to fight
for have become even more important,
and doing what they believe will best
help their community has become the