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Biaggi wants to defeat the DCCC boss in New York. Her ex-staff has a story to tell.

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PEEKSKILL, N.Y. — When Leanne Evans flipped her kayak during a Saturday trip to Connecticut in June 2020, her first reaction was panic. Her phone was now at the bottom of Lake Waramaug, and that meant state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi wouldn’t be able to reach her.

Evans, Biaggi’s then-legislative director, sent an email when she hit dry land, explaining the situation to Biaggi and other aides. The senator's response came Sunday in an email with the subject line "responsiveness."

"Hope you got it replaced," Biaggi wrote, sharing a text message Evans had missed and adding a note of admonishment for being out of touch when the legislative session was in its final days. "The nature of this work is that our jobs never stop, which is not the same as taking time to reset or relax — however, if i’m texting you, I’m expecting a response. No response does not work.”

Biaggi’s reply was typical of an operating style in which every communication was expected to take immediate priority, according to Evans, who left the office in February 2021 after two years — when, she said, her doctor told her the stress was damaging her physical health. She and a half dozen other former staffers who spoke to POLITICO described Biaggi as a boss with few boundaries and all-hours demands that resulted in rapid turnover through her office and campaign team.

That management style is drawing sharper scrutiny as Biaggi — one of the highest-profile progressives in New York politics — runs in a competitive Hudson Valley House primary Aug. 23 against a leading establishment Democrat: Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

The race, one of the most closely watched primaries in the nation, has fueled attacks by Biaggi and leading progressives that Maloney funded conservative Republicans nationwide in primaries as a DCCC political strategy and criticism by Maloney that Biaggi is out of touch with the swing district that he represented a portion of for five terms.

Maloney, too, is fielding complaints about his treatment of staff. Last month, a former congressional aide who Maloney’s campaign paid to move from Miami to New York in 2014 when he was hired as an “executive assistant” told the New York Post that his role became that of a “body man” for Maloney during the more than four years he worked for the congressman.

The race will test whether progressives like Biaggi, who has been endorsed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, can knock off an establishment Democratic incumbent in 2022 and perhaps join The Squad, the AOC-backed progressive delegation in Congress. Biaggi, the granddaughter of late Bronx Rep. Mario Biaggi, has done it before: In 2018, she beat state Senate Democratic powerhouse Jeff Klein with a fraction of his campaign cash in one the most expensive Democratic primary fights in New York history.

But she has a record now, and in Albany, questions over Biaggi’s workplace environment are striking in juxtaposition to her defining rhetoric: As chairperson of the Senate Ethics committee, Biaggi and her young, progressive colleagues are challenging and changing the old, toxic ways of operating at the state Capitol, which has been marred by decades of scandal and sexual harassment cases.

Stumping for an upset in the new 17th

On the campaign trail, Biaggi is warm and effusive.

It’s her favorite part, she said several times during a July morning door-knocking session at a public housing complex in Peekskill in Westchester County. Meeting voters, telling them how she’s fought for their rights and how she’s ready to do it again in Congress.

“It’s kind of an issue; I could talk to this plant,” she jokes, gesturing to the landscaping. “I'm just so curious about people. And I actually would, like, harm my own self to fight against people who are cruel to others.”

Part of that comes from spending her entire life around prolific New York politicians, including her grandfather, who was a Democratic kingpin in the Bronx and served in Congress for 20 years. She served as counsel in the administration of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but later left and became one of his chief critics.

At the Peekskill complex, Biaggi has a long list of registered Democrats to pitch, but she is waylaid at the first door she comes to. She is invited into the home of a woman who is plagued by fears of eviction, rent increases and a retaliatory building manager. Biaggi perches on the couch, shaking her head, pursing her lips, gasping in rage and offering her personal email and Fordham Law legal expertise to find solutions.

It’s the kind of in-person empathy also projected by Ocasio-Cortez and the Working Families Party, which also has endorsed Biaggi’s congressional run.

In 2018, Biaggi’s victory over Klein helped Democrats........

© Politico

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