I have two things in common with candidate for governor Cynthia Nixon. First, we were both in the second "Sex In The City" movie — she as Miranda Hobbes, one of the main actresses, and I as a belly dancer in the Abu Dhabi nightclub scene. Second, we are both activists who have run for office in the State of New York against powerful incumbents —myself against Corey Johnson who is now Speaker for City Council, and she, currently against Governor Andrew Cuomo — both having no prior political experience.
Although critics denounce her for being the new pol on the block, I believe it is her strength. In this age of ubiquitous corruption, we want candidates who come to politics with a clean slate so they can make decisions in the public interest. We want people who instinctively want what's right for regular people, have compassion for the disadvantaged and have not taken gobs of real estate money so that their policy on land use is a developers' wet dream. And furthermore, we want strong women who can challenge male authority and transform a stagnant system to truly champion women's rights, shake up the balance of power and bring a different kind of decision-making to the table.
We candidates with no experience play an important role in political discourse because we are not enmeshed in the culture that corrupts incumbents. We don't get large donations. We don't have meetings with lobbyists. We don't owe favors to anyone. What we do have is a clear vision that pushes incumbents to act. Whereas I pushed Corey Johnson to address the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, the first City Council Speaker in 8 years to bring the issue to a public hearing, Ms. Nixon is shaming Governor Cuomo into at least pretending he cares about us New Yorkers. To watch the governor jump right and left through hollow publicity stunts like bringing the IDC back to the Democrats, only reaffirms what I have always known: we novice candidates have a lot more power and influence than we think.
Ms. Nixon and I have another thing going for us: we live in a time hungry for the powerful female voice. This is a new era where groups that were typically underrepresented — women, minorities, young people — are now rising to bring about reform in the power structures, challenging incumbents with narratives of fairness and justice that cannot be ignored. So what do I say to Ms. Nixon and other women with ambition and no experience: run for office — there is no better time. And even if it turns your life upside down, you end up temporarily broke and you often wonder how on earth you got to this place, you will exert a keen recognizable influence that continues past your campaign. And this experience of a lifetime — one that challenges you to fulfill your greatest potential of being in service to others — will so be appreciated…because you really mean it.
Marni Halasa, a lawyer, journalist and professional figure skater, ran in the last election for City Council for District 3 as an independent on the Eco Justice Party. In addition to her protest consulting group, Revolution Is Sexy, she recently founded Community Control of Land Use (ccluny.com), a group that collectively organizes small businesses and tenants about intrusive neighborhood development.