Local politics requires face-to-face interaction.

But amid the uncertainty created by the rapid spread of the coronavirus, politicians say civic responsibility should be exercised with extreme caution.


  • The Queens borough president special election is still scheduled to go on, with early voting set to begin Saturday.
  • Several candidates for elected office in New York say they plan to suspend their door-to-door canvassing amid coronavirus concerns.
  • Dozens of candidates signed a letter asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to suspend or amend the process of petitioning to get on the ballot.


Mayor Bill de Blasio said the Queens borough president election on March 24 will go on as planned. But he said campaigns should trade door-knocking for digital outreach.

"I think that it's fair to say — and that campaign has been going on for a while — that the democratic process can continue here effectively and the campaigns do have other options for getting their message out," he said. "We do not need people going door-to-door canvassing and taking those risks."


Meanwhile, state and federal candidates in New York are more than two weeks into the process of petitioning to get on the ballot. Dozens have signed a letter penned by a Queens congressional candidate asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to suspend or amend the practice.

"Until they do that, we're still forced to comply with the law. So campaigns — both incumbents and challengers — are going to be out there collecting signatures," said Mel Gagarin, who is running for a House seat. "For us, this isn't about the difficulties in petitioning; it's really about the public health and safety concern that it poses."

Some candidates are taking precautions.

"You bring them a new fresh pen," said Dawn Siff, a candidate for district leader in Queens. "I'm wearing gloves when I'm outside. I try to minimize my contact. But if somebody extends their hand, I'm going to shake their hand, you know? And I might offer them Purell after we interact or something like that."

Others, such as several Queens borough president candidates, are suspending their signature-collection efforts. Fourteen-term House Member Carolyn Maloney is among those scrapping collecting signatures. One State Assembly candidate is also pausing her petitioning but says she believes it's a greater sacrifice for challengers.

"Incumbents have an operation already that supports them, they have a machine behind them," said Jessica González-Rojas, a State Assembly candidate. "And for people like me, we're out there every single day making sure we're talking to voters, knocking on doors, getting out there on the streets."

State Assembly Member Dick Gottfried is co-sponsoring a bill that proposes that the required number of petition signatures be reduced in areas with coronavirus cases.

House Member Jerry Nadler sent a letter also asking for changes.

Cuomo said Wednesday he hadn't had discussions about the possibility.

As it stands now, candidates in New York state can begin filing their petitions on March 30.



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