Green Party pushes Assemblyman Lavine from left

The Island Now

Jeff Peress has run for the 13th State Assembly district seat four times, and lost each one. 

This time will be no different, he said.

Peress said past defeats exemplify his longstanding commitment to progressive principles, no matter their electoral consequences. 

“I refuse to take money from political action committees and corporations,” he said. “And I’m not afraid to take unpopular positions.”  

The Green Party nominee called himself the most left wing candidate in a race that includes Charles Lavine, a six-term Democratic incumbent, and Jeff Vitale, a Republican running in his first campaign for office. 

The district covers Roslyn, Glen Cove, Jericho and Plainview as well as parts of Manhasset, Westbury, East Hills and Bayville. 

Peress currently works as a custodian and attends SUNY Old Westbury where he is working on an undergraduate degree in sociology. 

His most recent race came in September 2015, when he ran in a primary for the 11th legislative district of Nassau County, which he lost to Democrat Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, who received write-in votes from registered Green Party voters.

In an interview with Blank Slate Media, Peress proposed a plan to raise taxes on the incomes of the top 5 percent of earners and institute a financial transaction tax to pay for the expansion of Section 8 housing, the elimination of tuition at all CUNY and SUNY schools, and the implementation of single payer health care. He also called for a reduction in both property taxes and the state portion of the sales tax. 

Peress drew sharp contrasts between himself and the Democratic candidate, Lavine, on issues ranging from the minimum wage to criminal justice to boycott, divestment, and sanctions on Israel.

Peress supports a $15 per hour wage floor in New York State, but said the minimum wage should be $22 per hour in Long Island and $20 per hour in New York City, based on the relatively high cost of living in both places. 

Lavine supports a statewide minimum wage of $15 per hour. Vitale would like a $15 minimum wage in New York City and a potential raise to that rate upstate, depending on the results of the increase in New York City. 

Asked whether he supports a minimum wage above $15 per hour in New York City and Long Island, Lavine said, “I try my best to live in the world of reality. We have had enough of a battle in New York fighting for the $15 minimum wage.”

One of Peress’ central issues is the unfair denial of suffrage to those serving parole for past misdemeanors or felonies. 

“They pay taxes,” he said. 

Lavine opposes granting the vote to such individuals, saying “We have a long established law that requires that those who are either in jail or under post-jail release lose certain civil rights. Once their terms of parole or supervised release are terminated, then I’m in favor of voting rights being automatically restored.”

The son of an Iraqi Jew who gained refugee status in Israel, Peress is a strong proponent of boycott, divestment, and sanctions on the country. 

He called the strategy “better than the violence” and said he “doesn’t consider BDS an effort to delegitimize Israel.” 

He also called on the United States to be “an equal partner of the Israelis and the Palestinians.”

BDS became a hot topic in the state legislature in January, when Lavine and other members sponsored a bill that sought the denial of state contracts and investments from the state pension fund to companies that boycott Israel. Gov. Andrew Cuomo later signed an executive order that directs state agencies to stop doing business with any institution or company that supports BDS, which Lavine supported. “I don’t believe the United States should be enabling or helping corporations that want to undermine the only democracy in the Middle East,” Lavine said.

Peress and Lavine agree on many issues, including their support for single payer health care, a full-time legislature, publicly financed elections, and closing the LLC loophole, which allows one entity to make multiple political donations through different corporations. 

Over the campaign, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein has gained attention for comments she made that raise doubts about the reliability of vaccines in combatting disease. 

Peress stood by such comments, saying, “I don’t trust vaccines. I need to see what the doctor is putting in me first.” 

Another of Stein’s notable remarks portrayed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton as a more dangerous prospective president than her Republican counterpart, Donald Trump. 

Peress expressed agreement with his party’s presidential nominee, saying Clinton’s proposed no-fly zone over Syria could very well escalate that conflict into a war with Russia. 

Peress suggested that Trump’s lack of foreign policy background suggests he may prove more restrained than Clinton.

Peress ran for the Assembly seat in 2000, 2002, 2012, and 2014. 

He received 395 votes in 2012 and 389 votes in 2014; both results comprised approximately 1 percent of the electorate. 

“My goal is to double or triple the votes I got last time,” he said. “My long term goal is to get elected.”


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