Sujata Sidhu Gibson, a local attorney and activist, has announced the latest campaign for the 125th New York State Assembly seat, joining an increasingly crowded field of candidates. She'll be seeking the Democratic nomination for the seat, replacing Democrat Barbara Lifton, who announced her retirement.
“I’m running because we are at a crisis point.” Gibson said in a press release. “We do not have time for politics as usual. We can revitalize our economy with sustainable, well-paying jobs and help secure our future against the threats of climate change at the same time. We can make the radical shifts necessary to give food security, heat security, healthcare security and economic security to every New Yorker. We can do this and create good jobs. But we need someone like me who has the grit and the energy and the urgency to make it happen.”
Gibson was raised in Ithaca and has lived in the city with her kids and husband since they moved back to the area in 2011. She named her primary priorities as working on a statewide green new deal, as well as expanding healthcare coverage and creating jobs that are both beneficial for those who take them, but also facilitate the sustainable goals of the state.
Gibson's work as an attorney has centered on movement law, she said, particularly helping labor unions organize, and said that has informed the approach she wants to take if she is elected to represent the area in the State Assembly. She also gained prominence as the lead attorney defending We Are Seneca Lake members who were arrested while protesting fracked gas plans in the Finger Lakes.
"When people stand up and demand a seat at the table and demand that their voice be heard, that's how you make change," Gibson said. "Wherever people are activating, I want to be there to support them. [...] We've been sold a real line with this idea that change gets made by people going in and making real slow, methodical, incremental change as politicians. It's just not accurate."
A state-wide funding shift is necessary, she said, to provide resources that can go to both job creation and food security solutions; as Gibson envisions it, that would be like paying workers to construct community gardens in food deserts. Gibson also said now is the time to act on single-payer healthcare in New York State, a bill that gained momentum last year at the state level.
An avowed advocate of choice, Gibson, who was vocally opposed to the 2019 legislation which erased the religious exemption from vaccinations for school-age children in New York State, said she still retains that belief.
"I have a strong belief in fundamental human rights," Gibson said when asked how she would handle future vaccination questions or if she'd work against laws like the religious exemption repeal. "One of the most fundamental of our human rights is that we have choice over our bodies. So I'll absolutely still be an advocate for choice over the body in whatever form it takes, whether it is choice over what vaccines your kids get and when, or your reproductive choices. To me, you can't split hairs like this. Then you split people up and then we lose choice altogether. [...] I'm not anti-vaccine, but I am anti-mandates that take away choice over the body and I think there are better ways to do this."
Gibson joins a field of several candidates for the Democratic nomination, including: Tompkins County Legislator Anna Kelles, Dryden Town Supervisor Jason Leifer, Ithaca Common Council member Seph Murtagh, Cortland County Legislator Beau Harbin, and Family & Children's Counseling Services Executive Director Lisa Hoeschele and Lifton's general counsel Jordan Lesser. A Libertarian candidate, Matthew McIntyre, has also announced his bid for the seat.