Park Slope

Sanders supporter hopes to shake up assembly race

Rob Curry-Smithson running in 44th A.D. Democratic primary

August 11, 2016 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Assembly hopeful Rob Curry-Smithson (right) gets some help on the campaign trail from former student Allen Tapia. The two men distributed campaign literature outside the Fort Hamilton Parkway subway station. Photo courtesy of Rob Curry-Smithson
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A teacher who campaigned for Bernie Sanders during the Democratic Primary season is seeking to bring the Vermont senator’s message of economic equality to the voters of a Brooklyn assembly district.

Rob Curry-Smithson, a history teacher at NEST+m, a citywide public school program for gifted and talented students, is one of three candidates running in the Democratic Primary next month in the 44th Assembly District. The district, which Democrat James Brennan has represented for 32 years, includes Park Slope, Kensington, Windsor Terrace and parts of Flatbush. Brennan announced in May that he will not be running for re-election.

The three Democrats running for Brennan’s assembly seat are Robert Carroll, Troy Odendhal, and Curry-Smithson. Brennan has endorsed Carroll, a lawyer. Odendhal is a freelance radio producer. The winner of the Sept. 13 primary will face a Republican candidate.

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Curry-Smithson, who is making his first try at public office, said he wants to bring a fresh perspective to Albany.

“I’m running because I’m frustrated with the corruption and lack of action coming from Albany. I was active in the Bernie Sanders campaign, and agree with his message that the only way to bring about the political change he was talking about is by getting new people to start running for office. I also was concerned that there seemed to be no competition, but a passing of the torch from someone who has been in office since I was two years old to a successor chosen by the party establishment,” Curry-Smithson said via email, referring Brennan’s endorsement of Carroll. “One of the keys to a democracy is having choice, and I think I would make a good choice. I bring a different experience to Albany, as a teacher and a shop steward, that would be helpful.”

Curry-Smithson, a Kensington resident, is no latecomer to the Sanders’ revolution.

“I’ve been active in politics since I was in high school. My first campaign was for Bernie Sanders in 1998 and since moving to Brooklyn I’ve been very active in canvassing and calling for Bill de Blasio when he ran for mayor and for Bernie Sanders this year,” he said. His campaign platform includes a call for education reform.

“I think that improving the quality and availability of education is very important. The public schools are struggling for funds, competing with corporate sponsored charters, and, as a result, many schools are overcrowded. For many New Yorkers school doesn’t end at 12th grade, and yet they are finding college is increasingly unaffordable,” he said.

Curry-Smithson called for free college tuition for students in the State University of New York (SUNY) and City University of New York (CUNY) systems. He also vowed to work to reduce class size if elected.

“We need to increase the construction of new schools and make sure that class sizes come down, and we need to put more power in the hands of parents and educators on the school level. There is also a lot of wasted spending that goes to companies with connections to politicians that could better be used to hire more teachers and build new schools,” he told the Eagle.

Curry-Smithson is a union leader at his school and serves on the school leadership team. In addition to education, he pointed to health care as an important issue facing the voters of the district.

“I think health care is also a major concern. While the Affordable Care Act has made some impressive strides towards universal coverage, it has not stopped premiums from skyrocketing. I think New York should lead the country by implementing a single payer health care system (Medicare for all) on a state level that would save New Yorkers struggling with high premiums, and guarantee universal coverage. Health care, like education, is a right,” he said.

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