It used to be that local city elections were boring. No one knew their local councilperson, even less their public advocate. (Public advocate? Wtf is that?) Yet tomorrow NYC goes to the polls once more to vote for public advocate. This is a special election as the previous public advocate Letitia James has vacated her seat to become Attorney General for NY. They will have to choose among not three, not ten, but 17 names no less. One of these is a Greek-American girl, Nomiki Konst. But first, lets get some background.
What is a public advocate anyway? A public advocate is sort of what the DA is but for city government. As the name suggests, the position advocates for the public good. He/she calls out corruption and calls out the mayor when not acting in the public’s best interest. The public advocate acts as a general watchdog for issues such as equity in housing, education, criminal justice. He/she is supposed to be, in fact, an outspoken critic of the mayor. What’s more public advocate is a high stepping stone to other municipal positions such as mayor. (First you criticize the post then you ride it).
Who are the candidates? They are in no particular order:
- Melissa Mark-Viverito (Fix the MTA), former Speaker of the New York City Council
- Michael Blake (For The People), New York State Assemblymember and a Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee
- Dawn Smalls (No More Delays), attorney
- Eric Ulrich (Common Sense), New York City Councilmember
- Ydanis Rodríguez (Unite Immigrants), New York City Councilmember
- Danny O’Donnell (Equality For All), New York State Assemblymember
- Rafael Espinal (Livable City), New York City Councilmember and former State Assemblymember
- Latrice Walker § (Power Forward), New York State Assemblymember
- Jumaane Williams (It’s Time Let’s Go), New York City Councilmember and candidate for Lieutenant Governor in 2018
- Ron Kim (No Amazon), New York State Assemblymember
- Benjamin Yee (Community Strong), activist
- Manny Alicandro (Better Leaders), lawyer
- Nomiki Konst (Pay Folks More), activist and journalist
- David Eisenbach (Stop REBNY), a historian and an expert on media and politics and a lecturer in the history department at Columbia University
- Anthony Herbert (Residents First), activist
- Helal Skeikh (Friends of Helal), former City Council candidate
And if these weren’t enough, there were seven candidates (one of which is of Greek descent) were disqualified:
- Theo Chino, bitcoin entrepreneur (did you see this—there’s even a bitcoin entrepreneur in the mix)
- Ifeoma Ike, activist a first-generation, Nigerian-American activist, artist and attorney
- Walter Iwachiw, perennial candidate
- Abbey Laurel-Smith, artist
- Danniel Maio, business owner
- Michael Zumbluskas, activist
- Gary Popkin, a retired professor of computer systems at New York City College of Technology and a libertarian activist.
Two candidates were asked to run, Chirlane McCray, First Lady of New York City and Christine Quinn, former Speaker of the NY City Council, (she was the first female and first openly gay speaker), but both refused.
So what’s with all the interest in this position? Why do so many people from disparate walks of life want to get into the seat? Maybe because the role of public advocate rings like a superhero.
Our Greek-American Girl: Nomiki Konst
This dynamic young woman might have ADD as she has done so many things in so many places it makes the Energizer Bunny stop and say “OPA.” She displays the hallmarks of synergy as a Greek American and a woman. She is an actress, an investigative journalist, a feminist, a start-up founder, and now she wants to be NYC public advocate. She must have politics in her DNA as her mother was an elected legislator in upstate New York. She speaks four languages, knows how to win Greek choral competitions, and can sew her own clothes. She is proud to be Greek and Orthodox.
Her multi-faceted life Here’s a short Imbd bio:
Nomiki Konst was born on January 27, 1984 in Tucson, Arizona, USA as Nomiki Daphne Konst. She is an actress, known for Breathless_GRL (2008), The Virgin Murders (2009) and I’m Voting Republican (2008).
Her name is derived from the ancient Greek word, “law” and she comes from a family of lawyers. Her father is a lawyer and her mother an elected legislator in Eerie County, upstate New York. Her name is prominent on one island in Greece (Kalymnos) where her father’s family is from. It is Greek tradition that the first born is named after the paternal grandmother or grandfather. In this case, she is named after her grandmother, Nomiki. (She has the law/advocacy/justice genes not just in her DNA but in her spirit.)
This is her bio from the Women’s Media Center:
Nomiki is an advocate, writer and political communications strategist regularly appearing on national media outlets discussing politics. She’s Founder & Executive Director of The Accountability Project, an investigative news start-up centered on political corruption. She hosts The Accountability Podcast, which focuses on political corruption.
In the fall of 2013, Konst worked in Libya with political party leaders, women and candidates on transitioning to a functional democratic state following their liberation from Col. Gadaffi. She trained in communications and campaigns for the National Democratic Institute.
At 28-years-old, Konst vied to be the youngest woman to ever serve in Congress, running in her hometown, Tucson, AZ for the seat vacated by Rep. Giffords. She was acclaimed for challenging the status quo and bucking the party agenda. Previously, she founded and managed Alliance Hollywood, which gives members of the entertainment industry the training and tools to speak on political issues.
Konst is an advocate for women, gun reform and millennials. From her start on Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign at 16 years old to national co-chairing Pres. Obama’s Re-Election campaign, she’s worked for four different presidential campaigns as well as dozens of campaigns across the country – in all areas of the campaign world, including organizing, communications, fundraising and media. Konst has also worked in nonprofit and advocacy, from national publicity campaigns on hydraulic fracturing to organ donation reform.
Before running for office, Konst was an at-large member of the DNC Council and a National Co-Chair for Generation Forty Four, the young professional fundraising arm of President Obama’s 2012 Re-Election campaign. She is a Truman National Security Project Partner, sits on the Board of Advisors for Running Start and Board of Directors for LaunchProgress and was a 2010 Change.org Changemaker of the Year. She also sat on the LA Board of the New Leaders Council and the Just Media Council.
Konst appears regularly on Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, CNN, as well as MSNBC, NY 1, HuffPost Live, Newsmax, CSPAN, ABC, CBC and NBC. She has contributed to and appeared in the The Hill, The Daily Beast, NY Daily News, The Huffington Post, Politico, The AZ Republic, City & State, The Wall Street Journal, The Buffalo News, Mic.com and many other publications. In 2009, Konst produced “Campaign Country,” a reality show pilot highlighting her mother’s NYS Senate Campaign. In 2011, she hosted a television news show pilot called “Millennials at the Table.” Konst is writing a book on generational feminism.
While most candidates claim to be non-partisan, Nomiki has come up from the Social Democrat party. As a political activist and organizer, Nomiki served as a Sanders appointee to the DNC Reform Commission, tasked to transform, open up, and change the Democratic Party. In 2016 she was a National Surrogate for Bernie Sanders for President and a DNC Platform Committee Member and Delegate.
The three pillars of her campaign are “better wages,” “housing for every New Yorker,” and “health care is a human right.” She wants to push for a minimum wage increase of $30 citing that $15 is not enough in NYC. She wants to create a single payer health system for all New Yorkers (think Obamacare NYC). From her website, it states,”Nomiki supports expanding rent control to make sure 80% of all NYC apartments and all new housing units are rent-stabilized.”
Will she win? Absolutely not. Trying to get a $15 per hour minimum wage bill is hard enough. What do you make of the prime slogan for her campaign $30 per hour minimum? She sounds like a true millennial, a dreamer, an idealist. Her campaign is floating on idealized fiction. But she looks good trying.
MORE TRIVIAL TRIVIA about our girl:
- She started her first business, a recycling company, at the age of 6. She started her second business at the age of 11.
- Her grandmother was a designer and taught her to sew and design her own clothing.
- She speaks Greek, French and Spanish.
- She lived in Paris, France and Monterrey, Mexico.
- She was a competitive Greek dancer.
- She is an award-winning choral singer.
- She ran Democratic campaigns throughout college.
- She was born in Tucson, Arizona and grew up in Tucson, Palm Beach, Florida and Buffalo, New York.
- She is an only child.
- she is an avid tennis player and practices yoga regularly
- her grandparents were refugees from Smyrna
- She lives in Astoria.
Just in case you were wondering, NO! She’s not Single. She keeps her hubby’s identity on the low. But she’s been taken since 2015. Sorry.
There is definitely a connection between Greeks and politics. Stay tuned for an in-depth survey of Greek American women in political office—past and present.
For more info go to her website www.nomikikonst.com