Sanders’ National Press Secretary Shows Us What’s ‘Berning’ At Gowanus Campaign Office

Sanders' Gowanus campaign office
Inside Sanders’ Gowanus campaign office. (Photo by Donny Levit / Park Slope Stoop)

“We’re going old school. Guerilla style.”

That’s how National Press Secretary Symone Sanders (no relation to Bernie Sanders) described the way in which volunteers have been approaching their canvassing of Brooklyn as well as all neighborhoods throughout New York City.

“Old school” appropriately sums up Bernie Sanders’ Gowanus campaign office, which opened at 131 8th Street (between 2nd and 3rd Avenues) on March 26. The opening day was a mix of fiery speeches, enthusiastic block party, volunteer orientation, and energetic parents chasing after their even more energetic toddlers.

Some volunteers are hunched over computers and typing away, while a few grab a bagel and schmear it with Temp Tee cream cheese (Temp Tee, talk about old school!) or snag a handful of cheddar-flavored Goldfish. It’s a no-frills snack affair.

Sanders' Gowanus campaign office
Photo by Donny Levit / Park Slope Stoop

The lighting is dank, and hand dollies lean against scores of boxes with Bernie campaign posters and supplies.

However, the room is focused and buzzing in direct contrast to the bland and humble environment.

25-year-old Ms. Sanders is perhaps the most bright-eyed in the office, even though she admits it’s been a bit of a whirlwind. “I love Starbucks,” she says, and certainly seems rather caffeinated as she describes the tactics the campaign is taking.

Symone Sanders
Symone Sanders, National Press Secretary for Bernie Sanders. She was at the Gowanus campaign office last Saturday. (Photo by Donny Levit / Park Slope Stoop)

Last August, after only a one-hour conversation with Ms. Sanders, Senator Sanders asked her to join his campaign as National Press Secretary. “When we met, he asked me if I wanted to be part of the political revolution,” she says. Previously, she had been working for Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen.

Ms. Sanders hails from Omaha, Nebraska, and was famously praised by Bill Clinton after introducing him at a Girls, Inc. fundraiser almost a decade ago. She was only 16-years-old at the time. Clinton said, “Symone, you spoke so well, I kind of hate to follow you.”

However, Ms. Sanders did not speak glowingly of Mr. Clinton after a controversial exchange with a Black Lives Matter protestor at a Hillary Clinton rally last Thursday in Philadelphia.

“I thought it was unbelievable that Bill Clinton doubled down,” says Ms. Sanders. She accused the former President of using racially-coded language, and making comments that were “disparaging to activists of the Black Lives Matter movement.”

Sanders' Gowanus campaign office
Photo by Donny Levit / Park Slope Stoop

Ms. Sanders speaks with extreme confidence about the Sanders campaign. “One month ago, we were canvassing 20 points behind…this election is in the hands of the people of New York,” she says.

According to Ms. Sanders, each borough will soon have at least one campaign office, and some will be opening in a matter of days. Last week, a campaign office opened in nearby Flatbush.

Sanders' Gowanus campaign office
Entrance door to the Gowanus campaign office. (Photo by Donny Levit / Park Slope Stoop)

The Gowanus campaign office is very focused on getting out the Latino vote. “We have 50-70 campaigners out right now as part of ‘Unidos con Bernie’,” says Ms. Sanders.

In addition to Ms. Sanders, the volunteers are working long hours on the campaign.

Lisa Flythe is a long-time Park Slope resident who has been focused on voter registration. “This is the first time I’ve participated in the campaign,” says Flythe. “I’m here because Bernie is the real deal. The man leads with consistency and integrity.”

volunteering at Bernie Sanders office
Volunteer Lisa Flythe at the Sanders’ Gowanus campaign office. (Photo by Donny Levit / Park Slope Stoop)

When we asked Flythe if the goals of Sanders’ campaign relate to particular issues in the Park Slope neighborhood, she was quick to answer. “Real estate has just gotten out-of-hand here. Housing is out-of-reach for real New Yorkers. The money coming into this neighborhood is artificial.”

Flythe tells us she’s currently unemployed. “If I have to be unemployed, this is the best time to be. I can help here,” she says.

volunteering at Bernie Sanders office
Volunteer Ana Santiago and her son Marco Duspiva at the Sanders’ Gowanus campaign office. (Photo by Donny Levit / Park Slope Stoop)

Volunteer Ana Santiago brought her son, Marco Duspiva, to the campaign office Saturday morning.

“I started noticing that my neighbors in Crown Heights are older,” says Santiago. “They don’t have access to the media, and I believe Bernie’s campaign is especially relevant to my neighborhood.”

Santiago and her husband run a company called Czech Eggs. She and her friends got together and had what she called a “Bernie Break out of your shell party.” Santiago believes that it worked. “I heard the announcement when I was in the shower [that Bernie was going to run for President]  and turned off water.”

Santiago’s goal is to have a dialogue with her older neighbors so they can then speak with their relatives around the country. “Many of my neighbors have family down South.” She believes having conversations in her neighborhood will spread around the country.

Sanders' Gowanus campaign office
Photo by Donny Levit / Park Slope Stoop

When asked which Democratic candidate was more Brooklyn, Ms. Sanders answered without pause. “Bernie, of course. He’s a proud Brooklynite. Bernie’s wife Jane is also from Brooklyn.”

The campaign is working hard to win Brooklyn as well as the entire state. “New York is the center of American politics,” says Ms. Sanders.

Ms. Sanders is comfortable and confident in her Gowanus digs. “This is where the magic happens.”

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