By Sabina Mollot
In the race for the Congressional seat occupied by Carolyn Maloney, one of two of her Democrat challengers believes there’s a lot she’s wrong about.
Sander Hicks, a political activist who runs a carpentry businesses based in Maspeth, openly admits to being on the offensive. This is after having been advised by supporters, including his father Norman Hicks, a former World Bank economist, to “stop being so nice,” he explained.
Additionally, Hicks, 47, said, although he insisted he is trying to run a positive campaign based on “respect for all religions” (he identifies as Quaker and interfaith) he has also found Maloney to be unresponsive to concerns from constituents like himself.
Maloney, he noted, never directly responded when he called her office about long-classified documents from a Congressional inquiry into the 9/11 attacks that were finally released in 2016, known as the “28 pages.” Instead, Hicks said, he was passed around from one office employee to the next until, finally a year later, he got a form letter response. However, it wasn’t even on the issue he’d brought up, but about Maloney’s Zadroga Act for 9/11 responder healthcare.
While Hicks offered some praise to his opponent, calling her “courageous” for forming a 9/11 commission, he believes the way it’s set up means its findings can’t be trusted.
“We need a real investigation that’s not (led by) 10 DC insiders from the upper crust.”
He also has different views on U.S. relations with the Middle East.
“In the Middle East, we are on the wrong side,” he said. “We back an oligarchy, the monarch of Saudi Arabia, which cuts off people’s heads and doesn’t let women drive. We back Israel, which is responsible for international war crimes for settlements in the West Bank. That’s not Israeli land. I know this is a sensitive issue. I know my opponent, Congress Member Maloney, is extremely pro-Zionist. This does not mean I’m anti-Israel or that I want to cut off all aid.”
His last statement was in response to a request for clarification of a statement on his website that could indicate as much.
On it, he writes, “There has to be a new path to peace in the Middle East. Remove the massive funding for the war machine and its support for Zionist aggression. Fearlessly expose Israel and the CIA’s role in 9/11/01. End the demonization of Islam and grant full statehood and human rights to Palestine.”
Hicks also disagrees with the Maloney co-sponsored Israel Anti-Boycott Act that opposes the BDS (Boycott Divest Sanction) movement.
On her support for the Iraq War, Hicks had this to say, “She presided over an atmosphere that allowed Halliburton to get $40 billion in revenue. I think anyone who voted for the Iraq War should be prosecuted. Do you want to live in a country that kills brown people, Muslim people?”
He feels she is anti-Muslim for the time she appeared on the floor in Washington wearing a burqa to discuss Taliban treatment of Afghan women in 2001.
“It was an act of contempt and imperialism,” he said, “at a time when we need to de-escalate Islamaphobia.”
He also criticized the 25-year incumbent for her history of not wanting to debate opponents.
A spokesperson for Maloney’s campaign declined to comment on Hicks’ statements.
The aforementioned points are what motivated his campaign, along with wanting to see President Trump get impeached and entrepreneurs get assistance from the government if they can prove their business has some positive social impact. Along with free training, this could also include capital up to $100,000 for businesses like small manufacturers, organic farmers close to cities or those in solar or wind energy.
“These things are going to help us get off fossil fuels by 2035, and that’s one of my campaign goals,” said Hicks.
On other non-Maloney related issues, asked what he’s been hearing from voters when out canvassing, Hicks said along with the cost of living in the city, there’s also “the role of big money in politics, dark money in politics.”
On the cost of living, Hicks said he would like to see more affordable housing included in new developments in exchange for tax breaks, in particular “to benefit the poor and working class.”
Another issue the candidate considers a priority is protecting New York from flooding in the event of another Sandy.
“As a contractor I’ve done flood remediation in Staten Island and in Chelsea in Manhattan,” he said. “We could be like New Orleans in a few years unless we get serious about climate change.”
His business, Zen Space Makers, specializes in building space saving furniture, which, he noted, helps New Yorkers afford to stay in New York.
At one time, Hicks also owned a Fair Trade coffee bar called Vox Pop, which opened in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn in 2004, as well as a smaller location that opened later in the Bowery Poetry Club. However, despite winning awards for community engagement, both closed after a few years, with Hicks saying the 2008 financial meltdown “didn’t help” business.
Prior to that he was the publisher of Soft Skull Press, which released both of the books he’s written, including The Big Wedding (2005), an investigative book alleging government coverups during 9/11 and Slingshot to the Juggernaut: Total Resistance to the Death Machine Means Complete Love of Truth (2012).
The latter book, he said, “enabled me to realize that citizen journalism works. You can get in the car and go get the story. You don’t need to be a gifted journalist. You just have to do the work.”
He’s also written seven plays, given many talks over the years and considers himself a peace activist.
“I’m running because we need a peace activist,” said Hicks, who also ran a Senate campaign against Hillary Clinton in 2006. “You just don’t see that kind of leadership in the Democratic Party except in Bernie Sanders and (Hawaii Congress Member) Tulsi Gabbard. But the DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schulz and Hillary Clinton are corrupt and in the pocket of Wall Street.”
In terms of fundraising, while Hicks said he’s nowhere close to his opponent (who Politico reported has raised over $600,000) he’s gotten $12,000 after touring. He explained that he toured rather than fundraise only within the district, because he’s gotten a very good reception along the West Coast and other areas and has gotten a number of volunteers that way. In Arizona alone, he raised $3,600.
The Democratic primary is on June 26. Along with Hicks and Maloney, another candidate in the race is Suraj Patel, a New York University professor and former aide with President Barack Obama’s campaigns.