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By Jacob Kornbluh

The Supreme Court abortion ruling on Friday drew mass nationwide protests, with Democrats hoping it would mobilize voters to the polls in the midterm elections. For Ana Maria Archila, an ally of progressive Jewish activists and candidate for lieutenant governor of New York, the call to action could be put to test in Tuesday’s Democratic primaries.

Archila, 43, gained national attention in 2018 when she confronted then-Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona, in an elevator to protest the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was facing allegations of sexual assault. “I knew that this is the day that we were trying to prevent when we were trying to push back against the nomination of Kavanaugh,” Archila said in an interview on Friday.

She said that she knew at the time that Sens. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, and Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, were misled when Kavanaugh assured them that he would not end the landmark 1973 decision to protect the right to an abortion to secure their votes.

Archila said that while the ruling was “demoralizing,” it is an opportunity to turn her fear into action and invited “people to turn their pain into efforts to protect one another and to make sure that we show our outrage on election day.”

“We can see the light at the end of the tunnel that we can force our elected leaders, who always act as if the worst thing would never happen, to take our concerns seriously,” she added.

Even before the Supreme Court decision was made public, Archila saw growing momentum in a close race against Antonio Delgado, the newly appointed lieutenant governor and Gov. Kathy Hochul’s running mate. She was chosen as the running mate of Jumaane Williams, the New York City Public Advocate, who is challenging Hochul from the left. In New York, lieutenant governors run on their own in primaries and as a joint ticket with the gubernatorial nominee in the general elections. While Hochul has a commanding lead over her primary rivals, progressives are hoping to score a win for the second-in-command position.

Archila was recently endorsed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who invited her to the State of the Union as her guest in 2019.

An ally of the Jewish community

She is also backed by Ady Barkan, a prominent Jewish liberal activist who was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Archila, who is an immigrant from Colombia, said Barkan “embodies the values of the progressive tradition” and suggested that her campaign theme of fighting for a more just society and “building a multiracial alliance where every single community feels welcome and represented” is “central to the progressive Jewish tradition, a vision of interdependence.”

The two met in 2010 when Barkan joined Make the Road New York, a grassroots immigration-led organization, as an attorney. Archila was co-executive director along with Andrew Friedman, who is also Jewish. Barkan and Archila became close friends and also worked together at the Center for Popular Democracy, which she headed before running for office. “In our conversations, we always talked about the interconnectedness of our struggles,” she said.

Barkan, who himself confronted Flake in 2017 on a plane from Washington, D.C. over the GOP tax reform bill, was also very active in the fight against Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

Archila recalled the attacks by former President Donald Trump, who came under fire for invoking an antisemitic dog whistle by claiming Jewish billionaire George Soros was behind the protests. Trump was also seeking to rally his base by flirting with conspiracy theories about the Democrats being behind the arrival of “caravans” with migrants from Central America.

“That is the antisemitic, patriarchal, white supremacist ideology that Trump very effortlessly connected in his political discourse and used to agitate people,” she said, adding that the deadly shooting at the Tree of life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, which occurred a few weeks after the Kavanaugh protests, was proof that these attacks could have deadly consequences.

Archila said that if she wins the Democratic primary she will partner with Hochul, who could face a tough re-election bid in the fall against Rep. Lee Zeldin, the possible Republican nominee, and boost her campaign by energizing the base and bringing them to the polls.

The Jewish Vote, formed in 2018 by leaders of Jews For Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ), recently held a “pickles to the polls” rally in Brooklyn to get out the vote for Archila and other progressive candidates.

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