The 2008 Global Financial Crisis was considered by many economists to be the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The effects of this great recession on American families was described by the New York Times as “deep, widespread and grim.”
Andrew Zink’s family was among those affected, lending him his longtime dedication to politics, hoping to better lives in his community and those beyond. At just 20 years old, Andrew campaigned as the Democratic candidate for the Ulster County Legislature District 14 seat—establishing himself as one of the youngest candidates in New York State. His campaign resurrected a Democratic movement in the Town of Shawangunk, New York which was absent of democratic candidates for about 30 years. Andrew has found his voice, intending to fight for his beliefs and the transformation of the Democratic party.
POLITICAL FOUNDATION—Andrew’s family was destroyed by the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. Andrew was just 10 years old when his father left the family after losing his job. His mother was left responsible for raising her four children alone, and his family continues to struggle in the aftermath.
“[My mom] has had to constantly work with few opportunities to take a real break,” said Andrew. “I still remember watching my mom break down and cry when our car had issues or when something accidently broke and we had no idea how we’d be able to pay for it.”
“Despite the fact that we struggled so much, we still had more than so many other people in our society...growing up this way has defined the person I’ve become.” According to Andrew, his family’s financial hardships has inhibited his mother from experiencing “the incredible joys this world can offer.” Despite this, Andrew’s mother actively paved her children a path towards a brighter future.She ensured that her children would become completely immersed in world issues. The Zink children would watch documentaries each Sunday, covering topics of their choosing.
“Once I realized what the economy means to people, and how politics affects economics, nothing else peaked my interest,” Andrew explained.Pine Bush is heavily Republican, and did not have a Democratic committee. During his sophomore year of high school, Andrew decided to attend the Democratic committee of the Town of Crawford. He was not allowed to be a committee member, but he would sit, listen and learn.During his junior year of high school, Andrew started working on Sean Patrick Maloney’s campaign. Maloney is the current congressman for the 18th congressional district of New York.Andrew became the student body president his senior year. As the student body president in a small town, Andrew would be launched into a national dispute.
POLITICAL STRIFE—Pine Bush High School was at the center of political debate and controversy during Andrew’s senior year. The school’s foreign language department decided to read the pledge in different languages for foreign language week. Andrew was consulted about the decision to read the pledge in Arabic, which he ultimately approved. “This turned into a firestorm,” Andrew said. “People said this was extremely disrespectful and went against American values.”
“My mom has had to constantly work, with few opportunities to take a real break. Once I realized what the economy means to people, and how politics affects economics, nothing else peaked my interest.”
The public outrage from the community gained coverage from many major news outlets including The Washington Post, Fox News, BBC, and the New York Post. “I spoke to a lot of newspapers in defense of my decision, saying that it’s diversity that makes America great,” Andrew explained. “This really made me an outcast my senior year. My school’s administration even tried to remove me from my position.”The Pine Bush School District became synonymous with this extreme nationalism.
In 2012, five students accused 35 students of anti-Semitic behaviors. These behaviors included Swastikas drawn on walls and lockers, accompanied by the words “Die Jew,” “Christ Killer,” and “disgusting Jew.” Jewish students also described being shoved, punched, taunted and humiliated, as well as witnessing chants of “white power” and Nazi salutes. The event gained coverage from major news outlets such as the The New York Times, the Huffington Post, CBS and CNN.
The lawsuit was settled by the school district in 2015 for $4.48 million. “Two of the students involved in the lawsuit were my best friends,” Andrew said, solemnly. “Their high school experiences were completely ruined simply because they were Jewish.” Andrew faced tremendous backlash for his stance on these issues. “I had stood up very publically for my progressive beliefs and really exposed my school for a lot of the prejudice that existed,” he said. “A lot of people thought I wanted to make my school look bad, but that was never the intention.”
CAMPAIGNS—Andrew was drawn to Marist College because of the Marist Poll and his love of the Hudson Valley. He declared a double major in political science and history, with a minor in Hudson Valley regional studies. Andrew entered into college during a presidential election year and took full advantage of the opportunities. He decided to volunteer in Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, an experience which he described as “transformational.”
“Bernie Sanders was someone different. He was someone who offered something new. He was a true vision of hope for the future, and other people saw that too,” said Andrew. “I remember going door to door in Poughkeepsie and thinking, ‘what I’m doing right now really matters,’” he continued. “Seeing the hope that he gave people...was just incredible.”
Andrew worked alongside citizens and students of the community at the former Poughkeepsie Savings Bank building, used as Sanders’ local headquarters during the campaign. Bernie Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton in Dutchess County, 11,680 votes to 11,005. Andrew helped organize Sanders’ speech at Marist and would attend Donald Trump’s rally in Poughkeepsie a week later. Andrew carried these experiences into his own campaign. As a 20-year-old junior in college, Andrew ran as the Democratic candidate for the Ulster County Legislature District 14 seat.
Andrew began commuting from home, determined to establish a personal presence rather than campaigning from Marist. “Andrew tries to listen to people’s concerns and meet them, which is something that you want all politicians to do - to listen,” said Dr. JoAnne Myers, Department Chair of political science at Marist. “Andrew is the type of student that we like in political science in that he wants to practice.”
The campaign would present Andrew with an array of challenges. “This has easily been the most difficult semester I’ve ever had,” he explained. “It was really difficult for me to run a campaign in such a difficult district and also do well in my classes.” Andrew also recognized that the political system is dominated by money - something he did not have as a college student from a working-class family. Andrew was able to raise about $4,000 for his campaign, while his opponent raised about $12,000.
A lack of time and money certainly hindered his campaign. However, it was the unethical practices by his political opponents which became insurmountable. Rumors falsely claimed that Andrew was Muslim and supported ISIS, drawing upon Andrew’s stances at Pine Bush High School. Republicans also put out a robotic call to about 5,000 residents the night before the election, claiming that he hated police and did not support America. “Combating these blatant lies that people just believed without question was very difficult,” said Andrew. “I could have retaliated and spread lies about my opponent, but I took the high ground.” Andrew would ultimately lose the race, 384 votes to 464 votes.
SILVER LINING—Andrew’s loss could hardly be described as a failure. He was endorsed by Our Revolution, an affiliate of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. He received a phone call from Nina Turner, former Ohio State Senator and President of Our Revolution, welcoming him to the Our Revolution family. The group only endorsed about 100 individuals nationwide, making Andrew’s campaign extremely notable. “Knowing that they have their eye on me and Ulster County is an incredible feeling,” said Andrew. “Just knowing that they had seen in me the progressive change that they believe is necessary to bring this nation to its full potential is incredible.” Andrew’s campaign was tremendously valuable for him both academically and personally.
“It was an amazing experience,” he said. “I met a lot of incredible people along the way...It’s really going to be something I remember for the rest of my life.” People were excited by the fact that there was a young candidate. Andrew inspired community members to get involved in the political system. He has helped change the political landscape of Pine Bush.
Andrew Zink's passion for politics dates from a young age. The 2008 Global Financial Crisis had an extremely negative impact on his family—influencing Andrew to pursue politics and policy in his pursuit of making a positive impact on people's lives. At 20 years old, Andrew campaigned as the Democratic candidate for the Ulster County Legislature district 14 seat, establishing himself as one of the youngest candidates in New York State. He volunteered on Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign, and was later endorsed by Our Revolution, an affiliate of Bernie Sanders' campaign.
PPROGRESS AND CHANGE—Andrew was elected as the vice chairman of Pine Bush’s democratic party. With one other person, Andrew was able to recreate a Democratic committee which had been absent for about 50 years. The Town of Shawangunk has not had a democratic party for about 30 years. The Democrats are now prepared to run a full slate of candidates in the next election. Andrew hopes to continue his involvement in politics, specifically in Ulster County. He is currently working on Terry Gipson’s campaign for Governor of New York. However, Andrew does not foresee a campaign of his own until he graduates in 2020. “I’m still just a junior in college, I have to get a degree first,” he laughed.
On a larger scale, Andrew hopes for a complete transformation of the Democratic party, ensuring the adoption of a more progressive platform that focuses on anti-corruption and the working class. “I want to go forward and be the best person I can be,” he said. “Love, compassion, and togetherness - these are the virtues that I try to reflect in my political ideologies.”