By Jessica Meditz
Jim Magee, a defense attorney, former prosecutor, and lifelong resident of Sunnyside announced his bid for the New York State Assembly’s 37th District seat, occupied by outgoing Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan.
Nolan, whose district encompasses the Hunters Point, Sunnyside, Woodside, Maspeth, and Ridgewood communities in Western Queens, has held the position since 1984. Following the announcement of her retirement, four local candidates have opted to throw their hats into the ring.
Magee, 41, has run his own law firm for eight years, where he does pro bono work for locals who have found themselves in tough situations.
He earned his bachelor’s Degree from Fordham University and a Juris Doctorate from St. John’s Law School.
Although this is the first time Magee is running for office himself, he previously helped manage the campaign for Patrick O’Malley when he ran against Nolan for the same seat back in 2000.
The top three issues he’s focusing his campaign on are wealth disparity, bail reform, and public transportation.
“As a Democrat, I think that we should be focused on bridging the gap between the rich and the working class. I don’t understand the hesitance to do that, both nationally and in state government,” Magee said. “It’s irritating.”
Magee used the subject of economic disparity to segway into bail reform, which he’s adamantly opposed to.
“I couldn’t believe what was being proposed,” he said of the law enacted in 2019. “It was written by people who don’t work in the court and don’t know what was happening.”
Magee argues that the bail reform, intended to prevent the poor from sitting in jail until their court dates, has instead caused a stark uptick in crime in the city.
“Incarceration was down statewide 20 percent over the 10 years before bail reform was passed. Crime was also down,” Magee said. “I’m not saying the system was perfect, but whatever we were doing was working.”
He is in favor of making it more difficult for violent offenders to get bail, bringing back plainclothes police officers, and increasing police training.
As for public transportation, Magee said that local Manhattan-bound “7” train service has been shut down during midday for over 30 years, and must be restored.
“It’s been going on since I was in high school, and the MTA always gives the same reason… track replacement,” he said. “I’ve never seen anyone working on it, and I never understood why our elected officials never stepped up for that.”
He would also encourage increased frequency in bus service, and put pressure on the MTA not to increase the fare until riders saw a noticeable improvement in the quality of service provided.
To prepare for the election, Magee said he initially corralled a large group of friends to donate money, sign petitions, and spread the word. He has raised about $88,000 for his campaign so far.
“If you know me, and you live in the district, I’ve been a real pain in the ass,” Magee said. “I’ve been calling friends asking them to do things, my people have been knocking on doors, and mailers have gone out.”
He says that if elected, he will be accessible to constituents as he’s a parishioner at St. Teresa’s Church in Woodside, and has his cell phone number on his business cards.
Magee will square off against three fellow attorneys—Brent O’Leary, a Hunters Point Civic Association co-founder and current president of Woodside on the Move, Johanna Carmona, Nolan’s former Hispanic community liaison, and Juan Ardila, a Legal Aid Society program coordinator and former Brad Lander staffer—who are all vying for the Assembly seat, in the upcoming Democratic primary on June 28th.
When it comes to his competition, Magee said that he feels Ardila is his biggest threat.
“He’s the only true blue progressive in the race, and the other three of us are some version of a moderate. I’m basically the Republican in this race,” Magee said.
“When I spoke with Cathy [Nolan], she made this seem as though it’s hopeless. But what I do for a living is dealing with a lot of eavesdropping and meeting with people to find out what they’re really interested in,” he continued.
“I’m very eager to do that in Albany and find out how it works.”