Nigel Loncke believes it is time for change in Rockaway, and he intends to play a major role in the transformation. The 33-year-old hopes to challenge Michele Titus for the right to represent Assembly District 31. April will mark the representative’s 14th year in the New York State Assembly.
Rockaway Primetime recently met with Loncke and posed several questions about his campaign and decision to run for office.
When asked if there was anyone in particular that served as a source of inspiration, Loncke replied, “I was inspired by many, but the one person that sticks out is my dad.”
His father is from Guyana and his mother is from Brooklyn. He was born in the United States and noted that his parents struggled during the financial crisis of 2008. It was at that point that he realized he wanted to pursue a life in public service and change the political system. “My parents moved us from Brooklyn to give us a better life,” he said. “The move to Arverne worked out really well for me.”
At 33, Loncke realizes that some may wonder if he has enough political experience to unseat Titus. He told Rockaway Primetime that working with Robert Simmons, who served as Chief-of-Staff for Congressman Gregory Meeks, helped him understand the importance of being a public servant and the political system. “Mr. Simmons saw something in me that he liked and brought me in as a staff member. I served as Community Liaison in 2009,” stated Loncke.
In 2012, he ventured outside of the U.S. to study political systems in other countries. “I started to view politics in an entirely different light after traveling abroad. Shortly after I returned to the states, I began working on Barack Obama’s campaign,” he added. “I traveled to many different states canvassing and hosting events. I even organized the first Obama campaign bus tour in Rockaway, which gave residents an opportunity to be part of the political process.”
Loncke also held Rockaway’s first “house party”, another term for campaign headquarters celebration, after President Obama’s 2012 victory. He described the event as a huge success and “a great experience” for Rockaway.
In the midst of working on President Obama’s campaign, Loncke returned to Rockaway to help residents affected by Superstorm Sandy. “I wanted to get back home and help. My church was flooded, but I didn’t just want to help my church. I wanted to help surrounding communities,” Loncke stated. “I helped distribute emergency materials like food, water, clothes and other items. I put Obama’s campaign on hold because I felt my community was more important.”
Later, he worked as an office manager for a Colorado-based company called Next-Gen. He was charged with the task of helping the company locate people that were interested in working in various professions, such as finance, human resources and public service. Loncke described the job as “people who cared about their community, women’s rights and climate change repeal.”
Rockaway Primetime asked Loncke if he felt the community was prepared for another Sandy and what he thought about climate change. He stated, “Climate change is real. We have to work together on this issue from a city, state, and federal level. I agree with all home-owners on the peninsula. We must protect our land with sea walls, jetties and make sure insurance companies don’t rip people off.”
When asked how he would go about getting on the ballot to challenge Titus, he said he plans to go door-to-door to speak with voters about how Titus has not adequately represented the community and how he would do a much better job. “I am going to talk to voters about the issues and about what they want, which is something that Titus has never done. Getting on the ballot is my first real challenge,” Loncke noted. He informed Rockaway Primetime that all he needs is 500 signatures to get on the ballot and that the real goal is 4,000. “Once I’m on the ballot, I will give her a good fight.”
At the end of the meeting, he indicated that he favors lowering the age requirement for voters. “The more youth we get involved, the better our chances for change. You can’t build without starting from the bottom up. We can’t have that one size fits all mentality. Make the youth feel welcomed and valued,” said Loncke. “The district serves 129,000 people, and age doesn’t matter. Things have to change, and I’m the one that will make those changes,” he concluded.