Last November, we spoke with Mel Gagarin, singer and guitarist of New York City punk band Scarboro about his run for congress in his hometown of Queens, New York. A lot has happened in the 8 months since that conversation, editor Samantha Barrett popped in to checked in with Mel on his run for congress ahead of the June 23rd New York Primary day.

We last spoke last November when you just started the Mel For Progress campaign to run for congress. A lot has happened since then. Covid-19 has hit New York City and especially your neighborhood in Queens hard. How has that affected what policies you are backing?
COVID-19 brought to the fore the preexisting crises that were already ravaging our society. Income inequality, housing instability, lack of healthcare, and the aggravating factor racism plays in all of them. My platform already included Medicare For All, a Homes Guarantee, and UBI experiments. These policies have always been essential, but if there was a ever a moment for Medicare For All, it is one where tens of millions have lost employer sponsored health insurance.

You guys hit the ground running hard when we last spoke, knocking on doors and hearing from the folks you would like to serve. How has the pandemic affected your campaign?
Because we’re a grassroots organization our winning factor was always going to be our ground game. Once COVID hit we immediately shifted our phone banking efforts towards community check-ins and ensuring that constituents were connected to resources.

Due to the pandemic, there has been a lot of xenophobia and hate that has been created. What kind of policies that you would like to enact to combat that?
Rolling back the white supremacist and xenophobic policy of the Trump administration is a crucial step, as well as fighting for immigration, and a permenant stability for DACA and DAPA. More than that it’s acknowledging that xenophobic fears are stoked to divide people and to draw attention away from capitalistic system robbing the working class of basic dignities. We need to uplift all people in order to build a just society.

In more recent events, there has been a massive movement for Black Lives Matter. What is your take on Black Lives Matter activists and organizations like the DSA, who want to defund the police? What does defunding the police look like to you?
Defunding the police looks like a massive diversion of funding and resources to education, housing, and community organizations in order to build safe, stable communities. Defunding the police is simply the first step in dismantling the racist carceral system that has destroyed so many lives and families.

Since we have been on PAUSE in NY. Besides working on your campaign. What have you been spending time on? Any new hobbies?
My campaign has absorbed nearly every moment of my time, but I can always find a few minutes to noodle some riffs for the next Scarboro record.