Crystal Peoples-Stokes has clashed repeatedly with the political establishment as she advanced from a Buffalo community activist to a member of the New York Assembly. She started her political career by working with a local movement called Grassroots Inc., which sought to increase the participation of “everyday” people in the political process.
Peoples-Stokes began her public career first as a block leader, an entry-level position in the local Democratic Party, before working her way up to a zone leader. She was elected to the Erie County Legislature, which is similar to a county commission, where she became majority leader until she challenged the longest-serving member of the New York Assembly in 2000. She narrowly lost, but took the seat two years later when the incumbent retired. Despite the political shake-ups, Peoples-Stokes says she has worked successfully with her colleagues. “One of the things I think women do better than [men] is that we don’t hold grudges. We’re only here to work. Whether you like me or, quite frankly, whether I like you, is immaterial. The point is we’ve got to get something done,” she says. Most of her efforts have been on local issues, from lead paint abatement to development of a new life sciences corridor in the Buffalo region.