Dianne Morales Faced a Campaign Uprising. Will It Matter to Voters?

Her career path, largely in education and nonprofits, stands out in a field of lawyers, politicians and businessmen. Her background — working class, Afro-Latina, first-generation college graduate — has helped her appeal to traditionally underrepresented groups. And her campaign, with the most left-leaning platform in the race, has drawn in supporters who believed she would eschew politics as usual.

A native of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, Ms. Morales, 53, was raised by Puerto Rico-born parents. Her mother worked as an office manager for a union, and her father as a building manager. Finances were so tight that Ms. Morales shared a bed with her grandmother until she left for college.

She attended Stuyvesant High School, where one of her teachers was the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frank McCourt, and Dartmouth College. Ms. Morales has said that she was sexually assaulted during her first week on campus, and she left Dartmouth at the end of her freshman year, eventually graduating from Stony Brook University, on Long Island. After college, she worked as a waitress and a special-education teacher; she later received master’s degrees, in social administration and education administration, from Columbia and Harvard.

Ms. Morales then spent two years at the city’s Department of Education, under Michael Bloomberg, as chief of operations and implementation in the Office of Youth Development. She held leadership positions at various nonprofits like The Door, a youth development organization, and Phipps Neighborhoods, the social services arm of Phipps Houses, a housing development group, where she served as chief executive for a decade before filing to run for mayor.

She raised her two children in Brooklyn; both graduated from public schools. Ms. Morales has been transparent about struggles her family has faced: her son, 22, was punched by a police officer at a protest, her daughter, 20, was sexually assaulted, and Ms. Morales had to sue the D.O.E. for what she said was a lack of services provided for her daughter’s learning disability. The city provided the services Ms. Morales requested after six years. In the interim, she placed her daughter in a private school.


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