ALBANY — Upstart insurgents challenging longtime Democratic Assembly members are seeing strength in numbers ahead of Tuesday’s primary.

Progressive Assembly candidates hoping to unseat long-serving incumbents say the June 28 contest offers New Yorkers a chance to create a sea change in the Dem-led Legislature and boost the number of left-leaning lawmakers.

“All of these races and insurgent campaigns reflect a need and demand from voters for transformative change,” said Samy Nemir Olivares, a Democratic Socialists of America-backed candidate who is taking on Assemblyman Erik Dilan in the Brooklyn district centered around Bushwick. “People are struggling with housing, with food costs, a lack of child care… there is a sense of urgency.”

Last month, progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) announced her endorsement of nine Assembly candidates, seven of whom are challenging sitting Democrats, a major boost for the outsider hopefuls.

The group also has the backing of the New York Working Families Party and have been dubbed the “We Can’t Wait” slate.

The majority of the upstarts are running in districts across the five boroughs and also have the support of the DSA. In Harlem, Delsenia Glover, a tenant advocate is challenging incumbent Assemblywoman Inez Dickens. Jonathan Soto, a former AOC staffer, is facing off against Assemblyman Michael Benedetto in the east Bronx.

Climate activist Sarahana Shrestha is taking on Assemblyman Kevin Cahill in his Hudson Valley district.

As City and State recently noted, several progressive bills have stalled in the Assembly this year despite being passed by the Senate, including the Clean Slate Act and the Build Public Renewables Act.

Both Good Cause, a measure that would greatly expand tenants’ rights, and the New York Health Act failed to come up for a vote in either Dem-led chamber.

Progressives argue that even with Democrats winning control of the Senate in 2018 and maintaining their hold over the Assembly that not enough is being done for working-class New Yorkers who they say are ready for change.

They hope to press Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) to embrace more left-leaning policies and push for votes on measures that may not have the support of all members of the Democratic conference but they feel should be debated and discussed on the floor.

In a recent ad and a debate aired on BronxNet, Benedetto, first elected in 2004, slammed Soto’s support for defunding the police and said his opponent is out of touch with the voters in the district, which includes Throggs Neck, Co-op City and City Island.

“I think I am the only candidate who has lived in this community their whole life,” Benedetto said during the debate. “I’ve worked for this community before I was even elected. I know the people, I know the issues, I know the history.”

Soto, who also worked for former mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, said he supports increasing funding for education and improving mental health services instead of using law enforcement to handle everyday issues in the city.

“I’m organizing for whole communities and safe streets because our streets cannot be safe if we are not whole,” he said.

Another WFP-supported candidates, Jessica Altagracia Woolford, is running against veteran Democratic Bronx Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz and said she has received positive feedback across the Riverdale and Kingsbridge neighborhoods.

“People are ready to really raise the bar,” she said. “Our base is energized and they’re going to channel that into their ballots on June 28.”

Altagracia Woolford said many voters she’s spoken with have soured on rank-and-file Democrats and are looking for a change.

“We’re worried that people in power aren’t listening because they continue to take money from corporate interest, from developers and that’s why we’ve been super-focused on talking about housing affordability and really raising he standard on what we expect from Democrats in Albany,” she said.

Both Altagracia Woolford and Nemir Olivares said it’s not about one race or one candidate but about changing and challenging the culture in Albany.

“None of us coordinated running… but all of us come from working-class backgrounds, from communities of color, from a younger generation,” Nemir Olivares said. “We’re all aligned in the struggle and the mindset of what voters in our communities are really demanding.”

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