A Voter's guide for NY state elections

From the September/October 2018 PNL #862

by Paul Weichselbaum, with contributors Elaine Denton, Ruth Kutz, Peter McCarthy, Doug Wolf, and Elaine Wolf

With all of the attention paid to the national and international damages from the Trump regime, it is critical to see how important state and local concerns and resistance are. What we do in New York State can be a barrier to the Washington reactionary government and can also be beneficial to New Yorkers. This review highlights major issues that state and local governments should address and for which diverse progressive communities are mobilizing.


State Issues

Immigrant Rights & Protections

In NY, 2.8 million immigrants make up more than a quarter of the labor force. These immigrants contributed over $26.5 billion in federal taxes and $15.9 billion in state and local taxes in 2014. About 17% of them are undocumented.

Documented and undocumented immigrants both face obstacles and exploitation which include unlawful profiling, detention and deportation; unsafe and unfair working conditions (including theft of wages and sexual harassment); and lack of official identification that driver’s licenses provide. The “Green Light” law would afford undocumented immigrants access to driver’s licenses. Creating the “Green Light” license category would cost very little and would net NYS more money from fees and significant savings from more drivers having insurance. “Green Light” legislation was introduced, but did not pass, in the last few sessions of the state legislature.

Local efforts are pending to make Onondaga County a sanctuary county—a safe haven for immigrants where the local government would restrict the presence of Border Patrol agents in the Regional Transportation Center and not ask immigration status on any sheriffs calls.

Voting Rights

 The NYS Senate blocked passage of voting reform legislation in 2018. The Assembly passed two bills that were stalled in the Senate Rules Committee. One was the Voter Empowerment Act of New York, an omnibus law that facilitates the registration process. The second would have established early voting along with the start-up funds to implement it. Other voting access reforms would have provided for no-excuse absentee ballots and holding all primaries on a single date each year.

Medicare for All on the State Level

The New York Health Act (NYHA) would establish universal coverage singlepayer health insurance for New Yorkers. A recent comprehensive analysis of this proposal indicates that the act would increase total spending on healthcare services, but would more than offset those increases with reduced administrative costs; on balance healthcare costs would go down. The NYHA has passed the State Assembly several times but has not gotten a hearing or vote in the State Senate. Voters in the 2018 state legislative elections could change this if they cast votes in accordance with candidates' stated views on the NYHA. In the US as a whole, recent polls indicate that a slight majority of the population favors single-payer health coverage. The NYHA, if passed, would put NY in the vanguard of a major positive change in Americans’ access to health services.

Providing Court–ordered Funding to Urban Schools

The governor and the state legislature have persistently short-changed the Syracuse City School District and all of the other urban schools in NY. It’s time to hold Gov. Cuomo, our State Senators, and our Assembly Members accountable for failing our city’s children.

Women’s Reproductive Rights

The Assembly has passed the Reproductive Health Act and the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act several times, with the Senate blocking even a hearing. It is likely that a US Supreme Court with Brett Kavanaugh will continue to chip away at Roe v. Wade, potentially exposing NY women and families to obstacles to obtaining abortion and other procedures. This is especially important because since 1973 NY has never updated its abortion law, which has numerous flaws and inherent problems for women.

Criminal Justice Reform

On any given day, 25,000 New Yorkers are locked up, many before trial, in county jails across our state. We need to demand an end to cash bail, a TRUE speedy trial law as well as a discovery law that is transparent, prompt, mandatory and enforced. To learn more details about these critical criminal justice reforms, please visit


New York State and Local Races

Your participation in the CNY Solidarity Coalition and other activist organizations brings attention to these and other critical concerns and mobilizes people to take effective action. Interest in this year’s elections focuses on the Balter vs. Katko race for the 24th Congressional District, long with the Brindisi vs. Tenney race for the 22nd District. But there are many state and local races that merit your close attention.

Let's push forward candidates that will pass progressive legislation and set an example for the rest of the country. In order for NY to lead, we need to clean up Albany and make our state work for all of us. Educate others on the issues we are fighting for and ask candidates where they stand on these issues, then vote on November 6th to make your voice heard.

To Find Your Polling Location and Candidate Information visit:
A non-partisan voter guide by the
League of Women Voters of NYS.


53rd State Senate:

Rachel May defeated incumbent Dave Valesky in the Democratic primary on September 13, pending tabulation of absentee ballots. Valesky is on other ballot lines and hasn’t said whether he will continue to campaign. Rachel May is running as a principled, comprehensive progressive, spurred to challenge Valesky in part because of his
long-time participation in the Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC), which facilitated Republican control of the Senate during the last seven years. Janet Burman, the Republican candidate, has done nothing to distance herself from the multiple horrors of the Trump government.

50th State Senate:

Democrat John Mannion and Republican Bob Antonacci will face off in November in a bid to replace the retiring John DeFrancisco. Mannion presents himself as a progressive with strong experience as a union leader. Like most local Republicans, Antonacci also has done nothing to separate himself from the Trump government.


127th Assembly District:

Democrat Al Stirpe has been a thoroughly independent assemblyperson on issues such as supporting the Community Grid, despite getting push-back from some vocal people in his district. His Republican opponent Nicholas Paro is making opposition to the Community Grid a signature issue, with apparent dog whistle racism implicit in his attitude to the City of Syracuse, as well as reference to debunked concerns about emergency response times. Stirpe, in the meantime, needs readers from his
district to speak up in support of immigrant protections (like Green Light) and voting access reforms, so that he will be convinced to vote for progressive legislation in 2019.

128th Assembly:

Democrat Pam Hunter has no opponent. She greatly appreciates readers contacting her in support of progressive positions.


129th Assembly District:

Democrat William Magnarelli is opposed by Republican Edward Ott and Conservative Michael Hunter in what is normally a lopsided race.

Attorney General:

Letitia James won the Democratic primary against several other progressive candidates. She will face off against Republican Keith Wofford. This may be the most important statewide race. The NY Attorney General has been a leader of states filing lawsuits to defeat or delay many parts of the Trump agenda. The NY AG is currently suing the Trump Foundation for violations of NY laws, which may become an especially relevant strategy if Special Counsel Robert Mueller is dismissed and his report buried.


Andrew Cuomo won the Democratic primary against the very progressive Cynthia Nixon. Both will be on the ballot in November, although it’s not known whether Nixon will continue her campaign as a third party candidate. Cuomo will definitely face Syracuse’s own Howie Hawkins (Green Party) and Stephanie Miner (Serve America Movement), as well as Republican Marc Molinaro. Progressive voters will hear about the lesser of two evils. Is it better to vote for highly favored Cuomo to make sure
Molinaro doesn’t win? Progressive voters have a choice to make.

Onondaga County Sheriff:

Rarely has there been a starker contrast in a local race that should be surprisingly competitive. Democrat Mike Montes has spoken with progressive groups about comprehensive improvements to the Justice Center, gun safety and gun control, minimal cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and
Border Protection, and training for law enforcement on racism and police accountability. Republican Gerry Conway will continue status quo practices that profile people of color and facilitate ICE and CBP to arrest law-abiding long-time resident immigrants who lack documents.

NY 24th Congressional Race

Below are Dana Balter's responses from the Peace Action New York Candidate Survey:

What are your general views on US foreign policy and the role of diplomacy, the UN, and war in addressing today's complex emergencies?

US Foreign policy should be one of diplomacy. The US should use every avenue of diplomacy to come to a peaceful resolution with hostile countries. Engagement in military conflict should always be the last and final resort. There is no reason to put the men and women in this country and military at risk if the crisis can be solved peacefully. The hollowing out of the State department by the Trump Administration is causing the US to take a back seat on world affairs. It's allowing others to dictate the course of action on international policy. We must fully fund the State Department and reassert our leadership on world policy.

*   Support         x   Oppose



 *    Iran Deal

*     UN Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty

X     Modernizing the US nuclear weapons arsenal,     with 1.7 trillion in costs over the next 30 years.

*     Repeal of the 2001 Authorization
for the Use of Military Force.

*     US providing funding for the reconstruction of Iraq, which has requested $88 B for post-conflict reconstruction.

X     US provision of military support to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

*     H.R. 4391, the Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act, which would prohibit US funding from being used to support the detention of Palestinian minors in Israel.

*     Reform of gun laws, including universal background checks and bans on semi-automatic weapons sales.

X     Israel Anti-Boycott Act, and similar legislation that would restrict state funding (including on university campuses) to activists/organizations supporting the BDS movement.



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CNY Solidarity Coalition's State Legislation Action Team (SLAT) uses advocacy to achieve progressive legislation, policies, and practices on the state and local levels. SLAT functions for CNY Solidarity to help defend New York State against the Trump regime’s actions. Visit www.cnysolidarity.org to learn more and get involved.