NY State Senate: Meet the Candidates

As we rapidly approach the July 15th filing deadline here in New York, the biggest hurdle I find for our candidates is that not enough of New York’s voters and activists know who they are, the dynamics of the race, or how great a chance we have in 2010 to pick up more seats and secure our fragile majority in the State Senate.  

Despite all the attention lavished on Cuomo, the AG race, or the budget, the State Senate looks to be where the action is in New York politics this year, and news for Democrats so far is good.  Voter registration is trending in our favor, poll after poll shows voter dissatisfaction is directed primarily at GOP incumbents, and a recent story in The Capitol revealed the state SRCC to be in disarray.

In short, this could be a very good year for Democratic challengers hoping to unseat Republican State Senators.

But to win in November, these candidates need resources.  They need volunteers to knock on doors and make phone calls, and money to hire staff, print lit, and cut ads.  Before any of that can be achieved though, politically engaged New Yorkers need to know who are candidates are, and why they are running.  

So I’ve compiled a list of 15 campaigns that the New York Senate Dems are supporting in 2010.  I hope the community will take the time to get to know these candidates, and if you like what you read, donate a few dollars before we hit the filing deadline (July 11 is the last day to give), or visit their websites and sign up for their email updates.  

I know many people are frustrated with Albany, but if we want to see progress – on ethics reform, marriage equality, green jobs and a host of other issues – the first step is expanding the Democratic majority and evicting Republican Senators standing in the way of progress.  The campaigns below could be the votes we need to push these issues through the chamber an onto the Governor’s desk.


Regina Calcaterra (Suffolk County) After growing up in Suffolk County in poverty and foster care with her four siblings, Regina Calcaterra worked hard to put herself through college and law school. As a corporate fraud lawyer, she successfully represented the pension funds of police, firefighters, and teachers, all of which suffered drastic losses due to Wall Street fraud.

While working for the NYC Comptroller, Regina strengthened the enforcement of labor laws, and advocated for laws that increased the assets of state pension funds and the city treasury while decreasing taxpayer contributions. She is a strong proponent of government reform and fiscal responsibility, including toughening of accounting standards throughout New York agencies and authorities, rescission of numerous taxes and fees, and fair share of government services for Eastern Long Island.

Her opponent is 34-year incumbent Ken LaValle.  The district (SD-1)has a Republican enrollment advantage, but it is rapidly trending Democratic and Democrats have done well up and down the ticket in recent elections.

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Dave Mejias (Nassau County)  David Mejias has dedicated his life to fighting for the people of Nassau County. In 2003, Mejias was elected to the Nassau County legislature where he voted for budgets that resulted in a no tax increases for residents and improved bond ratings for the county. He was reelected to the legislature in 2005, and in 2006 he ran for Congress against Peter King. Despite being defeated, Mejias gave Peter King the toughest challenge since King’s first election in 1992. As a life-long resident of Nassau County, Mejias understands that taxpayers on Long Island want an affordable place to call home and a government that works. As Senator, Mejias will continue his service to Nassau and bring a fresh, strong voice to Albany.

Dave’s opponent is 21-year incumbent Kemp Hannon. The district (SD-6) flipped from a GOP to Democratic registration advantage in 2009, though down-ballot Republicans still outperformed Democrats in recent years.

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Carol Gordon (Nassau, Suffolk Counties) As a Mental Health Clinic Manager and Patient Advocate at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Carol Gordon served our veterans for 25 years. In this role, Carol developed a strong commitment to American Veterans and initiated sustainable support programs, including championing an effort to have the first women veterans admitted to an all male unit. She was active on the Ethics, Family Council, and various veterans committees, and also served as manager of the Federal Women’s Program for 22 Years. In 2008, Carol became a member of the National Organization of Women and the Chairperson of the mentoring and education committee for Urban Financial Services Coalition of Long Island, an organization that promotes financial literacy.

Her opponent is 12-year incumbent Charles Fuschillo, and the district (SD-8) recently shifted from a GOP enrollment advantage to a slim Democratic advantage.

George Sava (Nassau County) George Sava has recognized the need for real leadership in Nassau County. After years of inaction by Dean Skelos, Sava is running for Senate to reverse the decades of tax-hikes that have led Nassau County to be one of the most highly taxed counties in the country. While maintaining his private law practice, Sava served in the military for over nine years. He is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, and in 2004 he was deployed to the Horn of Africa. A former Republican, Sava became disillusion with the GOP’s continual contradictions, tax-hikes and dysfunction. As a husband and the father of three young children residing in Woodmere, George is running for the families in Nassau County that are finding themselves priced out of Long Island.

His opponent is Republican Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos.  Like other Western Long Island districts, SD-9 recently flipped from a GOP to Democratic enrollment advantage.

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Tony Avella (Queens County) Tony Avella has dedicated his life to fighting for middle-class families. In 2001, Tony won election to the New York City Council in the 19th District – Northeast Queens and was reelected with an overwhelming majority in both the 2003 and 2005 elections. As a member of the City Council, Tony refused the “lulu;” an unethical and additional taxpayer funded salary increase in return for loyalty to council leadership instead of taxpayers. Tony fought against and subsequently refused the 25% City Council pay raise, which he considered unethical.  In 2008, Tony ran in the Democratic Mayoral primary in New York City against Bill Thompson, who has since endorsed Tony’s run for state senate.  

Fed up with the pay-to-play status quo and political special interests that have consumed Albany, Tony’s reputation as a staunch reformist will help to bring real change to Albany. A strong advocate for more reform and transparency in government, Tony will fight to transform the State Senate so that it works for the people once again.

Tony’s opponent is 38-year incumbent Frank Padavan.  The district is heavily Democratic and Padavan held onto his seat by only a few hundred votes in 2008 against a underfunded Democratic opponent.

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Mike Kaplowitz (Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess Counties) Mike Kaplowitz is a Westchester County Legislator and small business owner with a history of political independence and a record of smart fiscal management. As a county legislator, he saved over $110 million dollars in wasteful spending, and helped preserve Westchester County’s AAA bond rating, saving the county millions more in higher interest costs. As a Senator, Mike Kaplowitz will work to help small businesses, create jobs, fight to put caps on property taxes and to restore and strengthen the STAR program.

Kaplowitz is running for an open seat being vacated by Republican Vincent Leibell (SD-40). The district has a Democratic enrollment advantage, and his most likely opponent will be Tea Party candidate Greg Ball.

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Didi Barrett (Dutchess, Columbia Counties) Didi Barrett, a citizen candidate, has been a leader in the not-for-profit community for more than two decades. She is a board member of the North East Dutchess Fund and the Millbrook Education Foundation; she was the founder of Girls Inc of New York and is spearheading the development of the new Dutchess Girls Collaborative. She has served on the boards of the NY Women’s Foundation, the Women’s Campaign Fund, NARAL-NY, Planned Parenthood NY and the American Folk Art Museum. For the last two years, she has been the coordinator for her town’s Community Day.

As a State Senator, Didi Barrett will use her skills as a creative problem solver to bring jobs to the 41st District and alleviate property tax burdens for all New Yorkers. She will work to reform Albany’s dysfunctional culture.

Her opponent is 20-year incumbent Steve Saland.  The district (SD-41) has a Democratic enrollment advantage, but down ballot results have been mixed in recent elections.

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Joanne Yepsen (Saratoga, Rensselaer Counties) A Saratoga County Supervisor, Yepsen has helped keep Saratoga the lowest taxed county in the state of New York. She is committed to a zero-tolerance policy for party politics that get in the way of open, honest, efficient government. She has been re-elected County Supervisor three times on a proven record of integrity that focuses on the issues and needs of the individuals, families and businesses she represents.

Her opponent is Joe Bruno’s hand-picked successor in a district with the largest share of independent voters in the state.

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Susan Savage (Schenectady, Montgomery, Fulton, Saratoga Counties) Since she became Schenectady County Legislative Chair, Susan Savage restructured and streamlined county economic development. She helped bring $400 million and created 3300 jobs. Her efforts have led to a revitalized downtown Schenectady and expanded suburban industrial parks in Rotterdam and Glenville. Savage’s new perspective also fostered cooperation between county and local government, saving taxpayer money. Her approach and success have resulted in a resurgent economy that is a model in upstate New York. Now, Savage is ready to bring her new perspective and new ideas to Albany.

Her opponent is 34-year incumbent Hugh Farley, and the district (SD-44) has a shrinking Republican enrollment advantage.

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Kathleen Joy (Onondaga County) As Syracuse Common Counsel-At-Large and Majority Leader Kathleen Joy has a history of working across the aisle to get things done for her community is challenging.  As a Councilor, she has sponsored legislation to promote green infrastructure, building standards and open space, and she also initiated many of the housing programs embraced by the Syracuse City Administration and adopted by the Common Council.  In addition to her civic work, Joy is a real estate attorney and small business owner who has helped many first time homeowners fulfill their dreams of home ownership.

Her opponent is 18-year incumbent and self-described “GOP Pitbull” John DeFrancisco.  Democratic and GOP enrollment in the district (SD-50)is at parity, and Democrats have edged out some down-ballot wins in recent years.

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Pamela Mackesey (Streuben, Yates, Schuyler, Chemung, Tompkins Counties) Pam Mackesey is running for State Senate because she is fed up with high taxes, continual budget deficits, and the dysfunction in Albany. As a union organizer, she witnessed first-hand the struggles that everyday Shuyler, Steuben, and Chemung county residents face. As a single parent, she raised her daughter while working two, sometimes three jobs. Serving on Ithaca’s Common Council for 6 years and currently fulfilling her second term on the Tompkins County Legislature, Pam is prepared to go to Albany to work hard for her constituents and change the way business is done.

Her opponent is six-year incumbent George Winner.  The District (SD-53) has a sizeable Republican enrollment advantage.

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Mary Wilmot (Monroe County) Mary Wilmot is a life-long resident of Monroe County who brings a strong family background of service to District 55. As Regional Director for the Governor and the New York State Senate, Wilmot has extensive knowledge of the challenges Upstate New York faces. Drawing on her experience in this role, she understands the need to rein in excessive government spending and high taxes in order to preserve our local economies. As a mother and working parent, Wilmot is also committed to revitalizing our upstate community job markets. Mary will bring her passion for the environment to the Senate, championing investment in clean energy alternatives and energy conservation that will bring new industries to New York and create good jobs in Monroe County.

Her opponent is 14-year incumbent James Alesi.  The district (SD-55)has a slim Democratic enrollment advantage and Democrats have generally won up and down the ballot in recent years.

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Robin Wilt (Monroe County) Robin Wilt brings a long-standing commitment to progressive causes to Monroe County. As community activist, real estate agent, and small business owner, Wilt has seen first-hand the economic challenges facing Monroe County. In 2008, Robin co-founded the Genesee Valley chapter of Progressive Democrats of America, a grassroots organization dedicated to working inside and outside the Democratic Party to advance progressive causes. As Senator, she will work tirelessly for the people of Monroe and champion a return to good government, good jobs and good leadership.

Her opponent is seven-year incumbent Joe Robach.

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Cynthia Appleton (Erie, Wyoming, Livingston, Ontario Counties)  Cynthia Appleton is a long-time community leader who is now stepping up to help us in Albany. She has spent 35 years in health care, the last 24 years as a critical care nurse. A lifelong resident of Wyoming County, her family roots in dairy farming and small business in western New York go back over a century. Now in her third term as a Village Trustee in Warsaw, Appleton has the experience to understand the impact Albany has on the local level and what needs to be done. A wife and mom, Appleton is also an award-winning director and actor in local theater and a member of Warsaw Grange 1088, the Warsaw Chamber of Commerce, and many other groups.

Cynthia is running for the seat being vacated by retiring GOP Senator Dale Volker.

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Marc Coppola (Erie, Genesee Counties)  As a former State Senator in the 60th District, and former Majority Leader of the Common Council of the City of Buffalo, Marc Coppola brings a wealth of legislative experience to his campaign. As Majority Leader of the Common Council, he made tough decisions and cut the council budget by 33%. His campaign for State Senate is a direct response to Senator Ranzenhofer’s failure to look beyond partisanship and work to address the economic challenges facing New York, and the needs of residents of Erie and Genesee Counties.

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Disclosure – I am the New Media Director for the New York Senate Dems.

5 thoughts on “NY State Senate: Meet the Candidates”

  1. Very interesting know the weaker points of the republicans in this front.

    I hope the dems can increase the majority in the New York state senate despite this can be a pro-republican year.

    Following your comments SD-11, SD-40 and SD-59 seems good options for win new seats. And they are more.

  2. The majority of these candidates will probably end up losing, but I am glad to know they are fighting the good fight and wish them nothing but the best.

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