In what could be a stunning victory, Democratic challenger Rachel May leads incumbent state Sen. Dave Valesky by 600 votes in Thursday’s Democratic primary election in the 53rd State Senate District. May did not declare victory Thursday, and Valesky did not concede.
Absentee ballots still need to be counted, which could take a few weeks. While not declaring victory just yet, May said her campaign is about lifting up democracy.
“We haven’t had a lot of choices in a very long time,” May said. “This is showing people here in central New York that they can run for office. People can run for the first time. It’s showing people that your vote matters a lot.”
— Tom Magnarelli (@TomMagnarelli) September 14, 2018
May said while she is surprised by the result, she heard from a lot of people who are eager for change.
“We have to fight the cynicism in our government right now, that people who are just taking voters for granted, who are saying one thing, doing another,” May said. “People are fed up with that. I heard a lot of people just generally say, 14 years in office is just too long.”
May thanked Valesky for running a clean race. He was part of a group of eight breakaway Democrats, formerly known as the Independent Democratic Conference. Five other members of the IDC lost in Thursday’s primary, including former IDC leader Jeff Klein.
Valesky supporters like Onondaga County Legislator Peggy Chase, were disappointed with the outcome.
"I’m sorry for Dave because he really worked hard," Chase said. "I’m sorry that IDC thing came back to haunt him.”
Longtime Democratic Party activist Marty Nave worried about the long term future of the 53rd Senate District, noting Valesky had not had a GOP opponent in the four elections before this one.
“That was a guaranteed seat as a Democrat,” Nave said. “There are no guarantees that the Democrats are going to hold on to the seat.”
Republicans do have Janet Burman of Syracuse on the ballot in the race for the 53rd in November.