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In possible stunning victory, May leads Valesky, waiting on absentee ballots

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News (file photo)
Rachel May (left) watches the results.

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.”

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.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.