Rachel May

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO Public Media

As advocacy groups continue to pressure Albany on various causes ahead of this year's state budget, a statewide educational equity tour made a stop in Syracuse, last week. A collection of local officials and other advocates said New York’s schools are underfunded by $4 billion.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO Public Media

Central New York’s Republican state representatives and some local gun owners have reacted negatively to some of the new gun safety measures that passed the legislature last week. Republicans said they were left out of negotiations with the Democratic-controlled Assembly and Senate.

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The 2019 legislative session in Albany promises to yield some important new policies for the state, including major reforms to elections, campaigns, ethics, and healthcare. This week, Grant Reeher is joined by Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli (D-Syracuse) and Sen. Rachel May (D-Syracuse) to discuss this year's legislative session. 

Dave Valesky (D-Oneida) has represented the state Senate's 53rd District since 2005, but is leaving office after being defeated in a September primary by state Senator-elect Rachel May. This week, Valesky joins grant Reeher to talk about his career in the Senate, and politics in general in Albany. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Proponents of election reform in central New York are urging lawmakers to take action on the issue when they go back to Albany in January.  

With Democrats in control of the State Senate for the first time in several years, there’s optimism that a fair elections package can make it through the legislature. The proposal would create small donor public financing, limit the influence of big money, and make it easier to vote, by way of automatic voter registration and early voting, among other things.

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Central New York Democratic State Sen. Dave Valesky, first elected in 2004, was one of six members of the former Independent Democratic Conference to lose in primaries this year. That has opened the 53rd Senate District seat up to Democrat Rachel May, who defeated Valesky, and Republican Janet Burman, both of whom live in Syracuse. The winner will move the district from the center to either a more progressive or conservative ideology.

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The upcoming midterm elections are the most closely watched midterms in at least a generation. In New York, control of the state Senate hangs in the balance. Republicans hold a slim one seat majority in the chamber, and one race could flip control of the Senate to the Democrats. This week, Grant Reeher moderates a debate between the two candidates running in the 53rd District: Democrat Rachel May, who defeated 7 term incumbent Dave Valesky in a September primary, and Republican Janet Burman. 

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

Rachel May has defeated longtime incumbent state Sen. Dave Valesky in a primary and will be the Democratic nominee in the race for the 53rd state Senate District in November. 

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

If voter turnout is any indication, last week’s primary race in central New York could mean a more active electorate is in the making. 

Onondaga County Democratic Elections Commissioner Dustin Czarny estimates 24 to 25 percent of registered Democrats came out to the polls in Thursday’s state and local primary. That’s a lot more than usual for a state and local election.

"It was 8 percent in 2014, 8.6 percent the last time we had a governor’s primary," said Czarny. "So to have 24 percent in Onondaga County is incredible.”

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

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. 

WRVO Public Media

Across the country, Democratic Party primaries have generated a lot of attention, enthusiasm and some surprising results. Primaries in New York have figured in this trend. This week, host Grant Reeher moderates a debate between the two candidates vying for the Democratic nomination in central New York's 53rd state Senate district, incumbent Sen. Dave Valesky and challenger Rachel May. 

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO Public Media

As the New York State Fair gets underway, immigration rights advocates are calling attention to the need for undocumented farm workers to be able to drive. Undocumented workers are currently barred from obtaining a driver’s license. 

Tom Fazzio / Syracuse University

Across the country, mainstream Congressional Democrats are being challenged in primaries by more progressive, grassroots-supported candidates. It's also happening in state and local races. This week, Grant Reeher talks with Rachel May, who is challenging central New York state Senator Dave Valesky (D-Oneida) in a primary this September. 

Note: This conversation was recorded June 5, one day after the Oneida County Democratic Committee endorsed May in her race with Sen. Valesky.