Tag Archives: State Senate

State Senate Democratic majority: Every vote counts and we are counting every vote

11 Nov


Most of the focus of the 2010 election has been on Capitol Hill, but closer to home here in New York, there are three closely contested races where counts are still underway that will determine which party holds the majority in the now Democrat-controlled State Senate. These races are outside of New York City, in Nassau, Westchester and Buffalo, but we need to keep a watchful eye on them because of what’s at stake for communities of color and also because widespread voting irregularities throughout the state have called the new voting system into question. There are still thousands of absentee, affidavit and emergency ballots yet to be counted and we need to make sure New York in 2010 doesn’t become what Florida was during the 2000 presidential election. In these contests, only hundreds of votes separate three Democratic incumbents—Craig Johnson, Suzi Oppenheimer and Antoine Thompson—from their Republican opponents. The outcome will impact policies in New York for years to come as Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo takes the reins of power in the executive mansion. With control of one half of the State Legislature in the balance, voters deserve a full, fair and honest accounting of the ballots cast in these races, especially after previous electoral debacles. To that end, Democrats have now launched what we believe to be the largest election protection effort New York has ever seen. This was the first general election run on new electronic voting machines. Voters and poll workers were not accustomed to the new system. In Suffolk County, there have been wild swings in the initial counts in the 1st Congressional District and the 1st Assembly District. Meanwhile, in Nassau County, there are reports of ballots that weren’t scanned. Overall, there may be as many as 10 races in dispute throughout the state because of voting discrepancies. All across New York, we heard reports of ballots rejected because voters checked, rather than filled in, the bubble next to a candidate’s name. The law states that every ballot where the voter made their intention clear must be counted, but these ballots weren’t. This is an area that could require further legislation to protect voters. In addition, thousands of votes cast by men and women serving in the military, or who for some other reason were unable to travel to a polling place on Election Day, have yet to be tallied. These citizens have every right to be heard. Make no mistake, we will not allow a rush to judgment to quiet the voice of the people. Democrats have dispatched teams to make certain every vote is counted. Although Republicans want to declare a victory by press release, Democrats understand we have laws to ensure accuracy and fairness in close races. Two years ago, Democrats were able to gain a slim two-seat majority after 43 years of lost jobs, high taxes, inequitable education funding and a health care policy that disenfranchised New Yorkers. Since then, we’ve stimulated job creation, expanded health care access to the underserved, opened up state contracts to more minority- and women-owned businesses, created low-interest student loan programs and forced public authorities like the MTA to be more transparent. We’ve also advanced progressive policies such as reforming the Rockefeller Drug Laws and the NYPD’s invasive stop-and-frisk practices. Whether these policies continue rests on the outcome of these pivotal races. We believe that when the votes are fully counted, we will build on the victories Senate Democrats witnessed on election night. In Queens, Tony Avella, a proven advocate for his community, beat Republican State Sen. Frank Padavan, an incumbent who served for nearly four decades. In Rockland County, David Carlucci of New City was victorious against a Republican political giant, County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef. Carlucci’s win puts this seat in Democratic hands for the first time since 1983. And in Buffalo, Erie County Legislator Tim Kennedy beat Jack Quinn III, the scion of a Republican political dynasty. The importance of the outcome in these three other races cannot be overstated. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I am not interested in power for power’s sake, but I’m interested in power that is moral, that is right and that is good.” We must not and we will not let any voters be passed over by a flawed voting process or a pointless rush to meet an arbitrary deadline for power’s sake. We are ready to go through every ballot to make sure the people’s voice is heard.


Dems confident they will remain in power in state Senate

21 Oct
By CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff

As the midterm elections come close, questions linger about whether or not the Democrats in the New York state Senate will hang on and keep control.

After a having power for such a short time, Democrats are looking to maintain their majority. While all 62 seats are up for grabs, Republicans, with no members of color in their caucus, are seeking to regain a majority again after losing it in 2008 and getting it back briefly due to last year’s legislative coup. Continue reading

Amsterdam News Primary Endorsements: Bill Perkins, State Senate

26 Aug

30th Senatorial District: Bill Perkins

Bill Perkins has been serving the people of New York City for decades. Since his return to Harlem after graduating from college in 1972, he dedicated himself to his community. Serving as a New York City Council Member for eight years, he succeeded David Paterson as Harlem’s state senator and has served in the senate. He has been a supporter of education, health, care and civil liberties.

While some disagree with his recent stances on charter schools, he has been a vocal proponent for a good education for New York’s youth. And while he believes that the public schools are the best solution and has pushed for broad improvement and investment in the schools, he has recently conceded that charter schools run by not-for-profit institutions also have a place in the system and voted to expand the number of charter schools in a recent senate vote.

As a cancer survivor, he also knows the importance of access to heath care, and that is why he has been a huge advocate for early detection.

Perkins is a strong believer in the community in which he serves and has always fought for what he believes is right. He has served and community well and continues to do so.

His opponent in the race is not a newcomer to New York City politics. Basil Smikle has worked behind the scenes of New York politics for many years. A product of a family of Jamaican immigrants, his father was a textile worker and his mother, to this day, works as a special education teacher. He knows this city and is committed to the community. However, at this time, when the city and the state are in such dire straights, we need someone that has experience as an elected official.

That is why the New York Amsterdam News is endorsing Bill Perkins for senator of the 30th Senatorial District.

Sampson: Wading through the Albany mess

29 Jul

By CYRIL JOSH BARKER, Amsterdam News Staff

For more than 40 years, the Republican Party controlled the New York State Senate.

Former State Sen. Joe Bruno and his Senate cronies ruled the body with an iron fist. The then-minority Democratic Party had little power over the Senate legislative process or the state’s purse strings.

Making the situation worse, the New York State Republican Senate Conference has mirrored the Republicans’ federal Senate caucus: It has been the party of whites. There has not been a Black or Hispanic member in the New York State Senate in anyone’s political memory.

Republican domination and a lack of diversity has meant that over time, the Senate has given limited or no consideration to issues of importance to the Black community or other communities of color.

Times do change.

Bruno was forced to retire in 2008 and was convicted of abusing his power by the feds earlier this year. With the Democrats also taking a slim majority in the Senate election in 2008, Democrats have been given the opportunity to bring a more diverse conference to the forefront.

But politics can get messy, and last year, an internal fight among the Democrats caused a split in the Democratic Conference, leaving control of the Senate in question. Only the intervention of Gov. David Paterson in the process and the elevation of John Sampson to majority leader of the Democratic Conference brought back a degree of stability to the fragile caucus.

A little over a year since his elevation, Sampson said that while mainstream media is portraying him as a dormant politician, he is working hard, passing solid legislation and giving voters a clear choice this season.

“People shouldn’t support 44 years of people who have had dysfunction and chaos,” Sampson said in a recent interview with the Amsterdam News, referring to the Republican Party. “We are dismantling an infrastructure. [I AM NOT SURE WHAT THIS MEANS…CRS] We are not kicking the can down the road like the Republicans.”

While Democrats are taking the heat for the hold-up in the state budget, Sampson says the budget is 99 percent complete. He blames two factors for the hold up: the Federal Medical Assistance Percentages and concerns over tuition costs for CUNY and SUNY.

“We are working with the speaker because the money involving Medicaid may be called into question, especially for teachers,” he said. [WHAT DOES MEDICAID HAVE TO DO WITH TEACHERS? CRS] “As far as CUNY and SUNY, concern comes at a time of a great increase in tuition by 30 percent. We have to ask the question, ‘How can students manage?’ Over a 30-year period, tuition annually at SUNY has gone up 6 percent, and at CUNY, 5.5 percent.”

The senator said that job creation is the key issue in the state right now. If Democrats remain in control in New York State government, Sampson said more jobs would be created.

The recent passage of legislation for the Excelsior Jobs Program, for example, keeps close to half a million people working in the state, according to the senator. The program will provide job creation and investment incentives to firms in such targeted industries as high tech, clean technology, green technology, manufacturing and others.

“We need to make sure that we have fiscal reform to create economic opportunities in the state of New York,” he said.

With an upcoming election this fall, questions are rising about Black leadership when it comes to New York State government. No Blacks were tapped by the state’s Democratic Party to run for statewide offices, including governor, attorney general or state comptroller.

Sampson wants to reassure voters that even though there are no Blacks running for statewide office, the voice of the Black community will be heard in Albany because of the diversity of the State Senate. He also believes that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo will have a diverse administration if elected.

He said, “It’s not about Black or white; it’s about the people. We have a great team running. What we need is a person who can deal with the issues in the state.”

Running unopposed in the 19th District, which covers Brooklyn’s Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Brownsville and Canarsie neighborhoods, he said despite what has been written about him, his constituents are the judge and jury.

Some of Sampson’s recent legislation he has helped pass includes raising the cap of discrepancy purchases that a state agency can award to MWBEs and banning the NYPD from keeping an electronic database of those stopped and frisked.

“They see that I have been taking care of home,” he said. “I’ve been trying to provide A- plus service, but there are still a lot of kinks I could’ve worked out. The bottom line is results.”