Primary Night Upset: Valseky Not Likely to be Dem Nominee for State Senate, Losing to May

Sep 14, 2018

Rachel May (l) watches as returns come in shwoing she outpolled incumbent Dave Valesky in 53rd State Senate district, pending absentee ballot review.
Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News

Senator Dave Valesky will likely not be the Democratic Party nominee to continue in his State Senate seat after last night’s primary election results.  Rachel May’s grass roots effort proved strong enough to outpoll the incumbent.


Dave Valesky hasn’t faced primary challenges in any of his recent re-election bids.  But this time around he ran into an organized opponent and maybe a political wave of change.

Supporters at Melo Velo in Syracuse saw Rachel May take the democratic primary by a 52% to 48% margin.  That’s about a 600-vote difference and there are more than 1000 absentee ballots still to be counted, enough to change the result, though unlikely.  May has a sense that it’s a time when people are more willing to fight the cynicism in government.

Supporters gathered at Melo Velo in Syracuse, many of whom were part of a large group of campaign workers that helped her grass-roots campaign.
Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News

“It’s really exciting.  When I first started people said you don’t want to be a politician; people hate politicians.  But people have thanked me for stepping up, for giving people a choice, for being willing to take on the establishment.”

One of her key issues was fighting the Independent Democratic Conference, which included Valseky.  The group broke away from the Democratic Party to work with republicans on policies.  A statewide True-Blue effort tried to help democrats unite behind a majority in the senate.  Supports for Valesky gathered at X-O Taco on Fayette Street in Syracuse to await the primary election results. Elisa Morales says she supported the senator because she believes he has listened to minority groups within the community.

He’s been a champion of the people and people of all colors so I love that about him. He’s very mindful of diversity and our big melting pot here in Syracuse New York and I feel like he’s a trailblazer here in NYS so for me he’s a champion no matter what”

She says she hopes whoever is elected senator will be just as mindful of diversity as Valesky has been.

I hope whoever is going to step into those big shoes is ready to step into them and is open to conversations with all people- not just some people or some demographics”

Valesky has not conceded the race, awaiting the absentee ballot county

During a campaign that featured a lot of door-to-door work, May actually changed course a bit on what she’d tackle in Albany.

“I got into this partly because of the idea that we could pass healthcare for all.  But I have to say in the course of the campaign the election law has stood out as even more important.  The low participation rates, the things that New York does to suppress the vote are pretty shocking.  And then on top of that, the things New York does to make it hard to challenge an incumbent have also surprised me.” 

She says people are ready to defend democracy after feeling as though they – and their votes – have been taken for granted.

Once again, Valesky has not conceded and May has not declared victory awaiting the absentee ballot count.  If the vote holds, Valesky could also end up on the ballot on a third-party line. 

Other Primary results saw:

Andrew Cuomo win the democratic nomination over Cynthia Nixon; 

Kathy Hochul headed to re-election as Lieutenant Governor;

And … Letitia James win the democratic nomination for Attorney General over three others.