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Fanny Villarreal announces GOP bid to unseat Sen. Rachel May

A woman in a red outfit and black boots speaks to about 20 people standing in a brightly lit warehouse.
Scott Willis
Fanny Villarreal thanks her supporters gathered at Interior Innovations on E. Genesee St. in Syracuse Jan. 11, 2024. Her 93-year-old mother (in purple jacket) was among them.

Many Central New Yorkers might know Fanny Villarreal from her decade as executive director of the YWCA. She's also served as co-founder of the Syracuse Latino Festival. Spanish speaking residents definitely know her voice from the radio station she founded. Yet even more know her from her many other roles in the community. Now, Villarreal is turning her sights to politics.

 “I am Fanny Villarreal and I am running for state senator in the 48th district!” she proclaimed as dozens of supporters looked on.

Villarreal is seeking the Republican nomination to unseat Democratic incumbent Sen. Rachel May. Villarreal says May and the New York City contingent she votes with are out of touch with the real-world challenges facing Syracuse-area residents.

“Her votes are making life harder, more expensive and less safe for the people in our community," Villarreal said. "I will work tirelessly to restore fairness in our electoral process, I will repeal unaffordable regulations, criminal policies, and I will make sure the voice of our community, your voice, is heard.”

Villarreal refers to legislation that cleans some crimes from people’s records, moves local elections to even numbered years, and phases out gas stoves.

She was born in Peru and settled in Syracuse 30 years ago. Villarreal says she’s been engaging with people since her first job as a cashier at a local supermarket.
“Every job that I have since then was interacting with the community, so I was very in touch with everybody and then trying to do my best to help them help, to become a better person in our community,” Villarreal said. 

If she wins the GOP nomination, Villarreal faces an uphill battle in a general election. Voter enrollment in the district heavily favors Democrats. So far, one other Republican is seeking the GOP nomination. Real estate consultant Caleb Slater started campaigning a year ago.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at