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Politics & Government

Rachel May Mounts Primary Challenge to Sen. Dave Valesky

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Scott Willis
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WAER News

A Syracuse resident who’s been politically active behind the scenes for decades has decided it’s her turn to enter the fray as a candidate.   Rachel May is seeking the democratic nomination for the 53rd district senate seat held by Dave Valesky.   She wants to make a few things clear:

"I am a mother, an educator, a concerned citizen, and a democrat," she declared.

For the purposes of her campaign, she says that last identifier is most important.  Dave Valesky was first elected in 2004, and since 2011, he has caucused with several other democrats as part of the independent democratic conference, or IDC.  May says the problem is they support the republican majority and block progressive legislation.

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Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
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WAER News
Rachel May was joined by her daughter Sophia and husband Thomas Brockelman.

"They say it's their way of getting things done.  But Dave Valesky is in favor of campaign finance reform, ethics reform, criminal justice reform.  And, still he makes sure these things never come up for a vote."

May says one of the more egregious moves came last March when the IDC walked out of a vote to fully fund public education.  She says the senate has come so close to passing other legislation that protects the women’s reproductive rights, as well as those of immigrants and transgender people.  But May says it’s also important to stand up for the city of Syracuse on another divisive issue:

"No one in the senate, certainly not my opponent, is standing up for the single most important thing we can do to assure a brighter future for Syracuse.  That is tearing down the I-81 viaduct, and redesigning that corridor as a diverse, vibrant hub of job creation and development for the whole region," May said to cheers and applause.

May is currently Director of Sustainability Education at Syracuse University, and has spent much of the past three decades in higher education.  

Political activism is in her blood.  Her maternal grandfather was John Caughey, who she says stood up to McCarthyism in the 1950s, and marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from Selma to Montgomery in the 1960's.  

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Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
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WAER News
Dozens of supporters came out to show their support for May.