On Sept. 13, our community will vote in the Democratic primary for the 34th Senate District.
I support the process of open and fair elections where anyone can run for office. However, I cannot sit idly by and allow people to peddle a false narrative and tarnish the work I have done on behalf of the 34th Senate District.
I have never voted for a Republican to lead the New York state senate. I have never given the Republicans the majority to run the New York state senate. I have never blocked one piece of progressive legislation that has been introduced in the New York state senate.
I am a lifelong Democrat and I have served the Bronx my entire career. I am the grandson of Hungarian Polish immigrants who fled the Holocaust, and a proud product of our public school system.
In 2008, the Democratic Party had control of the New York state senate for the first time since 1964. Within two years, that control — and the ability to pass progressive legislation — was lost. What was subsequently passed were tax hikes that crippled everyday New Yorkers and left the state budget in a $10 billion deficit.
Dysfunction and corruption plagued the New York state legislature.
At a time when the state senate could not effectively function, I created a conference of Democrats who decided to put people over politics and deliver results instead of lip service. By taking this stand, we were finally able to pass paid family leave, marriage equality, $15 minimum wage, the largest middle class tax cut in our state history, and the SAFE Act.
All of these progressive accomplishments took place while Republicans controlled the New York state senate.
I am proud of what we did. We found a better way to deliver results for you. However, today our state is under attack by dysfunction in Washington.
That is why I unified with the senate Democratic conference and became their deputy Democratic leader.
With a Democratic senate that is fortified and designed at its core, we will be able to stave off the potential effects of federal legislation which attempt to overrun our local laws, and government as a whole.
If we are to overcome this moment in our nation’s history, the state Democratic Party must be a big tent — one that is inclusive of all kinds of Democrats, and one that values and balances both ideology and practical results.
This election will determine whether there is room in our Democratic Party for diverse opinions and approaches to solve policies that have different outcomes depending on which part of the state you live in, whether downstate or upstate, constituencies can be forged into a political force for addressing these challenges.
Most importantly, this election will determine whether we have adequately embraced and prioritized electing Democrats to seats currently held by Republicans. It takes 32 state senators to form a Democratic majority, and more, if we are to be a strong, working majority for the long term.
In order to pass the progressive legislation that we have discussed throughout this election season — the Reproductive Health Act, voter reform, the New York Health Act — we must have a majority to bring this legislation to the senate floor, and then we must have enough votes to pass it.
Over the years, I have supported all of this progressive legislation and more, and will continue to do so. However, I also know first hand that these bills and others did not pass because some Democrats did not, and do not, support them. And they will not pass unless we elect more Democrats.
That is what is at stake. A civil war will not do. Distorting the facts will not do. Dividing and alienating Democrats will not do. Unity is the only path forward if we are to succeed.
For my part, I have taken the steps necessary to get us there, and I am prepared to see us through. I have been there for you in the past, and now I ask that you be there for me.
On Sept. 13, I need your vote because I love this community. This election is important. You are important. And the future of the 34th Senate District is important to us all.
The author is the state senator representing the 34th Senate District, and faces Alessandra Biaggi in the Democratic primary Thursday, Sept. 13.