48th State Senate District Map, courtesy of the State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment

In New York’s newly redrawn 48th State Senate District, which includes the city of Syracuse, Sen. Rachel May, one of upstate New York’s most prominent progressive Democrats, faces competition from Julie Abbott, a moderate Republican with an extensive local resume.

May, who lives in Syracuse, is a two-term state senator who chairs the Senate’s Committee on Aging and the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources. Abbot, based in Skaneateles, is on her second term as an Onondaga County legislator, representing Camillus, Marcellus, Otisco, Skaneateles, and Spafford. She is running on the Republican Party line.

A third candidate, Justin Coretti, is running under the Conservative Party line. Coretti, a Cayuga County-based attorney, has not raised any funds based on four “no-activity” reports filed with the state’s Board of Elections.

The district in play spans the majority of Onondaga County, including the city of Syracuse and most municipalities to its west and south. The entirety of Cayuga County is also part of the district.

Central Current asked the candidates six questions regarding their professional and public service backgrounds, as well as the issues facing their district. The candidates submitted their answers in writing.

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What is your professional or public service background? How would that influence your time in office?

May: “​​I was an educator at the high school and college level before winning office in 2018. My educational background has helped me be an effective listener and problem solver and gives me a broad understanding of issues across this diverse district. I also have legislative experience from my four years in office, during which I have become one of the most productive and effective legislators in state government, with a reputation for excellent constituent service and a long list of significant legislation and budgetary victories.”

Abbott: “As an Onondaga County legislator, I supported lowering taxes by record amounts, investing in infrastructure around White Pine Commerce Park to lure Micron to our community, and fighting poverty. I chaired the Health and Human Services Committee during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, where I focused heavily on keeping our most vulnerable safe and a strong economic recovery. As current chair of the Environmental Protection Committee for the County Legislature, I have also secured six-figure investments to fight invasive species such as water chestnuts and promote clean drinking water and common sense watershed management. I invite you to meet me in the middle so that I can expand my proven track record of success representing us.”

Why are you running to represent the 48th State Senate District?

May: “I have been successful advocating for the needs of Central New York and want to build on my experience and success. My long history of working on water quality and watershed governance issues fit the concerns of Finger Lakes and Lake Ontario shoreline residents. Syracuse has benefited from my advocacy for education funding and fair housing, and I will bring that energy to Auburn as well. And as chair of the Senate Commission on Rural Resources I’ve been able to get real action on rural broadband and rural health issues.”

Abbott: “As a mother of five boys, including one in heaven, I am a mom on a mission to bring a real voice for all of us to Albany. Everything I do is to ensure a bright future for my children and the community in which they live, so that they can prosper right here in Central New York one day.”

What do you see as the biggest issue in your district? How do you plan on addressing it?

May: “People are struggling in the current economy. We need to address that by: 

  1. Making sure the job growth we are seeing results in good-paying jobs for local people, which means investing in job training in schools, colleges, and apprenticeship programs. 
  2. Bringing down the cost of rent to reduce poverty and homelessness through policies and investments to promote affordable housing. 
  3. Addressing food insecurity by providing access to more fresh food in schools, senior centers, and neighborhoods.”

Abbott: “I hear it over and over again. Public safety and cost of living are your top concerns, so public safety and cost of living are my top priorities. To support safe communities, we need to roll back catch and release bail policies that give out ‘get-out-of-jail-free cards’ to people arrested on charges of arson, endangering the welfare of a child, and even child pornography, to name a few. We need to support local law enforcement that works so hard to keep us safe by addressing policies that make their jobs more difficult like the HALT Act and Discovery Reform. To bring affordability back to CNY, we need to cut taxes and support common sense policies that will foster lower energy costs and healthcare costs. We need to enact a permanent state spending cap because just imagine what would happen if you, your family, or my family spent our own dollars as frivolously as New York state loves to spend our tax dollars. We must improve our business climate by eliminating job killing regulations and protecting our small businesses from unemployment insurance tax increases.”

Do you support a person’s right to get an abortion? If so, are there any abortion bans you would support?

May: “I support the right to abortion. I believe that abortion is health care and decisions about abortion should be between a woman and her doctor.”

Abbott: “Yes, I support women’s reproductive rights. As a mother who lost a child, this is a very sensitive issue. First and foremost, unless in the rare cases of rape, incest, or the life of the mother, I find abortion in the third trimester abhorrent. In fact, four of my five children were born between four and six weeks early. I am also firmly against taxpayer-funded abortions and New Yorkers’ taxpayer dollars being used to bring mothers here for abortions. There is also nothing ‘pro-women’ about making it such that a minor can undergo an abortion in New York without their parents or legal guardians ever finding out, and it does not even need to be performed by a doctor!”

How do you plan on supporting New York’s goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while in office?

May: “I have been a very strong advocate for the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act and will work to make sure the resources are there to implement it. I support a rapid transition to electric transportation and electric buildings and investment in green energy, efficiency, and waste reduction.”

Abbott: “As chair of Environmental Protection for the Onondaga County Legislature, I garnered the endorsement of the Sierra Club in my last county legislative race because of my dedicated advocacy for our environment. I have led the charge on several watershed protection initiatives, and I have learned that the best way to build a cleaner and brighter future for all of us is through incentives, not restrictions or additional penalties. I do not support harsh and sweeping unfunded mandates that kick the costs of preserving the environment onto working families.”

Do you think the set of reforms passed by New York’s Legislature in 2019 commonly known as “bail reform” should be changed? If so, how?

May: “The main drivers of crime are poverty, substance abuse, trauma, and mental illness. Locking people up without trial on nonviolent charges simply because they cannot afford bail makes all of those factors worse and should be used very sparingly. Now that we are seeing data on re-arrests, we know that the reforms did not cause an increase in rearrests; we need to look at real causes of rising crime and address those, not react to overheated partisan rhetoric.”

Abbott: “We need to give judges the authority to keep true threats to public safety behind bars. In addition to bail reform, we need to address discovery reform and the HALT Act, which take tools out of law enforcement and corrections officers’ toolbox to keep us safe.”

Election Day is Nov. 8. The polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Got a tip, question or story idea? Contact Central Current at newsroom@centralcurrent.org.

Follow Eddie Velazquez @ezvelazquez.

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