Wonky Wednesday:  NY Senate District 53


As a service to provide information to the voters of Onondaga County I present my third installment of Wonky Wednesday.  Each Wednesday I am going to do a post on my Tumble blog focusing on registration data in Onondaga County.  The last 4 years have proven to reshape Onondaga County and New York State. These changes have made Democrats more competitive in traditionally Republican areas.  This series is meant to show how these demographics will shape the upcoming November election.


This week we dive into the 53rd NYS Senate district.  The 53rd Senate district has a dramatic Democratic registration advantage.  This district in 2012 was drawn to protect incumbent Senator and IDC member Dave Valesky. It was the most democratically drawn district in upstate NY.  One of those reasons for that was the IDC alliance with the Senate Republicans allowed them to draw this seat and feel it was “safe”. That changed in 2018.


Rachel May (D) is the incumbent Senator for NY 53.  She was able to ride a Democratic wave into office in 2018 despite never running for office before.  The “No IDC” movement helped her beat the incumbent Dave Valesky in a tightly fought primary.  Her 3.6% win on Primary night came as a surprise to much of the area.  She went on to defeat Janet Burman by 14.32% however Dave Valesky stayed in the race without campaigning.  Senator May was able to chair the Aging committee which has come under the spotlight investigating NY response to COVID-19, became a leading  voice for electoral reform from her spot on the Elections Committee and authored nationally recognized legislation on protecting our water from out of state fracking waste.


Her main opponent in 2020 is Sam Rodgers (R).  Mr Rodgers is a former Syracuse University football player and an attorney.  This is his first run for office and will appear on the Republican, SAM, and independence line.  Complicating his run is the appearance of Russel Penner on the Libertarian line which could draw votes from the right side of the electorate.


#NY53 was drawn to be a Democratic district in 2012.  Democrats have increased their advantage in this district as well with a large plurality of the district (41%) In fact the GOP (27%) only has slightly more enrolled than non-enrolled voters (24%).  The only hope for an opponent against Rachel May is to merge non-enrolled and GOP voters into a solid block but the geography of the district makes that harder to do.


The City of Syracuse dominates this Senate district which leads to its strong partisan lean.  The suburban towns of Onondaga County, Madison County, and part of Oneida all have a slight GOP lean.  However the non-enrolled voters of Syracuse tend to vote Democrat in dramatic ways. Which makes any strategy of countering the Democratic advantage by strict partisan voting to be flawed.  A successful opponent would need suburban and rural Democrats to join in, making this seat extremely hard to flip, especially in what is seen as a Democratic wave year.


Senator May’s victory over Burman was a bit muted in 2018 as Dave Valesky remained on the Independence and recording over 11k votes.  2020 will be a test of whether Senator May has consolidated the Democratic electorate in the district.  Aiding her will is the over 400 more Democratic voters in the district and the expected surge in turnout a Presidential election will bring to the district.  


Senator May was a recent guest on my Zoom with Czarny Town Hall series.  You can watch that conversation here or listen to it on Spotify.  If you want to help her campaign visit her website at http://www.rachelmay.org/

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