The New York State Senate is one of the most divided and chaotic legislative chambers in the country. But now that “Democrat” Pedro Espada lost in a primary to PFAW Action Fund young and genuine progressive candidate Gustavo Rivera, progressives have a chance to push through legislation with less acrimony and infighting. However, New York Republicans believe that they can retake the State Senate from the Democrats, who control just 32 of the 62 seats.
David Carlucci is the 29 year-old Clerk of the Town of Clarkstown, where he was recognized by Google for making headway in modernizing town government and making his office more transparent and accessible to the public. He recently announced his candidacy for an open Republican seat in the State Senate, and is running against one of the local GOP’s most powerful politicians: 17-year Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef.
Carlucci’s campaign is focused on enacting tougher ethics laws, real campaign finance reform, stronger environmental protection, and fiscal responsibility, and he has won the support of Congressmen Elliot Engel, John Hall, and Nita Lowey. A consistent proponent of LGBT rights and marriage equality, which has a chance of passing in the next legislative session, Carlucci is endorsed by the local Progressive Democratic Caucus and the Empire State Pride Agenda, which works towards LGBT equality.
Earlier this week Carlucci turned down a pay raise as a way to save money during the state’s ongoing fiscal troubles, and the NY progressive blog The Albany Project said that Carlucci has “shown himself to be statesman-like. He’s indicated that he believes that the burden of a poor economy and strained municipal budgets must be shared between the civil servants and the taxpayers.”
His Republican opponent, however, gave himself a $17,000 pay raise right before announcing that he wanted to leave his position as County Executive (to which he was reelected in 2009) to run for another office. Later, he gave a close aide a six-figure patronage appointment for a titular post that he did not make open for applications from the public.
Like Carlucci, Montana’s Kendall Van Dyk is running on a reform platform while challenging one of the state’s top Republicans: 2008 gubernatorial nominee State Senator Roy Brown. The Montana State Senate is one of the most closely divided legislative chambers in the nation, with Republicans holding a slim two seat majority.
Van Dyk, 30, was the state field coordinator for the conservationist group Trout Unlimited and an organizer for the environmentalist Northern Plains Resource Council. After serving as the regional director of the progressive group Big Sky Democrats, he decided to run for the State House at the age of 25 after seeing how big energy companies drove up energy prices to record levels following the Republicans’ disastrous deregulation plan.
As the Chair of the State House’s Committee on Fish, Wildlife and Parks, he worked to pass the state’s first stream access law in over two decades. Montana Conservation Voters called him a leader in promoting “clean, renewable energy” and rewarded his legislative efforts by naming him “Conservation Legislator of the Year.” Now, Van Dyk is taking on one of the Conservation Voters’ “Dirty Dozen” politicians in one of the state’s most competitive elections.
Since Republicans took control of the State Senate after the 2008 elections, Roy Brown voted in favor of weakening the minimum wage, supported a referendum to criminalize abortion, and attempted to undercut the power of the Environmental Protection Agency. In the last session Brown voted lockstep with the platform of the Focus on the Family and Chamber of Commerce state chapters on every single issue, while he received failing grades from environmental, civil rights, labor, and reproductive-rights groups.
Progressives in Montana have good reason to call him “Big Oil Roy”: after working in the petroleum industry for Marathon Oil, Roy Brown has been a consistent opponent of environmental legislation. He fought against the state’s $1 billion investment into “green-collar” jobs, wanted to provide oil and gas companies a tax holiday, and resisted efforts to give the public input into government and business decisions that effect the environment and public health. While Van Dyk has spent his career working towards protecting the environment, Roy Brown has spent his years in politics protecting polluters and oil companies.
With such closely divided chambers, the progressive and reform-minded voices of David Carlucci and Kendall Van Dyk are needed more than ever.
Please visit the PFAW Action Fund website and the candidates’ homepages today to see how you can help them win in these critical races!