The state legislative races on November ballots can be like the filet of sole on a steakhouse menu — not what most people are looking for. Yet, though the governor’s race, and even congressional races, will draw the greatest interest on Nov. 6, elections for the New York State Senate are unusually important this year and deserve New Yorkers’ full consideration.
Democrats are in solid control of the Assembly, but Republicans control the Senate by one seat. By that diaphanous margin, Republicans have helped stymie progress on women’s rights, ethics reform, rent regulation, gun safety, voting rights and more.
Instead of compounding New Yorkers’ troubles, their legislators could be pushing back as Republicans in Washington try to take away reproductive rights and eliminate deductions for state and local taxes, dunning middle-class families to finance tax cuts for the rich.
When Democrats last controlled both houses of the State Legislature about a decade ago, it didn’t go so well. A bunch of crooks, who were later jailed, held an embarrassing amount of power. But this year there has been a wave of Democratic candidates worthy of enthusiasm. In the following three Senate races, in and around New York City, voters have some excellent choices.
James Gaughran, the Democratic candidate, nearly won this seat two years ago, and he deserves to win it this year. He promises a fight against the corruption that’s made itself at home in Albany. He supports banning outside income for legislators, closing the loophole that lets campaign money get funneled through secretive limited liability companies, and prohibiting the personal use of campaign funds. He also wants to make it easier to vote in New York, starting with early voting, easier party registration and letting people cast absentee ballots for any reason they choose.
What’s more, Mr. Gaughran supports stronger gun safety measures and, unlike his Republican opponent, Senator Carl Marcellino, he would write the protections of Roe v. Wade into state law, guarding against the likelihood that the Supreme Court will gut federal abortions rights.
Mr. Marcellino has held this seat since 1995, and his better efforts, mostly for the environment, were long ago. This is a time for new energy and a new voice. The Republicans have painted Mr. Gaughran as a New York City liberal and friend of Mayor Bill de Blasio — whom he says he has never met — but he has a background of public service on Long Island. A lawyer, he has been chairman of the Suffolk County Water Authority Board, a county legislator and member of the Huntington town board, and he is well grounded in local issues. The far better choice for this district is James Gaughran.
State Senator John Brooks, a Democrat, is an unusual politician. A volunteer firefighter and former member of the Seaford board of education, Mr. Brooks is unassuming. His colleagues in Albany have learned to respect his thoughtfulness on issues and the way he carefully studies up before speaking out — welcome traits in a politician. His concern about how the Trump tax bill will hit his constituents has made him press for more state education aid, with a goal of finding a better way than property taxes to fund schools. His experience as an insurance executive and director of risk management for Nassau County has helped him analyze the financial details of legislation.
His Republican opponent, Jeffrey Pravato, mayor of the village of Massapequa Park for five years, has shown less interest in understanding the issues than in divisive attacks on New York City, which he says wants to move public housing to Long Island and take Nassau County’s water, both ridiculous claims. While calling for a 2 percent cap on state funding increases, he wants to use public money for private and religious schools. Senator Brooks is a steady hand when one is needed, and he should stay in the job.
Twenty-Second District, southern Brooklyn.
Unlike Mr. Brooks, State Senator Martin Golden, a Republican former police officer who has represented the area for nearly 16 years, is a classic, affable politician. His bonhomie has played well in this heavily gerrymandered district, stretching from the diverse, gentrifying neighborhood of Bay Ridge to the mostly white, conservative areas of Gerritsen Beach and Marine Park. But voters should not let such good cheer distract from some of his questionable actions in recent years.
Mr. Golden has resisted, until recently, efforts to increase the number of cameras to enforce the speed limit in school zones despite his constituents’ demands for them. His own record on the road provides a possible explanation for this lack of interest: His car has been ticketed 38 times in five years, including one day in 2015 when it was cited for speeding through a school zone three times. Recently, a cyclist said a car in which Mr. Golden was a passenger forced him out of a bicycle lane. The cyclist claimed that Mr. Golden said he was a cop and could haul him off to the nearest precinct, a claim Mr. Golden denies.
The senator has also provoked questions about his ethics because he has spent almost $800,000 in campaign money over the years on his brother’s catering business.
His Democratic opponent, Andrew Gounardes, is an Eagle Scout and community activist who has been general counsel to Borough President Eric Adams. Along with more speed cameras, Mr. Gounardes says he would press for public financing of campaigns to create fairer elections as well as early voting to increase turnout — policy changes that Mr. Golden and his Republican colleagues have kept on hold. Mr. Gounardes wants to strengthen rent regulations and push to get commuter representatives on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board. He would pass the so-called red flag bill, allowing guns to be confiscated from people, including students, who have shown they may pose a threat of violence.
Mr. Gounardes would help end the obstruction to reform in Albany and would provide fresh energy in a stultified Senate.
By the way, as you consider what you’ll be doing on Nov. 6, let this gnaw at you: Last year, the race for a Virginia House of Delegates seat that would determine control of the legislature ended in a tie. The winner’s name was drawn from a bowl. (The Republican won.)