Make the Road Action volunteers for Todd Kaminsky
Last Tuesday, many New Yorkers were focused on the presidential primaries, but there was another election that may be even more important for communities like mine. In a special election for State Senate in Nassau County, Democrat Todd Kaminsky won a seat long-held by former Republican Sen. Dean Skelos.
This result was key for three reasons.
First, it showed the importance of the votes of Latinos, immigrants, and people of color outside of New York City.
As a black Latino immigrant living on Long Island, I’ve seen first-hand how the region has changed in recent years away from being the overwhelmingly white suburban area it was once. Now, as reported by Newsday, it is likely that communities of color were the key difference in the victory of Todd Kaminsky by a relatively small margin, demonstrating the growth of our community on Long Island and our power. While we still have much work to do to continue registering and mobilizing voters, last Tuesday’s result shows that we are becoming more aware about the importance of voting in local and state elections, which often have more direct impact on our lives than federal contests. Communities of color—particularly Latino and immigrant communities—are growing in population and so too is our political weight.
Second, this choice will be important in addressing one of the main barriers blocking progress for our communities: the state Senate.
Many of the abuses suffered by our community in New York stem from state laws that fail to protect us. in many cases, we are even targeted. These laws—weak rent regulations, lack of police and criminal justice reforms, restrictions on accessing financial aid, and more—exist because for years we have had no one in the Senate from Long Island who represents us at the time of decision-making. Make the Road Action, of which I am a member, backed Todd Kaminsky because he committed to supporting our community—for example, by raising wages, expanding healthcare access, and ensuring higher education access. Meanwhile, the Republican campaign mailed anti-immigrant propaganda to excite ultra-conservative voters with a message akin to Donald Trump’s.
We will continue to fight on priority issues for our community—to pass the DREAM Act, strengthen rent laws, pass criminal justice reform, and more—and we are confident that Senator Kaminsky will be there with us.
Third, Senator Kaminsky's victory could be the first step in changing the balance of power in Albany.
Through November, Republicans are likely to maintain control of the Senate through an alliance with the Independent Democrats (IDC). But this special election showed that progressive candidates themselves are able to succeed against conservatives on Long Island—the first time we’ve seen that in years—and we expect to have several close state Senate elections in our region in November. With only one or two more wins, Democrats could take control of the state Senate, which would give us the opportunity to pass new laws that protect workers, young people who want to study, tenants, LGBTQ immigrants—in short, our entire community.
This election showed the growing power of our community. Now we must continue to build our strength and ensure that we are prepared to fight for our rights and vote in November, when the entire state Legislature is up for election.
Frank Sprouse-Guzman is a member of Make the Road Action and a Bay Shore resident. On Twitter: @MaketheRoadAct.