An Interview with NY Senator David Valesky By Luke Perry
I recently spoke by phone with New York State Senator David Valesky (D-53) about party, electoral, and legislative politics.
When asked about the Democratic Party in New York, Senator Valesky does not believe the party is divided. There is a misperception that the Independent Democratic Conference is new, but it has been around for seven years. According to Valesky, the conference was formed during a “chaotic” period in state history marked by “dysfunctional” politics in Albany.
The IDC was subsequently developed from the belief “there has to be a better way to do public business.” The primary motivation was to “put policy ahead of partisanship.”
Fiscal responsibility was one key focus. Valesky believes this gave people a government in New York where people “could be proud of getting things done.” According to Valesky, the conference has been “very successful.”
When asked if unified party control of both chambers would help get things done, Senator Valesky thought it was difficult to say. This would require a “case by case, issue by issue evaluation.”
Valesky does not believe the IDC empowers Republicans. The group constitutes a separate third conference, and does not conference with the GOP.
When asked about his understanding of Democratic principles, Senator Valesky was “confident in the work I’ve been able to do” from an ideological perspective. Valesky believes he has a positive record to run on, including his advocacy of same sex marriage and public education, minimum wage increases, and pro-choice legislation, to name a few.
When asked about his relationship with liberal grassroots organizations, Valesky said he has spoken with many of them, and is “anxious to continue to do that” and hear various perspectives on politics and governance.
Valesky looks forward discussing his record during the primary campaign, which will begin after the legislative session is complete. This will include his “work to make a difference locally,” such as securing more resources for schools and infrastructure, including water infrastructure. Valesky believes the response of the electorate will ultimately reflect the accomplishments of the incumbent.
When asked about Governor Cuomo, Senator Valesky believes the governor is “doing well.” Valesky has supported many of his legislative initiatives.
“The great challenge in our state,” Valesky explained, “deals with geography.” Half of the population lives in one city, creating a divide between upstate and downstate. In addressing issues, such as economic development and infrastructure, Valesky advocates for “upstate getting its fair share” of attention and resources.
When asked about Representative John Katko (R, NY-24) and Representative Claudia Tenney (R, NY-22), who represent Valesky’s constituents in the House of Representatives, Valesky emphasized how federal decisions have an impact locally. Valesky cited how the state gets one-third of its resources from the federal government.
Senator Valesky said he is doing everything he can to support the candidacy of Anthony Brindisi, who he described as an “outstanding state legislator.” John Katko’s seat has been less clear until recently, when Dana Balter emerged as the Democratic frontrunner. Valesky will interact with her more going forward. For now, the NY-22 is “more in focus” because Assemblyman Brindisi is “exactly the kind of person we need in Washington” right now.
Luke Perry (@PolSciLukePerry) is Chair and Professor of Government at Utica College.