Campaigns & Elections

Tracking the contested state Senate primary races in New York

At least seven Democratic incumbents are facing primary challenges, and competitive races are underway for open seats in Brooklyn and Staten Island.

Next month’s state Senate primary has at least seven Democratic incumbents facing challenges, plus competitive races for open seats in Brookly and Staten Island.

Next month’s state Senate primary has at least seven Democratic incumbents facing challenges, plus competitive races for open seats in Brookly and Staten Island. Alan Schein Photography

Early voting for state Senate races has come and gone as candidates make their last appeals to voters ahead of the Aug. 23 primary. The chaotic elections cycle has been shaken up by redistricting and resultant lawsuits. Candidates looking to capitalize on the new district lines, whether to fill new open seats or to unseat a sitting lawmaker, have at last entered the home stretch. New York City gained two new seats in the 63-seat chamber thanks to reapportionment. (The Center for Urban Research at The CUNY Graduate Center created a helpful tool to visualize the new districts here.)In southern Brooklyn, former Assembly staffer Iwen Chu is running unopposed for a brand new Democratic District 17. The other new seat, District 59 that stretches through parts of Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan, has a closely-watched primary pitting progressive and moderate interests against each other. That dynamic is playing out in other races as well, with both progressive and moderate insurgents looking to oust incumbents in newly drawn districts. Those include Miguelina Camilo’s bid to unseat state Sen. Gustavo Rivera in the Bronx as a centrist with party support and the Democratic Socialists of America-backed David Alexis’ bid to take down state Sen. Kevin Parker. Plus, more than one lawmaker decided to retire this year, like state Sens. Diane Savino and Phil Boyle, leaving their seats up for grabs. Here’s a look at some of the most competitive state Senate primaries. As usual in New York, most of these are Democratic primaries, as Republicans have traditionally cooperated to avoid primaries for the Legislature. Cash on hand was last reported in many cases in mid-August filings. Fundraising numbers are as of Aug. 17.

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr.

First elected: 2008

Current district: 15, parts of Queens from Maspeth to the Rockaways

New district: 15, parts of southwestern Queens, including Rego Park and Richmond Hill

Reported cash on hand: $274,045

Challengers: Japneet Singh, Albert Baldeo

Prior to the finalization of new state Senate lines, Japneet Singh, who just ran for New York City Council, was planning to run for an open seat. Singh, who would be the first Sikh state legislator, is a former taxi driver and accountant campaigning as a “voice for the working class.” He has been endorsed by progressives like New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and former lieutenant governor candidate Ana María Archila, though his campaign is shying away from the “progressive” label, in the relatively conservative district – even against state Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr., who voted against codifying the right to an abortion in state law. Singh has lagged behind fellow challenger Albert Baldeo, president of the Alliance of South Asian American Labor’s Richmond Hill chapter, in fundraising. Baldeo hasn’t yet filed his most recent fundraising numbers. Baldeo, who had about $89,000 on hand by late July, is a perennial candidate with a checkered past, who was convicted in 2014 of interfering in an FBI investigation of campaign finance corruption charges associated with his City Council run. Baldeo unsuccessfully ran for Assembly Member David Weprin’s seat in 2020 and again in the June 2022 primary, but did successfully unseat an incumbent Democratic district leader in the June primary.

State Sen. Jabari Brisport

First elected: 2020

Current district: 25, parts of Brooklyn from Red Hook to Ocean Hill

New district: 25, parts of Brooklyn from the Brooklyn Navy Yard to Brownsville

Reported cash on hand: $60,098

Challengers: Renee Holmes, Conrad Tillard

State Sen. Jabari Brisport, a former teacher, is one of two candidates backed by the Democratic Socialists of America in the state Senate. He’s running for reelection with the group’s full support, and while he doesn’t have much money on hand for an incumbent, is also backed by unions including 1199SEIU and District Council 37. New York City Mayor Eric Adams made waves as early voting got underway by endorsing Conrad Tillard. Tillard formerly known as Conrad Muhammad, was a minister in the Nation of Islam and a protege of Louis Farrakhan in the 1980s and 1990s. He built a reputation as a mediator for rappers, earning him the nickname “the hip-hop minister.” He has since become a Christian pastor in Bedford-Stuyvesant and is running as a more moderate alternative to Brisport, with endorsements from state Sen. Kevin Parker and former New York City Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr. Tillard got heat for his past anti-Semitic, anti-gay marriage and anti-abortion comments, but the candidate said he has grown since then, and shouldn’t be defined by his past. Tillard reported $56,927 on hand in mid-August, with a major donation from the Striving for a Better New York PAC, which is associated with Adams and intends to boost centrist candidates. Also running is Renee Holmes, who hasn’t yet filed a disclosure.

State Sen. Andrew Gounardes

First elected: 2018

Current district: 22, parts of Brooklyn from Bay Ridge to Gerritsen Beach

New district: 26, western Brooklyn from Dumbo to Fort Hamilton

Reported cash on hand: $362,959

Challenger: David Yassky

Former New York City Council Member and Bloomberg-era Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky was expected to run in an open race to succeed retiring state Sen. Diane Savino, but ultimately settled on challenging state Sen. Andrew Gounardes, whose Bay Ridge base was redistricted into the newly drawn District 26. Gounardes is being treated as the incumbent and is picking up all the major endorsements, but Yassky has friends in high places – and a base in vote-rich Brooklyn Heights. Yassky was recently a member of New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ transition team. He served as the director of state policy under then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo from 2019 through 2021. From 2014 through 2019, he was the dean of the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University. Yassky had $96,463 on hand by mid-August – amounting to a significant fundraising gap between him and Gounardes.

State Sen. Robert Jackson

First elected: 2018

Current district: 31, parts of Manhattan’s west side from Inwood to Chelsea

New district: 31, parts of Upper Manhattan and the western Bronx

Reported cash on hand: $149,893

Challengers: Angel Vasquez, Ruben Dario Vargas, Francesca Castellanos

Angel Vasquez was the chief of staff to former Independent Democratic Conference state Sen. Marisol Alcantara, who Robert Jackson unseated in the anti-IDC wave in 2018, but the gay, 32-year-old Washington Heights resident said his campaign is more about education policy than avenging Alcantara’s loss. He’s reported $78,890 on hand as of Aug. 12, but has gotten $125,000 worth of outside support from a pro-charter school super PAC. Vasquez is a former junior high teacher with a master’s in public administration from Columbia University, who more recently was deputy political director at the United Federation of Teachers. The union is backing Jackson, but Vasquez has the support of Rep. Adriano Espaillat’s powerful political operation. Racial politics could be key in this race as well. Jackson is Black, while the district’s population is majority Hispanic. Also running are two perennial candidates: former NYPD employee Ruben Dario Vargas and Spanish-language interpreter Francesca Castellanos. Neither have filed campaign finance reports by the deadline.

State Sen. Anna Kaplan

First elected: 2018

Current district: 7, parts of northeast Nassau County bordering Queens

New district: 7, parts of the North Shore of Long Island from Great Neck to Oyster Bay

Reported cash on hand: $518,286

Challenger: Jeremy Joseph

Jeremy Joseph is a programmer and an organizer with the Nassau County chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. He doesn’t have DSA’s formal support, but he’s running on a progressive platform highlighting the moderate state Sen. Anna Kaplan’s lack of support for the New York Health Act and parole reform. His $15,944 on hand as of late July was dwarfed by the incumbent, who sent a March fundraising email stating Joseph’s “motivation to run seems to be rooted in his disapproval of (her) strong support for the State of Israel and strong stand against the antisemitic (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement.” The DSA supports the BDS movement, and Kaplan’s move is likely an attempt to appeal to the prominent Jewish population in her district.

State Sen. Brian Kavanagh

First elected: 2017

Current district: 26, parts of lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn waterfront

New district: 27, lower Manhattan

Reported cash on hand: $143,271

Challengers: Vittoria Fariello and Danyela Egorov

State Sen. Brian Kavanagh was going to face a vigorous challenge from Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou – but she then decided to run for Congress instead. Still, he has two fellow Manhattanites as challengers. Democratic District Leader Vittoria Fariello, a lawyer, is running on an anti-development platform and said Kavanagh hasn’t been active enough on those causes. Fariello has support from New York City Council Member Christopher Marte and some prominent local political clubs, including the Downtown Independent Democrats. She has reported $24,999 on hand as of Aug. 12. Danyela Souza Egorov, a charter school advocate, reported $11,477 on hand after loaning her campaign $70,000. Both are running uphill battles against Kavanagh, who is running with the power of incumbency and deep-pocketed interest groups.

State Sen. Kevin Parker

First elected: 2002

Current district: 21, parts of Central Brooklyn, including Park Slope and Flatbush

New district: 21, parts of central and southern Brooklyn, including Flatbush and Mill Basin

Reported cash on hand: $102,767

Challengers: David Alexis, Kaegan Mays-Williams 

Kevin Parker, the chair of the state Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee, just had a poor showing in the 2021 New York City comptroller Democratic primary. But he did well in his own district and has been gathering big money and endorsements as he faces off against two primary challengers. The Democratic Socialists of America-backed David Alexis, who reported $80,219 on hand as of late July (He was late to file his August disclosure), could theoretically win by appealing to the left and fellow West Indian immigrants like himself. The new district may be difficult for a progressive, and incumbents fared well in the June Assembly primaries. Kaegan Mays-Williams is a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan who got some attention for her prosecution of swindler Anna Sorokin. She had $58,164 on hand as of late July. The incumbent was late in filing his disclosure, just like he was late in filing his previous two disclosures, but he has more money than either challenger with $102,767 on hand.

State Sen. Gustavo Rivera

First elected: 2010

Current district: 33, parts of the northwestern Bronx from University Heights to Van Nest

New District: 33, parts of the northwestern Bronx from Riverdale to Van Nest

Reported cash on hand: $477,721

Challenger: Miguelina Camilo

Miguelina Camilo was the Bronx Democratic Party’s pick to run for the open seat being vacated by state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, who is running for Congress. After the new maps came out, she retained the county’s support – even after state Sen. Gustavo Rivera chose to run in this substantially different district. Bronx Democratic Party Chair Jamaal Bailey told The Riverdale Press the decision to go against the incumbent was an “unfortunate” one, but said the party ultimately decided that reversing course would be unfair to Camilo, a former vice chair of the party. Born in the Dominican Republic, Camilo currently lives in Riverdale and is the president of the Bronx Women’s Bar Association. She’s got $120,683 on hand as of mid August. She also has the support of Reps. Adriano Espaillat and Ritchie Torres – while Rivera is maintaining strong support from his state Senate colleagues, the progressive movement and the labor sector, including the state AFL-CIO and 1199SEIU, plus elected officials such as Rep. Jamaal Bowman and state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

Open Races

State Senate District 4

Incumbent: Phil Boyle, not seeking reelection

District lines: Landlocked parts of the South Shore in Suffolk County, including Brentwood

Candidates: Monica Martinez, Phil Ramos

Republican state Sen. Phil Boyle, who represents much of the district now, isn’t seeking reelection. Monica Martinez represented parts of the new district in the state Senate in 2019 and 2020 after flipping it blue – but lost reelection to Republican state Sen. Alexis Weik. Now, Martinez is trying to reclaim a seat in the chamber, but standing in her way could be Assembly Member Phil Ramos. Martinez has the county Democratic Party’s support, but she and Ramos have had bad blood. Martinez reported $55,139 on hand, while Ramos reported $52,853. The winner in the safely Democratic, Hispanic plurality seat would face off in November against the Republican pick Wendy Rodriguez.

State Senate District 23

Incumbent: Diane Savino, retiring

District lines: Staten Island’s North Shore and parts of southern Brooklyn, including Coney Island

Candidates: Jessica Scarcella-Spanton, Bianca Rajpersaud, Sarah Blas, Rajiv Gowda

Jessica Scarcella-Spanton, a former staffer to state Sen. Diane Savino and the current assistant director of government and community relations at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, is the establishment pick, having earned an early endorsement from the retiring state senator as well as former Rep. Max Rose and the Staten Island Democratic Party. She’s also got a cash advantage, with $186,366 on hand as of Aug. 11. Bianca Rajpersaud, a lobbyist at Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, is the daughter of Guyanese and Dominican immigrants and girlfriend of Staten Island Assembly Member Charles Fall, who is backing her campaign. She’s well connected, having previously worked for Assembly Member Michael Cusick, so her campaign against Scarcella-Spanton has created a rift in the tight-knit county party. She had $29,246 on hand as of mid-August. Sarah Blas, the daughter of U.S. military veterans and granddaughter of Brooklyn pastors, is pitching herself as the progressive choice with support from the Working Families Party and Assembly Member Mathylde Frontus. She currently serves as the director of health equity, diversity and inclusion for Staten Island Women Who March and reported having just $2,756 on hand in mid-August. If elected, Blas would be the first New York City Housing Authority resident to serve in a state legislative office, the Staten Island Advance reported. Rajiv Gowda, a civil engineer who has “overseen dozens of public and private infrastructure projects for the NYC Department of Design and Construction,” according to his website, fell far short in his 2020 primary challenge to Savino. He had $19,956 on hand as of late July.

State Senate District 34

Incumbent: Alessandra Biaggi, running for Congress

District lines: East Bronx and parts of Westchester County, including New Rochelle

Candidates: Nathalia Fernandez, Christian Amato, John Perez

Assembly Member Nathalia Fernandez is the Bronx Democratic Party’s pick for the seat, though her current Assembly district has limited overlap with this state Senate district. Still, she’s got deep ties to the district as a staffer for then-Assembly Member Mark Gjonaj and time as then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Bronx representative. Christian Amato is a former Broadway producer and political consultant who is pitching himself as the progressive choice in the district. He worked on state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi’s successful 2018 campaign and worked in her government office before the two had a falling out leading to his firing in 2019. Biaggi has endorsed Fernandez to succeed her. Also running is perennial candidate John Perez, a U.S. Army veteran. Fernandez reported $79,087 on hand in mid-August. Amato reported $15,756 on hand as of mid-August. Perez has never filed.

State Senate District 52

Incumbent: Fred Akshar, running for Broome County sheriff

District lines: Cortland, Tompkins and parts of Broome counties

Candidates: Lea Webb, Leslie Danks Burke

A former Binghamton City Council member, Lea Webb works for Binghamton University as the diversity education coordinator. She’s presenting herself as the progressive choice, with support from the Working Families Party, 1199SEIU and state Sen. Rachel May. While Leslie Danks Burke has support from state Sen. John Mannion and state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, she ran unsuccessfully against Republican state Sen. Thomas O’Mara in 2020 and 2016, and founded the Trailblazers PAC, a nonpartisan group focused on getting money out of politics. Danks Burke is a lawyer with experience in tax legislation, policy analysis, human rights litigation and public housing issues. Webb had $40,267 in her campaign account by mid-August, while Danks Burke had $46,088. The winner of the August primary will face Republican Richard David in the general election.

State Senate District 59

Incumbent: None – new seat

District lines: Astoria and Long Island City in Queens, Greenpoint in Brooklyn and parts of Midtown East in Manhattan

Candidates: Elizabeth Crowley, Kristen Gonzalez, Michael Corbett

Elizabeth Crowley represented areas of Central Queens in the New York City Council for eight years before losing reelection to Council Member Bob Holden. She has run for Queens borough president twice since then and is now attempting another comeback in a new area far from her old council district. She is a moderate Democrat with high name recognition and establishment support, including endorsements from Rep. Greg Meeks and the United Federation of Teachers. She’s also got a fundraising advantage, reporting $261,275 on hand as of mid-August. She’s related to former Rep. Joe Crowley, who was famously unseated by DSA-backed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2018. Now, the DSA is trying to beat another Crowley and is supporting Kristen Gonzalez, a credit card company product manager and DSA organizer. The city’s progressive movement is throwing its whole weight behind her, including the Working Families Party and state Sen. Michael Gianaris, who currently represents much of the new district. Gonzalez had $64,569 on hand as of mid-August. Konst, a political pundit who was also running as a progressive in this district, dropped out and endorsed Gonzalez just as early voting began. Crowley isn’t the only one competing in the moderate lane. Michael Corbett may appeal to would-be Crowley voters as a vice chair of the state Democratic Party and a longtime political aide who has the support of Rep. Carolyn Maloney. He reported $33,279 on hand.