Long Island won’t just be a congressional battleground next year – thanks to those federal races, down-ballot seats may open up as well. State Sen. Kevin Thomas of Nassau County announced on Wednesday that he is running in the 4th Congressional District against fellow Democrats former Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen and former figure skater Sarah Hughes, opening up his own influential seat in state government. Among the top potential contenders for his seat is Assembly Member Taylor Darling, whose own run would leave another seat open. Big shake-ups may be coming to Long Island as local lawmakers look to shift into new positions with national attention on the region.
Long Island politicos have floated Darling’s name as one of the front-runners to replace Thomas, and said she would have an interest in the state Senate seat. First elected in 2018, she challenged and defeated former longtime Assembly Member Earlene Hooper in the Democratic primary. Hooper at the time was the deputy Assembly speaker, the fourth-highest position among Assembly leadership.
The entirety of Darling’s district exists within Thomas’ 6th state Senate District, the only Assembly district that overlaps the seat to that extent. Fellow Democratic Assembly Member Charles Lavine, who represents a portion of the state Senate district, has served in the lower chamber since 2005 and currently chairs the powerful Judiciary Committee. The other two Assembly districts that cover portions of Thomas’ district are both represented by Republicans: Assembly Members Ed Ra and Brian Curran. A spokesperson for Darling did not return a request for comment.
Jay Jacobs, chair of both the state Democratic Party and the Nassau County Democratic Party, told City & State that he has heard from multiple people who are interested in Thomas’ seat, but said it is still early and did not offer any specific names. Nassau County Legislators Siela Bynoe and Carrié Solages, both of whom ran for the 4th Congressional District last year, have also been floated as potential contenders for state Senate. But if Darling jumped into the Senate race, those potential candidates could run for her Assembly seat instead. Solages – whose sister is Assembly Member Michaelle Solages – and Bynoe would leave their own county legislative seats open and trigger a special election if one of them won. But unlike Darling, they could run for the state Legislature without giving up their office since county elections happen in odd years.
Progressives may also have an eye on Thomas’ seat. Long Island Democrats, Thomas included, have generally occupied the more moderate wing of the party given the region’s moderate voting base. Progressives have constituted a powerful voting bloc in Albany regardless of who has controlled the chamber, and more recently have allied themselves even more with Hudson Valley suburban Democrats after losses on Long Island last year. In progressive circles, Jeremy Joseph, who only got about 15% of the vote in his unsuccessful challenge to former state Sen. Anna Kaplan last year, has come up as a potential left-wing contender in the state Senate primary.