Syracuse Common Councilor Jean Kessner continues collecting petition signatures for a possible Democratic primary run for the state Senate seat held by Dave Valesky (D-Oneida). On Tuesday, Kessner supporters rallied in front of the State Office Building in Syracuse.
Kessner says she only wants to run if Valesky stays aligned with the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of breakaway Democrats that, along with Republicans, control the state Senate.
"I’m not putting pressure on him," Kessner said. "I’m asking him to come home to the Democrats. Democratic values is what we’re talking about, not Democrats per se.”
She says if Valesky agrees to caucus with Democrats, she would drop her primary bid. But that doesn’t seem likely. Valesky has consistently said he believes the IDC coalition has led to good government in Albany, a town with a dysfunctional history.
Kessner says the lack of progress on three key progressive issues is what’s driving this now.
“Women’s equality in all forms, campaign finance reform, sorely needed, it’s the basis of our democracy, and minimum wage so people can live a decent life," she said. "Those are core Democratic values and I’m sure that Dave would stand with us on those, so Dave should stand with the Democrats.”
Valesky has the support of many mainline Democrats in the three-county district, including Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, most of the Syracuse Common Council and several county and town officials, as well as party committees in the district.
Kessner has some union and community group support, and her biggest elected booster is Syracuse Democratic Assemblyman Sam Roberts. He’s already sounding like the election is on, and says he is not intimidated by the mainline party support Valesky has.
"Jean Kessner had to primary and had to go against our Democratic leadership to hold her seat in the council," Roberts said. "If you remember four years ago, I had to primary and go against our Democratic leadership to make it to the Assembly. So I think the two of us, the unsinkable Jean Kessner, and I’ll be her first mate. I’ll be the Gilligan on the ship.”
He says he's fully supporting a possible Kessner primary candidacy.
“This is about people," Roberts explained. "It’s about people, it’s not about the party. It’s about people. We need Democrats to come out and vote, and Democrats to work and sign petitions and volunteer for Jean Kessner. That’s it.”
Kessner has until July 10 to get enough petition signatures to get on the Sept. 9 primary ballot. There are no Republicans running for the seat.