What state Senate races to watch going into the August primary?

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The New York State Capitol building.
Photo courtesy of NYS Senate Media Services

With the August 23 Democratic Primary a little less than a month away, much attention has been given to competitive Congressional races – like in the 10th District where a crowded field with several big-name candidates is vying to capture an open seat. But there are also several competitive state Senate races voters will get to weigh-in on during the late summer primary.

The current state Senate maps were finalized in late May after a long and chaotic redistricting process that saw the state’s highest court rule lines drawn by the state legislature unconstitutional. Those lines were replaced with maps drawn by a non-partisan “special master” under the supervision of a Steuben County judge. The new maps significantly shook up races that started under the old lines, causing many candidates to change course and some to drop their bids altogether.

Now with only a month until the August contests, PoliticsNY did a rundown of the competitive, or just interesting, state Senate races to keep an eye on going into election day.

Senate District 26

Incumbent: Andrew Gounardes

District includes: Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Sunset Park, Park Slope, Gowanus, Red Hook, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn Heights and Dumbo.

Candidates: Andrew Goundardes and David Yasky.

In the newly redrawn state Senate District 26, which stretches from Dyker Heights to Brownstone Brooklyn, Bay Ridge-based incumbent Andrew Gounardes is facing a challenge from David Yassky – a former Brooklyn Heights City Council Member. Gounardes’ current district also includes Dyker Heights and Bay Ridge, but stretches along southern Brooklyn, as opposed to the new district that goes from south to north. Gounardes has served in Albany’s upper chamber since 2018, when he toppled longtime incumbent Republican state Senator Marty Golden. He’s been a staunch progressive, helping to strengthen the state’s sexual harassment laws and passing a law that allows the city to keep red light cameras on 24/7. According to a published report, Yassky – who also worked in the administrations of both former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and ex-Governor Andrew Cuomo – said he represented more of the district for a longer period of time then Gounardes has, which gives him a “deeper, broader understanding” of the district. Gounardes has the support of area electeds including City Council Members Justin Brannon and Lincoln Restler as well as powerful unions like 32BJSEIU and District Council 37 (DC37).

Senate District 27

Incumbent: Brian Kavanagh

District includes: Greenwich Village, the East Village, the Lower East Side, Chinatown, SoHo, Tribeca, the Financial District and Battery Park City.

Candidates: Brian Kavanagh, Vittoria Fariello and Danyela Souza Egorov.

Brian Kavanagh has served in the state Senate since 2017 and before that he was a member of the Assembly for over a decade. He’s chair of the Senate Housing Committee, where he was on the front lines of shepherding the sweeping 2019 Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act into law and advocated for passing the state-wide eviction moratorium at the start of the pandemic. Running against Kavanagh is Vittoria Fariello, a Democratic district leader in Lower Manhattan and a lawyer who runs a “public-service oriented” law firm named Balestriere Fariello. Also vying for the seat is Danyela Souza Egorov, a founding board chair of Brooklyn Rise Charter school in Sunset Park and vice president of the District 2 Community Education Council (CEC). Kavanagh has the clear advantage in this race with endorsements from both establishment Democrats like state Senator Liz Kruger (D-Manhattan) and Democratic socialists like state Senator Julia Salazar (D-Brooklyn). According to her website, Fariello has picked up support from clubs like Grand Street Democrats and Village Independent Democrats as well as several other district leaders.

Senate District 33

Incumbent: Gustavo Rivera

District includes: Riverdale, Spuyten Duyvil, Norwood, Bedford Park, Fordham, Tremont, Belmont and Van Nest.

Candidates: Gustavo Rivera and Miguelina Camilo.

Gustavo Rivera has represented the 33rd Senate District for the past decade after defeating entrenched pol Pedro Espada Jr. in that year’s primary. Rivera is a progressive legislator who chairs the upper chamber’s Health Committee and has championed left-wing bills like the New York Health Act – which would establish single-payer health care in New York – and Good Cause Eviction. However, according to reporting from the Bronx Times, Rivera didn’t get the backing of the Bronx Democratic Party because he supported two progressive Assembly candidates challenging longtime incumbent Bronx Assembly Members Jeffrey Dinowitz and Michael Benedetto. Instead, the party endorsed Rivera’s challenger, attorney Miguelina Camilo, who was originally running for the seat vacated by state Senator Alessandra Biaggi before the lines changed. Major endorsements in the race have been split between the two candidates, with Rivera getting support from state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Westchester) and 1199SEIU and Camilo receiving the backing of U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres and DC 37.

Senate District 34

Incumbent: Alessandra Biaggi – running for Congress

District includes: Morris Park, Throggs Neck, City Island, Clason Point, Unionport, Castle Hill, Parkchester, Schuylerville, Middletown and Pelham.

Candidates: Nathalia Fernandez, Christian Amato and John Perez.

Senate District 34 opened up when state Senator Alessandra Biaggi decided to run for Congress first in Congressional District 3 and now in Congressional District 17 upstate, following the new lines being released. After the districts were redrawn the western portion of Senate District 34, which included Riverdale, was completely cut out, leaving only the east Bronx in the district. One candidate who was running for the seat under the old lines is Christian Amato, a political strategist and former theater director. Amato worked on Biaggi’s 2018 Senate campaign and as deputy chief of staff in her Senate office. He also founded the political consulting firm Consense Strategies in 2020, which ran the successful campaign of City Council Member Amanda Farias (D-Bronx). Then there’s Assembly Member Nathalia Fernandez (D-Bronx), who jumped into the race when the new district contours were released, immediately receiving backing from the Bronx Democratic Party. She’s served in the Assembly since 2018 after a stint in ex-Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration and as chief of staff to former Assembly and City Council Member Mark Gjonaj. Although Amato is vying for the progressive vote in the race, Fernandez recently picked up major progressive support from the New York Working Families Party. Also running is John Perez, an army veteran and perennial candidate.

Senate District 59

Incumbent: New seat, no incumbent

District includes: Parts of Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan including Long Island City, Astoria, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Murray Hill, Kips Bay and Stuyvesant Town.

Candidates: Kristen Gonzalez, Nomiki Konst, Elizabeth Krowley, Mike Corbett and Josh Bowen.

Running in the left lane for this new district is tech worker Kristen Gonzalez, who is backed by the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and has received support from leftist standard bearers like U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Queens, the Bronx), Salazar and City Council Member Tiffany Caban (D-Queens). Then there’s moderate former City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, the cousin of one-time Queens Democratic Party boss and Congressmember Joe Crowley whom Ocasio-Crotez unseated in 2018. She’s captured the backing of influential labor unions like DC 37 and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) as well as U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks – the current Queens Democratic Party chair. Crowley also recently picked up the endorsement of City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams. Also vying for progressive voters is Nomiki Konst, an Astoria-based former national surrogate to Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign – who also ran unsuccessfully for city public advocate in 2019. Also running are restaurant owner Josh Bowen and former City Council staffer Mike Corbett – who’s been endorsed by U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn).

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