Democratic candidates in central New York and the Finger Lakes region formed a new caucus to advocate for issues they believe are important for upstate communities.
Upstate Progressives for Working Americans and Regional Development, known as the UPWARD Caucus, features 10 state legislative candidates. The founding members include Samra Brouk, who is the Democratic nominee in the 55th state Senate District, and Dia Carabajal, a Democratic candidate in the 126th state Assembly District.
The other founding members are Scott Comegys, 130th state Assembly District; Anna Kelles, 125th state Assembly District; Jen Lunsford, 135th state Assembly District; John Mannion, 50th state Senate District; Shauna Marie O'Toole, 54th state Senate District; Matt Miller, 131st state Assembly District; ChaRon Sattler Leblanc, 133rd state Assembly District; and Gail Tosh, 120th state Assembly District.
According to UPWARD's mission statement, the goal of the caucus is to "commit to serve our rural communities, towns and cities to promote health care, education and environmental stewardship for the Finger Lakes region and vigorously advocate for our communities in the state Legislature."
Brouk, who is running in a district that includes parts of Monroe and Ontario counties, noted that her grandparents and extended family have been residents of Ontario County for more than 80 years. She is hoping to flip a seat that's been held by Republicans, most recently retiring state Sen. Rich Funke.
"I will fight for the resources we need to protect our natural resources, to strengthen our schools, to provide economic opportunities for working families and to secure equitable access to health care," Brouk said.
Many of the districts the Democratic candidates are seeking to represent are demographically diverse. The 50th and 54th state Senate districts include several rural towns, suburban areas and cities. Both districts include portions of Auburn in Cayuga County.
Nearly all of the districts share a common trait: The representatives are in the minority. The districts are represented by Republicans, who are in the minority in the state Assembly and Senate.
Comegys, an alpaca farmer in Wayne County, said the new caucus will encourage Democrats to collaborate and raise the region's concerns in state government.
"We pledge to work together as a part of the majority to ensure our region is better included in decisions that impact us," he said.
Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.
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