A fourth candidate has jumped into the race for the Democratic nomination for New York's 24th Congressional District as signs continue to point to a Democratic wave in this fall's midterm elections. Interest in running for Congress is climbing since Rep. John Katko's vote for tax cuts that heavily favor the wealthy and corporations. Democrats have been flipping unlikely elections around the country with Republicans sounding the alarm.

Congressional races in upstate New York have numerous Democrats running. Rep. Elise Stefanik from the North Country faces eight Democrats. Rep. Tom Reed from the Southern Tier faces seven, while three Democrats had been running against Claudia Tenney. The energy is exciting, but what about local state Senate and Assembly races?

State and local races may not be as sexy as U.S. Congress, but they may be more important. Local races are how a party builds its bench for the future, providing experienced candidates for higher offices.

In New York, we have a chance to pass progressive reforms sought out by a majority of voters. Universal healthcare in the form of the New York Health Act has passed the Assembly for years and is one state Senate sponsor away from a majority. NYHA supporters need to flip a Republican seat to get the last sponsor needed for a majority. State Sens. DeFrancisco, Ritchie and Helming, all Republicans from central New York, have declined to support Medicare for all, with no plan of their own. If one of the congressional Democratic candidates would oppose them and win, all those who live in New York might have guaranteed health coverage.

We also need progressive reforms of our state campaign finance, voting laws, and to fund creative solutions for the opioid epidemic. Public broadband internet access is another issue that could be a large economic and educational benefit to central New York. Hopefully more local candidates will run on a platform around these issues.

We can certainly take hope in seeing citizens rise up and get active since the election of President Trump and even before. Voting is a part of our responsibility as citizens dedicated to strengthening and maintaining a democracy. We need to demand and build the society we want with relentless organizing against powerful interests that, unchecked, pursue short term profits over long term stability and fair wages for working people.

Sunny Aslam


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