NEW YORK — New York State had some interesting election races, with results that could lead to a state legislature that addresses the most important issues facing working people. These include a new formula for public school funding, mandated last year by a high court but not yet acted upon; the ongoing battle to increase the minimum wage; and blocking proposed fare hikes and service cutbacks in the New York City transit system.

At press time, Democrat Brian Higgins appeared very close to winning the 27th Congressional District seat, which represents parts of Buffalo. The GOP has held the seat for 12 years. The vote tally was extremely close and continuing.

Higgins had the strong support of labor and the Working Families Party. The WFP also attracted 150,000 votes on its line for Sen. Charles Schumer, and about 120,000 for Kerry. War Resisters League leader David McReynolds ran against Schumer as a Green Party candidate and garnered 33,000 votes.

The WFP candidate for Albany County district attorney, David Soares, won in a huge victory for grassroots activism against the draconian Rockefeller drug laws.

The 13th CD, which includes Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, between Frank Barbaro and Republican incumbent Vito Fossella, started out as a long shot bid by Barbaro and wound up being hotly contested.

Barbaro, a veteran campaigner and public figure, known when he was in Albany as “labor’s assemblyman,” closed a 70-30 polling gap despite having a modest war chest. His lack of funds was compensated largely by a dedicated contingent of volunteers.

Fossella, unable to defend his abysmal record — and refusing to debate Barbaro openly — resorted in the closing days of the campaign to slanderous statements and distortions in an attempt to smear his opponent. He mailed out two full-color glossy brochures in the last week of the campaign.

Barbaro won Brooklyn but was unable to reach all of Staten Island with his pro-working families, antiwar, anti-Bush message. He received about 42 percent of the vote overall.

The big gains were at the state level. State Senate seats were won by some progressive Democrats: In the 28th district, José M. Serrano, New York City councilman, defeated Olga Mendez, a former Democrat turned Republican. The WFP, Jobs with Justice, and other grassroots organizations had hammered Mendez on the minimum wage bill, which her Republican colleagues had held up for four years.

At press time, Republican Nick Spano of Yonkers was in a very close race with Andrea Stewart-Cousins, an African American county legislator and parent activist, who has made education her focal point. Ballots have been impounded so that the count can be closely monitored.

In another close state Senate race, Syracuse Democrat David Valesky beat incumbent Nancy Larraine Hoffmann by a few hundred votes. Hoffmann had been expected to win, but Bush did poorly in the district, partly due to the surge in new voters among the area’s many college students.

Jeffrey Klein won in the 34th District (Bronx, Westchester County) with the help of labor. He takes the Senate seat formerly held by Republican Guy Velella, who has been convicted of corruption charges.

Democrat Diane Savino won the Brooklyn-Staten Island seat of a retiring Democrat, and her victory was important given the strong grassroots labor component to her campaign. Savino is vice president for political action of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 37, the largest in the country.

Tom Duane, David Paterson, Eric Schneiderman, and Liz Kruger, all of Manhattan, all retained their Senate seats. Brian McLaughlin, president of the New York City Central Labor Council, won a seat in the Assembly.

The authors can be reached at pww@pww.org.

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