New York's newest senator will fight for public campaign financing

Karen Dewitt
February 1, 2013

New York’s newest Senator, Cecilia Tkaczyk, has been on the job for just over a week now, after a two and half month long court battle over absentee ballots resulted in her narrrow eighteen-vote win. Tkaczyk, a sheep farmer, school board member and former legislative housing analyst, is a Democrat who won the newly drawn Senate seat in the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys that was designed for a Republican.

Senator Tkaczyk says she remained confident during the lengthy legal machinations.

“I knew that if we could get the ballots opened, I felt strongly that I would a chance at winning,” Tkaczyk said, speaking in her office one day after being sworn in.

Senator Tkaczyk ran on a platform of public campaign financing. A super PAC headed by Jonathon Soros, the son of the billionaire financier George Soros, spent half a billion dollars in an independent expenditure campaign to promote the issue and advertise her candidacy. Tkaczyk admits there’s an irony to having to spend huge amounts of money to further a plan to limit money spent on political campaigns.

“They decided to do ads to help me get my message across,” she said. “And that’s what helped level the playing field.”

Tkaczyk’s victory means Democrats in the Senate now have a definitive numerical majority. Yet because of power sharing agreement reached between the thirty Senate Republicans and several break away Democratic Senators, most of the Democrats in the Senate have minority party status.

Tkaczyk admits that’s “awkward”, and “frustrating”, but says she won’t let the leadership status of her party get in the way of pursuing issues important to her district, like school aid and mandate relief.