Just two days after the end of the 2019 elections Nov. 5, Skyler Johnson, a 19-year-old Mount Sinai resident and college student, announced he wanted to take on one of the longest-running incumbents in the New York State Senate.
“Someone should not hold a seat for 43 years,” he said during a phone interview after he announced he was running. “We need
Johnson is a political science student at Suffolk County Community College and said he had already filed his name to run for the state Senate’s 1st District seat. As a local activist, he said he sees young people not getting a fair shake, with college students working 60-hour weeks to pay for higher education and senior citizens unable to afford much of the costs of living.
Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) has held the position since 1976 and has been cited by people like Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) for bipartisan support on issues of the environment. He has shown unwavering support for Stony Brook University and is often behind many state grants the college receives.
But Johnson said there are two issues that made him especially want to run that has expecially vexed the incumbent in recent years. One is the number of young people leaving Long Island and the lack of real affordable housing, the other is what he called a history of denying rights to the LGBT community. He cited the senator’s opposition to New York’s same-sex marriage bill in 2009 and his voting against a bill banning gay conversion therapy earlier this year.
“It’s time to take our future into our own hands,” he said. “I believe I can bring much needed change.”
Johnson was the campaign manager for Sarah Deonarine, a Democrat who ran against another longtime incumbent, Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) for the Brookhaven District 2 council seat. He said that campaign gave him the experience of what it was like to be on the campaign trail. He said he plans to spend next year canvassing the district.
It won’t be an easy road for the first-time contender. He will have to first primary for the Democratic nod against Laura Ahearn, a well-known voice in advocating for crime victims and founder of organizations such as Parents for Megan’s Law and Crime Victims Center.
Bruce Blower, a spokesperson for LaValle, confirmed that the state senator planned to run again in the 2020 election.
The young man agreed he was part of a larger wave of young liberally minded people looking to get involved since the 2016 election of Donald Trump (R). Johnson is going to be running in a presidential election year, which are notoriously the most hotly contested races to campaign.
“I expect people are ready for change,” he said.