Two young Indian-American Democrats are running for the New York State Senate from Districts 56 and 6, challenging stalwart Republicans in the GOP-controlled Senate that is now considered a battleground chamber. Attorney Jeremy Cooney is running from District 56, to displace long-time incumbent State Senator Joe Robach, who was first elected in 1991. Kevin Thomas, another Indian American candidate from District 6, is also an attorney and an appointee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to the New York Advisory Committee, a federal agency tasked with civil rights oversight.
The two Indian-Americans are trying for their own party endorsement this Sept. 13, and if either of them wins in the primary, they would already make history regardless of whether they win in the Nov. 6 general elections. But it’s a tough road ahead in their effort to become the first Indian-Americans in the Empire State’s upper house.
Republicans hold just a one-seat edge because of their alliance with Democratic Sen. Simcha Felder. The deadline for filing a candidacy for the primaries is in July, which could mean other Democrats jump into the race. Ballotpedia describes NY State Senate District 6 as a “battleground” district where the incumbent won less than 55 percent of the vote in 2016 and the presidential candidate of the opposite party won. Thomas and Cooney’s run come as Democrats are making a push to take complete control of the state Senate, the report said.
Cooney’s District 56 covers Rochester, Brighton, Clarkson, Gates, Greece, Hamlin and Parma, according to the report. District 6 where Thomas is running covers Long Island. He faces off against another veteran incumbent Republican Kemp Hannon, first elected back in 1989, who defeated a Democrat, Ryan Cronin in 2016 with 53. 87 percent to Cronin’s 46.13 percent.
Cooney, who was adopted as a child from India and raised by a single mom, announced his run at a rally May 12. Jeremy Cooney is the founder of Red Thread Strategies, which strategizes and advises companies and non-profit organizations looking to partner with government “in the pursuit of public good” his profile says on the company website.
An attorney by training, Cooney has worked at all levels of government—from the U.S. Congress, to the New York State Capitol, to Rochester City Hall. Most recently, he worked as a vice president at Mercury Public Affairs in New York City. Prior to that he served as senior director of community relations for Empire State Development, focusing on downstate economic development initiatives under Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. Before moving to New York City, Cooney was chief of staff to Rochester Mayor Lovely A. Warren.
A graduate of Albany Law School, Cooney lives in downtown Rochester. In 2011, the Rochester Business Journal named him to its “40 Under 40” list of young professionals. He is an advocate for supporting the next generation of civic leaders in Upstate New York. While announcing his run, Cooney said, “I’ve been working with young professionals in Rochester for about 15 years. There’s some goals that we want to accomplish and take it to the next level to make Rochester a more vibrant space,” according to a Twitter feed he posted from News 8 – WROC-TV, May 12.
Cooney posted the photo of his mother saying, “Five years ago, I lost my mom to Alzheimer’s and Cancer. I will work in her honor to fight for more state funding for research and supportive care services for families struggling with these terrible diseases. #mothersday2018 #onward56”
Thomas says his race is “about fighting for the less fortunate, those without a voice and those who have given up hope in the justice system.” If elected and serving in Albany, “Kevin will take this fight to Republicans in the Senate who are trying to turn the clock back on the progress of the past decade,” his website says.
Thomas came to the U.S. as a 10-year old with his Indian parents. According to his LinkedIn profile, he currently serves as a staff attorney with the New York Legal Assistance Group. He is also a project attorney for the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE) project which provides legal support, advice, and referrals to OFE financial counselors and helps clients with complex consumer financial issues.
He also serves on the New York State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and serves on the Board of Trustees to Merrick Academy- Queens Public Charter School. Prior to joining NYLAG, Thomas worked for the senior executive counsel for General Electric Energy Division in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He has also worked as a civilian for the New York City Police Department and the Office of New York City Council Member Peter Vallone, Jr. Thomas is a graduate of Western Michigan Cooley Law School.
“I left the Congressional race because I can protect more New Yorkers in the state Senate and the Democratic Party has endorsed me as their nominee,” Thomas told the media. “I will be the first Indian American to get the backing for any (New York State) office by the Democratic party,” he said.