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Meet Rachel May, Syracuse’s next state senator – The Daily Orange

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A bit of greater than a yr and a half in the past, Rachel Might got here out of a gathering with then-state senator David Valesky that she discovered “very discouraging.” Anyone turned to her and informed her to run towards him within the next election, she stated. 

“I laughed in their face,” she advised her viewers throughout a speech at Nationwide Group for Ladies New York’s annual state convention on Nov. 17. 

Might, 61, spent her life as an educational, caregiver and volunteer. She by no means noticed herself within the public eye, she stated on the convention. She was “paralyzed” in entrance of a microphone or digital camera. She developed the talents wanted to navigate encounters with reporters and constituents when she started going to Toastmasters Orange Orators’ weekly conferences at Chook Library — she referred to as it a marketing campaign in a field.  

Might would go on to upset incumbent Valesky in September’s Democratic main. She would then defeat Janet Burman by greater than 20 proportion factors within the November basic election for the state Senate’s 53rd District seat. The SUNY-ESF alumna will start representing the district, which incorporates Syracuse College, in January.  

She’s a newcomer to the political area, however Might’s expertise as SU’s sustainability schooling coordinator taught her about balancing methods — information she goals to place to make use of in Albany. She’s additionally hoping to scale back a few of the limitations that exist for first-time candidates so, in 2020, recent faces like hers can work their means onto a poll. 

The senator-elect is attending 5 to 6 group occasions every week between now and January, she stated. On the CNY Regional Market’s Purchase Native Bash on Nov. 19, the self-proclaimed introvert walked round for an hour, attending to know the world’s enterprise house owners and retailers. Might sampled numerous food and drinks gadgets, browsed collections of clothes and crafts and stopped to talk with every vendor about their work.

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Might hung out talking with dozens of distributors at CNY Regional Market’s Purchase Native Bash on Nov. 19, together with the house owners of Farmer Road Pantry. Colleen Ferguson | Asst. Information Editor

Might campaigned on a platform emphasizing points reminiscent of well being look after all, marketing campaign finance reform and an finish to partisan gerrymandering, which is the drawing of districts to favor a selected political social gathering.  

Her defeat of Valesky in September marked the primary time that Valesky, who held the seat for 14 years, had been challenged by one other Democrat in a main. He didn’t reply to a number of requests for touch upon this story.  

Burman, Might’s Republican opponent in November, targeted on preventing concentrated poverty, creating an equitable tax construction, decreasing the prices of presidency and enhancing assets for schooling and farming. Burman didn’t reply to a number of requests for touch upon this story. 

Might added that no matter who individuals voted for on the polls, her marketing campaign objective was simply to get them to end up. 

“My whole message was about opening up our democracy and encouraging people to vote whether they were going to vote for me or not,” she stated. “I wanted to see a really big turnout. I feel like that’s when our democracy is working.” 

A primary-time candidate, Might stated she encountered sudden hurdles from the marketing campaign timeline, just like the voter registration deadline, which in New York is 25 days earlier than the election.  

With a September main, that deadline coincided with the time school college students returned to campus, which was too late for college kids to vary their handle and register to vote, Might stated. She noticed that she received “a lot of attention” in these final 25 days from the press as a candidate, however at that time, new voters couldn’t register. 

The deadline to file petition signatures to get on the poll additionally coincided with the precise deadline to file marketing campaign finance stories this yr, Might added. Whereas elevating cash and amassing petitions is probably not as a lot work for an incumbent, who’s been elevating cash for years, it took plenty of effort for a brand new candidate like Might and her employees to juggle each these deadlines directly, she stated. 

“When you run, you discover these things that … really are barriers, kind of subtle barriers that come up all the time that just make it harder for people who don’t have massive resources to get involved and run for office,” she stated. 

Previous to her marketing campaign, Might had labored as SU’s campus sustainability coordinator since 2011. She formally left the job on Nov. 19, saying it will be too troublesome to maintain the job all through the January to June legislative session as a state senator. 

Might, who lives two blocks east of SU, expects to be current on campus when she’s not in Albany. She hopes to proceed her involvement in native points, particularly these associated to sustainability, she stated.  

“I’m looking forward to being a senator for SU as well as for … a lot of the other important parts of the district,” she added. 

Throughout her time as coordinator, Might stated she helped the SU Showcase evolve right into a sustainability-oriented occasion with intensive workshops and audio system. One occasion was an exercise by which a day’s value of campus-large waste was dumped onto the ground of the South Campus sustainability laboratory for college kids to dissect.  

Might helped with different efforts on campus, akin to divesting from fossil fuels and the Local weather Motion Plan, which might get rid of SU’s emission of greenhouse gases by 2040, based on its web site. These initiatives make Might pleased with her time as campus sustainability coordinator, she stated. 

She has requested to be on the Senate’s Power, Environmental Conservation or Transportation Committees, all of which contain sustainability points. It is very important have individuals on these committees who can take a look at the large image and goal in the direction of extra power effectivity and environmental duty, she stated. 

“Sustainability is about systems thinking,” she stated, referring to an issue-fixing fashion of administration that emphasizes wanting on the means methods work together and work over time. “It’s about understanding the full systems and looking at those systems in a way that, if you’re trying to fix a problem in one part of the system, you’re making sure that you’re not making problems worse in some other part of the system.” 

This could apply to points outdoors the environmental sphere, like well being care, schooling or legal justice, she added. Considered one of her objectives in Albany is to encourage her colleagues to take a look at the state authorities in a extra holistic method, working throughout committees and seeing how points have an effect on totally different techniques. 

About 4 years in the past, Might labored with Philip Arnold, chair of the faith division at SU and school member of Native American and Indigenous Research, to put in writing and execute a $90,000 grant proposal in collaboration with the Skä•noñh – Nice Regulation of Peace Middle.  

Whereas Arnold was stunned Might sought public workplace, he stated her consideration to element, organizational expertise, collaborative nature and willingness to work with totally different college and metropolis constituencies — all of which have been very important within the Environmental Safety Company grant’s development — will serve her nicely as a state senator. 

 “There aren’t a lot of academics willing to take on that rough and tumble world of politics,” he stated. “I think she thinks that the condition of the country is just grave enough.” 

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Might started attending conferences with Toastmasters Orange Orators, which meets as soon as every week in Fowl Library, to enhance her public talking as soon as she determined to run for workplace. Colleen Ferguson | Asst. Information Editor

In 2001, the Might household left St. Paul, Minnesota, and Might’s tenured place as a professor of Russian Research at Macalester School, to stay in Syracuse. Her husband teaches philosophy at Le Moyne School. She earned a grasp’s diploma in environmental communication from SUNY-ESF in 2003. 

“In the context of New York government, the fact that I have lived in three or four other states before I came here (gives me) a perspective that people who were born and raised here and never have lived anywhere else in their lives don’t have,” she stated. 

Since shifting to the world, Might has gotten concerned with grassroots city forestry packages and served on native boards of Zoning Appeals, the Democratic Committee and the Onondaga County Useful resource Restoration Company. 

Her daughter, Sophie Might, 20, stated in an e mail that she grew up going to loads of group occasions within the space together with her mother and father, together with the annual Westcott Road Truthful, native artwork exhibits and theater productions.  

 Sophie, a junior at Cornell College’s Faculty of Industrial and Labor Relations, stated when her mom first introduced up the thought of operating for senator, she appeared hesitant. It felt like a distant concept as a result of she had by no means run for any public workplace earlier than, Sophie added.  

“It was definitely time for her to do something that would really make use of her amazing mine of political and social knowledge and her capability for hard work,” she stated. 

Between now and January, Might will rent staffers, do analysis for the committee she’s assigned to and proceed to get to know the individuals she’s representing. Might stated she acknowledges the significance of being out and about locally to study concerning the small metropolis points affecting a spot like Syracuse, because the Democratic Get together in New York is usually seen as solely caring about New York Metropolis, she added. 

Might stated she needs to ensure she’s staying in contact with individuals she represents. Now is an effective time for that since she’s not in a session, she added.  

 “We miss having her around sometimes,” Sophie stated, “but it’s definitely worth it to (see) that (she) has found her calling.”

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Contact Colleen: cefergus@syr.edu | @ColleenEFergus2

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