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What you need to know for 07/28/2017

Palatine Supervisor Niccoli mulls state Senate run

Palatine Supervisor Niccoli mulls state Senate run

After a successful election in Palatine in November, Town Supervisor Sara Niccoli is exploring a run
Palatine Supervisor Niccoli mulls state Senate run
Sara Niccoli holds a lamb at Marsh Mallo Farm in Palatine in this April 29 photo. Niccoli, a farmer and Palatine's town supervisor, is considering a challenge to state Sen. George Amedore.
Photographer: Patrick Dodson

After a successful election in Palatine in November, Town Supervisor Sara Niccoli is exploring a run for the 46th state Senate district, currently held by Republican George Amedore.

Niccoli, a Democrat who led a successful bipartisan “Responsible Government” slate to victory in Palatine in November, said her interest in the Senate seat stems largely from her experience as a mother.

“A lot of this is about my experience as a parent of a child in the public school system,” she said on Monday. “I’ve been angered, I’ve been frustrated, and I’ve been disappointed about the way my child has been served by Albany. And I want to do something about it.”

Her rhetoric so far, however, has encompassed broader themes of economic injustice and fair governance, targeting an Amedore left vulnerable by his ties to the corruption cases against former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

The Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State, where Niccoli works as director, was one of a handful of groups that called Amedore out last May for receiving campaign contributions from Glenwood Management, a company at the center of the Silver and Skelos cases.

“Our current State Senator George Amedore exemplifies everything that’s wrong with Albany,” Niccoli wrote Monday in a fundraising appeal.

In the appeal, she promises to “stand up to big money in Albany.”

Amedore defeated Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk for the seat in 2014 after losing to her in a close contest two years prior. On Monday, he declined to comment on a run for a second term.

“There will be a time for politics,” he said in a statement. “However, we just kicked off a new legislative session and there is still a lot of work to be done on behalf of the residents of the 46th Senate District.”

In Palatine, Niccoli spent her first term as supervisor battling a Republican-led board, often over the construction of a new $400,000 town hall. The constant conflict — and multiple lawsuits against the town resulting from decisions she often opposed— led to the formation of the Responsible Government party, consisting of two Democrats and two Republicans, which swept the November elections.

“I am now a seasoned fighter,” she said Monday. “I’ve been in the ring many times, I’ve proven that I have the thick skin it takes to take the punches and maybe deliver some back. I know that this is a tough job but it’s also critical to making sure that our communities get the jobs and the education and the fair taxation that they need.”

Leading the Labor-Religion Coalition for the past four years, Niccoli has championed lessening the tax burden on working families by increasing taxes for the state’s wealthiest residents, fair funding for public schools, and a higher minimum wage.

During the election in Palatine, work like that got her branded as a radical leftist by her opponents on the Town Board. In a district created to retain a Republican seat in the Senate, she expects that kind of criticism— but also feels she can overcome it.

“I brought together two Republicans and two Democrats to take the town council in a place that’s very conservative,” she said. “I understand the issues that people are faced with. They are absolutely overtaxed relative to their income and we need to address that. That is not a radical notion.”

Like Tkaczyk before her, Niccoli knows she’s trying to win over a district drawn for someone else, and that she won’t likely have the financial backing her opponent has.

“I don’t have the deep pockets and I don’t have the connections to deep pockets,” she said. “My connections are to other workers and to members of the community.”

For now, Niccoli, who runs a sheep farm with her husband, said she’s just “letting the cat out of the bag” about exploring a potential run and courting supporters. If the response is good, she said, she will likely make a formal announcement in the spring.

If she runs, she may see the benefits of a presidential election year, which tend to favor Democrats across the board in New York.

“We know that in a presidential cycle voter turnout increases,” she said. “And for a person who is really interested in serving the people of the district versus the corporate interests of the district, voter turnout is a very good thing.”

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