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Democrat Laura Ahearn challenges GOP State Sen. Kenneth LaValle

ALBANY — Democratic attorney and crime-victims advocate Laura Ahearn on Tuesday announced her campaign to take on State Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who has held his seat since 1977.

Ahearn's candidacy represents the first major effort by Democrats to pick up another Long Island Senate seat in 2020. Democrats won the Senate majority in the last legislative elections in 2018, and have a 40-22 seat majority, with one vacancy.

“I’m an attorney, a social worker and a mom,” said Ahearn, executive director of Ronkonkoma-based Parents for Megan's Law and the Crime Victim’s Center, a nonprofit victim's rights organization.

“For 25 years, I have fought to keep Suffolk County residents and children safe from sexual predators," she said in her announcement. She said she founded the Crime Victims Center "from a room in my home and built it to become a nationally recognized, powerful force with nearly 30 full-time staffers who protect and educate our most vulnerable and provide help to children and adults who were victimized.”

LaValle was the longtime chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee before Democrats won the Senate majority.

LaValle, who represents the 1st District, said he approaches "every election the same way; I stand on my continuous record of accomplishments and years of service to our communities.” 

In his latest financial filings with state Board of Elections, LaValle had $114,050 on hand as of July.

Ahearn hasn’t yet had to disclose her fundraising and spending.

In 2018, LaValle got 71,015 votes to Democrat Greg Fisher's 53,790. LaValle had beaten Fisher by a wider margin in 2016.

The 1st District may be one of the battleground races in 2020.

The district has 75,470 enrolled Democratic voters and 76,907 Republicans, although the GOP’s strength is boosted by 5,315 enrolled Conservative Party voters.

Republican President Donald Trump won Suffolk County in 2016 over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Since the November 2018 legislative elections, the 1st District has gained 1,623 Democratic voters, 210 Republicans and 51 Conservatives, according to state records.

Senate Democrats this year passed the Child Victims Act that allows victims of childhood sexual assault to sue abusers for acts committed as long as decades ago.

The former Senate Republican majority had blocked the measure for years, arguing it could bankrupt religious organizations and schools found to have protected or shielded abusers.

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