Democrats have selected a Levittown lawyer who specializes in legal services for low-income people to challenge longtime state Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) in one of nine Long Island races that will determine the balance of the state Senate in November.
Kevin Thomas, 33, who focuses on consumer protection and “predatory student loan companies,” is announcing his bid Tuesday to unseat the veteran incumbent. He said Long Islanders “need new leadership” in Albany.
“Our communities deserve a state senator who will fight corruption, not enable it and prosper in the status quo,” Thomas said in a statement.
“Our families and small businesses deserve real tax relief and investments to grow the middle class, not line the pockets of special interests,” said Thomas. “We deserve meaningful action and change in Albany, and that means we need new leadership.”
Thomas has worked for the past eight years for the New York Legal Assistance Group, which offers free civil legal services to people who cannot afford an attorney.
According to the group’s website, he serves as an appointee to the New York advisory committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Previously, he worked for General Electric Co. and as a civilian employee of the NYPD. He earned a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University and a law degree from Western Michigan University.
This is Thomas’ first run for political office.
Hannon, 72, has served in the Senate since 1989 and, before that, 13 years in the state Assembly. Though in a politically split district, he repeatedly has won re-election. In 2016, he beat Democrat Ryan Cronin, 54 percent to 46 percent.
Hannon is the longtime chairman of the Senate Health Committee, serving as the GOP’s point man on health care issues.
Republican spokesman Scott Reif said Hannon has an “extraordinary record on which to run,” including helping to approve the state’s property-tax cap, middle-class income-tax cut, “record funding” for local schools and anti-addiction initiatives.
“Senator Hannon is one of the hardest working legislators around and has an extraordinary record on which to run,” Reif said in an email. “We are confident Senator Hannon will be re-elected.”
The Nassau County-based Senate district has about 81,000 enrolled Democrats, 73,000 Republicans and 48,000 nonaligned voters.
The district includes Garden City, Levittown, Uniondale, Bethpage, East Meadow, and the villages of Farmingdale and Hempstead.
Currently, there are 31 Republicans and 30 Democrats in the Senate.
Two vacancies will be filled by special elections on April 24, with Democrats favored to win.
Even if they do, Republicans still will control the chamber because one Democrat, Sen. Simcha Felder, of Brooklyn, allies with the GOP conference. Also, eight other renegade Democrats known as the Independent Democratic Conference have formed a governing coalition with Republicans.
But many Democratic Party members are pressuring the IDC to return to the mainline Democratic fold after this year’s elections.