INVOKING LINCOLN, KENNEDY OFFICIALLY ANNOUNCES CANDIDACY FOR SENATE SEAT
July 17, 2014 -- At a rally at Sea Cliff’s Lincoln Plaza on Thursday afternoon, Sea Cliff Mayor Bruce Kennedy officially announced his candidacy for New York State’s fifth Senate district seat that is currently held by Republican Carl Marcellino. The event was as much a welcoming party for Mr. Kennedy into the Democratic Party as it was a campaign kick-off event.
At the end of last week, Mr. Kennedy, 49, who had been a Republican for his entire adult life, submitted papers changing his party affiliation to Democrat, a month after the Nassau GOP had withdrawn its nomination of the Sea Cliff Mayor to be its candidate for the 13th Assembly District Seat because of Conservative Party objections to his having officiated two same-sex marriages.
Several elected Democratic officials and candidates for other offices were on hand to welcome Mr. Kennedy “home” and to offer their support. The themes of human rights, Mr. Kennedy’s personal qualities, and the movement of the Republican Party to the right, especially on social issues, dominated the speakers’ and Mr. Kennedy’s remarks.
County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton addressed the crowd first, and spoke of her relationship with Mr. Kennedy whom she described as "a true, honest, and solid person . . . who puts his values first.” Ms. DeRiggi-Whitton, who had been a Republican for 25 years, said that she switched parties for reasons similar to those of Mr. Kennedy. “I am a conservative when it comes to financial issues,” she said, “but it’s really important to also have values of really caring about every person you represent, and I think that’s what this party does.”
Assemblyman Charles Lavine, against whom Mr. Kennedy would have been running had the Republican Party not withdrawn its nomination, spoke next. He characterized Mr. Kennedy as “a feisty guy and a fierce defender of his community, and someone who tells it like it is.” “And if there is anything that we need these days,” he continued, “it is people in office who do that - people who in the great tradition of Bobby Kennedy, tell it like it is.” He spoke of a time when he said the Republican Party provided “a comfortable home for those who fought for human rights.” “Sadly, today there’s a litmus test in the Republican Party,” he explained. “Even if you’re fiscally cautious and even if you’re a local official who has fought to cut taxes and fought to make life more affordable for us Long Islanders who pay an awful lot in taxes, you have to pass those couple of litmus test requirements. That is – you’ve got to be against human rights; you have to be against a woman’s right to make the most intimate decisions about her reproductive freedom; you’ve got to be against the basic human right of being able to marry whomever it is that nature dictates you marry or want to spend your life with. . . .” “Mayor Kennedy,” he concluded, “is back home where he belongs, in the home of the Democratic Party.”
Sea Cliff resident Phil Como, in his introduction of Mr. Kennedy described him as a hard working and forward looking leader, who is respectful of differences. “He respects people. . ., he respects every person and every person’s right to be that person,” He said. “This is a guy who works, this is a guy who studies, this is a guy who leads, this is a guy who sees into the future and sees what we need . . . He is the future.”
Mayor Kennedy then came to the lectern and spoke of why he is running for the state Senate and the qualities he would bring to the position. “When I first ran for Mayor of this village, I promised to work hard, to put a lid on property taxes, to rebuild our downtown and, number one, to empower our residents. Since 2009, I've worked tirelessly on behalf of our residents and I think the results have been spectacular. I am ready to bring the same dedication and energy to Albany,” he said. “I am number one a family man, I am a businessman, I am a local leader. I believe in focusing on solutions and I am driven by service to my fellow man. We all recognize that some Long Island families are struggling and they need somebody who is going to fight for them – not against them. I believe the answer to our questions is a shift in thinking. It is by empowering people and businesses to flourish. We need a fighter and an advocate who will stand up for our working families, for our senior citizens, and for our children, and I’m here to let you know that I’m up to that fight."
Mr. Kennedy then explained the events of the past six weeks that led to his decision to become a Democrat. After becoming the Republican Party’s nominee for the 13th Assembly district seat, he explained, he was asked to go for “a routine interview” with Conservative Party leaders. “At this interview, I was asked - and I’m going to quote - ‘how many gay sex marriages’ I had officiated,” Mr. Kennedy said. “I had never heard such backward thinking, such hatred, and such anger. I was shocked by the question. I answered honestly that I had performed two and I made it clear to this group of individuals that the Marriage Equality Act was passed in 2011, and that as Mayor of an incorporated village I held my right hand up and I swore to uphold the law of the land. And as a result of abiding by the law, the Conservative Party refused to endorse my candidacy.”
Mr. Kennedy said that the Nassau Republican Committee asked him to try to smooth things over with the Conservatives by apologizing, and promising that he would never officiate at such weddings again and, if elected to the Assembly, to vote against the Marriage Equality Act should its repeal ever come up for consideration. Mr. Kennedy refused, and as a result, he said, lost the party's endorsement.
“I would never go back on my word or disavow my actions or my beliefs - beliefs that are grounded in the basic principles of human rights and the responsibility of law makers to uphold the law,” he said. “As Mayor of the Village of Sea Cliff, I have performed countless wedding ceremonies and I have done so without prejudice to ethnicity, color, creed, or who a person loves, and I have a long record of fairly representing all the residents of this village. “
Mr. Kennedy, after noting Abraham Lincoln's commitment to equality and citing the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection of the laws, asserted, "the American dream is based on the assumption of equality – the supposition of equal standing under the laws, and it is to be expected that people of the same political party can agree on issues and economic values but also disagree on social issues.. . . I will not accept an order to violate my personal principles to advance my political career."
“Realizing the party leadership to which I had previously aligned myself refused to denounce hatred, discrimination and prejudice, I vowed that I would stand strong," he continued. "It was during this turmoil that many friends in the Democratic Party once again approached me and said 'join us.'"
Following his remarks, Mr. Kennedy introduced State Senator Michael Gianaris of Queens, who chairs the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. He spoke not only in support of Mr. Kennedy, but also reached out to moderates within the Republican Party. “The Republican Party of New York has lost its way,” he said. “It is held captive to the extremists that are ruining the party nation-wide and there are some who would like to let that come into New York. . . .There may have been a time in the past when the Republican Party stood for moderate values, but now they are kicking out the people who stand up for those values in New York and we’re here to say that the Democratic Party welcomes them with open arms.”
Speaking of Mr. Kennedy’s experience, he said, “The idea that the settled law of the land should not be followed, or that someone should be punished or have to apologize simply for obeying the laws of the state of New York is outrageous.” He described the Sea Cliff Mayor as a “man of principle,” and a “fiscal conservative who has kept taxes under control in this village.” “All of us,” he concluded “want to make sure the tax burden is lessened on the hardworking people of this state and we need more voices like his.”
After an introduction from the candidate, Mr. Kennedy’s campaign manager, Graham Long, made the last statement of the afternoon. “We’re going to win in November,” he said.
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NEW YORK'S FIFTH SENATE DISTRICT
SC MAYOR KENNEDY, NOW A DEMOCRAT, DROPS BID FOR ASSEMBLY SEAT; WILL CHALLENGE REPUBLICAN STATE SENATOR CARL MARCELLINO (July 11,2014)