Skyler Johnson, 19, of Mount Sinai, is seeking the Democratic nomination for N.Y. State Senate in the First Senate District. Courtesy photo

There’s a fresh new face in the First Senate District 2020 campaign: 19-year-old Skyler Johnson of Mount Sinai.

Johnson is seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge longtime State Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson.)

“I am a serious candidate,” Johnson says, urging people not to dismiss him because of his youth. “I want to make it clear. I’m focusing on policy. When people hear what I have to say, that changes their minds.”

Long Island’s high cost of housing is one of the candidate’s main issues. Johnson says the resulting exodus of the younger generation is reaching crisis proportions.

“We need to lower the income cap for affordable housing,” he said in an interview earlier this month.

Johnson, who is currently a student at Suffolk County Community College, where he studies political science, said Long Islanders spend a lot of money educating their youth, then the young people move away because they can’t afford to live here.

“We need to keep educated people here,” he said.

The state has plenty of money, Johnson said. “It’s just not properly allocated.”

By way of example, he points to the money spent by New York on incarceration.

“New York spends more money per prisoner than any other state — $70,000 per year,” Johnson said. The state needs to re-think its policies that lock up “low-level offenders” at such great expense.

Prison reform is one of Johnson’s top-priority issues, along with water quality, affordable college education, affordable health care, LBGTQ rights and government transparency.

“Its time for someone new” to represent the First Senate District, Johnson said in a Nov. 8 interview.

“LaValle has been in politics for 50 years now,” he said.

LaValle was first elected to the State Senate in 1976. He is the longest-tenured member of that body. LaValle, 80, has not yet announced his intentions regarding a 23rd, two-year term. All but a few of his 42 years in the State Senate have been as a member of the majority party. Democrats took control of the chamber in 2018, where they hold 40 of the chamber’s 63 seats. LaValle serves as chairman of the Republican minority conference.

“I can inspire young voters and I believe it will make a difference,” Johnson said.

Johnson joins Laura Ahearn, crime victims advocate and founder of Parents for Megan’s Law, in the quest for the Democratic nomination in next year’s race.

He says he’s in the race to stay. “Voters need a choice,” Johnson said. “A primary is the way to allow candidates spread their message and give voters a choice.”

Candidates can begin circulating party designating petitions in the 2020 election in New York on Feb. 25. They must be filed between March 30 and April 2. The party primary election is June 23, with early voting taking place June 13-21.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.