"There's a high level of hypocrisy in the Senate and someone has to get out there and talk about it," state senatorial candidate E. Chris Murray of Westbury said weeks before the Nov. 5 election. He vows to do just that if voters let him grab current Senator Michael Balboni's seat in the 7th District, which covers several communities, including Floral Park, Hicksville, New Hyde Park, Westbury, Mineola, Manhasset, Port Washington and Great Neck.
Without extensive political experience, the practicing attorney is challenging Balboni because he feels New York has failed its people. "Although New York led the nation in providing progressive and compassionate governmental services to its citizens throughout the 20th Century, at the dawn of the 21st Century, it's turned its back on residents," he said.
Murray cites prime examples of just how he thinks the state did that, including New York's lack of suitable healthcare and job training to those who need it. He is concerned with the abandonment of the mentally ill and is focusing his campaign on New York resuming a leadership role in addressing these concerns, with education making the top of his agenda.
"I feel the Republican State Senate has been fundamentally wrong on a number of issues. I always grew up being proud of New York because it's always been a progressive state that's led the nation in the types of services that could be provided to people and the importance of government," Murray said during an interview with Anton Newspapers.
"But now I believe New York has lost that leadership role, a lot of which has to do with the fact that the Republican State Senate blocks a lot of meaningful legislation."
Specifically, Murray noted campaign finance reform. "It's kind of absurd that New York's rules with regard to their elections are looser than those of the federal government. Every year the State Assembly has passed campaign finance reform bills to put stricter limits on contributions and set up a public finance election system, similar to what they have in New York City, and that doesn't even get voted on in the State Senate."
Graduating with honors from SUNY Albany and the Georgetown University Law Center, Murray is currently a partner in the Garden City law firm of Reisman, Peirez & Reisman, L.L.P., a practice concentrating on complex commercial, civil rights, intellectual property, environmental and employment litigation before federal and state courts.
As a father of two young children in the public school system, he is deeply concerned with the failure to provide adequate state aid. Murray disagrees with the Senate's move to halt the adoption of a cost of living adjustment to the state school aid formula, which he said cost Long Island school districts billions of dollars and forced property taxes to increase.
If not for New York's progressive tradition and its past commitment to public higher education, Murray admits he would not have been able to attend college and graduate from SUNY [State University of New York] Albany. This, he said, makes him well aware of the positive impact state government can have on an individual's life.
Murray has served as general counsel for the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce, Inc. since 1991. He is a member and the secretary of the Nassau County Open Space & Park Advisory Committee, created to advise the Nassau County Planning Commission regarding the sale of any county-owned property and develop policies to encourage the preservation of parkland and open space.
He also serves as a member of the Garden City Chamber of Commerce's board of directors and the New York Civil Liberties Union's Nassau chapter. Murray is on the Business Advisory Council for the Nassau County Mental Health Association's JOBS + program, which prepares people suffering from mental illness to get back into the workforce.
He said it's important for Nassau County residents to elect representatives to the New York State Legislature who would support the fiscal reforms for Nassau that County Executive Tom Suozzi is proposing. "After November 5th I guarantee you're going to hear that there are some serious, serious financial problems in New York State," he said.
Drawing on an analogy between New York's current efforts to paper over a budget deficit with fiscal gimmicks to the irresponsible behavior that drove Nassau to the verge of bankruptcy, Murray promised to wage an issue-oriented campaign. "There's an honesty that has to be addressed when it comes to budget matters. You have to honestly assess what has to be done and say, 'Well, we're going to have to tax you to do it,'" he said.
Realizing that Senator Balboni is a conscientious public servant, Murray argued that change is necessary to shift the government's priorities and that he could provide innovative and independent leadership in the Senate. He is running on the Democratic, Liberal and Working Families party lines.