SOUTH SALEM, N.Y. – South Salem resident Peter Harckham is running for New York State Senate, he announced on Saturday.
According to a report in the New York Daily News, it was Gov. Andrew Cuomo who asked the former Westchester County legislator to challenge two-term incumbent Sen. Terrence Murphy.
Harckham, a Democrat, was a county legislator for 12 years. He stepped down in 2015 to join Cuomo’s administration, serving as assistant director of the Office of Community Renewal. Harckham just finished a nearly two-year stint with the New York Thruway Authority, where he was director of intergovernmental affairs for the New NY Bridge Project (the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge). He also ran for New York State Assembly in 2010.
On Thursday, a committee called “Peter Harckham for State Senate” was registered with the New York State Board of Elections.
“I have been asked by many former constituents, members of our party, and allied advocates and funders to consider running for the New York State Senate, based on my experience and record of accomplishments as a Westchester County legislator for four terms, two terms as the Democratic majority leader,” Harckham said. “I have a proven progressive record, and know how to communicate to the unaffiliated voters who comprise nearly 30 percent of the electorate. I am also proud to have carried the Working Families Party endorsement every time I ran.”
His potential opponent in the September primary, Robert Kesten, said he has met with Harckham. Kesten, also a Democrat from South Salem, launched his campaign in September.
Kesten said he has known Harckham for two decades and called him a “great guy.” However, Kesten said the “secrecy” of what Cuomo and Harckham did may only help the opposition.
“I think all is fair in politics and they’re not doing anything that is abnormal,” Kesten said to Halston Media on Wednesday. “It’s a shame to come in, I think, this late in this way, not being transparent about what they’re trying to do.”
Kesten said he intends to stay the course.
“As of now, there’s no reason for us to leave the race,” he said.
On Friday, Kesten issued a statement welcoming Harckham into the campaign.
“The primary process is one that allows the public to select their candidate,” Kesten said in the statement. “We are proud to have earned the endorsements of nearly all of the Democratic committees in the 40th Senate District, as well as virtually all activist groups—including, just this morning, Indivisible Pawling.”
Harckham thanked Kesten and said Democrats are aligned in their goal to defeat Murphy.
“Over the last several months, many of you have learned to admire and respect [Kesten] the way I do,” Harckham said. “He should be commended for his hard work. I fully understand and greatly appreciate the efforts made to date in this race, and I’m inspired by the passionate work of so many talented people thus far.”
Murphy’s campaign manager, Martha Ruiz Jiménez, said she is “getting my popcorn ready as we watch the bickering. So much for Democratic unity.”
Murphy, a former Yorktown councilman, officially launched his re-election bid on Thursday, May 3, at the Dramatic Hall in Peekskill. He is seeking a third term in Albany.
Until now, his assumed opponent was Kesten, who has been endorsed by nearly two dozen municipal Democratic committees and activist groups, such as Indivisible. Ruiz Jiménez said Cuomo’s actions undermine these endorsements.
“The governor must feel that the so-called Indivisible movement is a joke,” she said.