119th State Assembly District = 128th Assembly District: Democrat Roberts Unchallenged


With a few new voters, state Assemblyman Sam Roberts D-Syracuse, is looking for re-election for a second term in the fall 2012 election.

Since 2010, Roberts has represented the 119th state Assembly District. Because of recent redistricing, it becomes the 128th  Assembly District.  Redistricting — the redrawing of district boundaries — occurs after everycensus to ensure that each district maintains equal numbers of constituents, said political scientists.

For the state legislature, redistricting was controlled by the parties, said Kristi Andersen, the Chapple Family Professor of Citizenship and Democracy at Syracuse University. The redrawn districts are unlikely to change the makeup of the state assembly and senate, she said. “The balance of power will pretty much stay the same,” said Andersen.

In the state assembly, Democrats hold 105 seats — or 70 percent — of the 150 seats. Republicans have 42 seats — or 28 percent.

As of early April, Roberts had no challengers. The election is Nov. 6.

Roberts and members of his staff declined interview requests for this story.

For Roberts, his district changed little. The new 128th Assembly District will still include Salina, Dewitt, Onondaga, the Onondaga nation territory and parts of the city of Syracuse. Portions of the city — the Valley and the Near West Side — will be added to the new 128th Assembly District. The additions mean most of the inner city of Syracuse will be part of the 128th Assembly District.

The balance of Democrats and Republicans in the new 128th Assembly District will remain about the same, according to political scientists. The former 119th Assembly District had about 81,000 registered voters. Of those, Democrats make up 44 percent, Republicans make up 26 percent, and non-affiliated voters make up 24 percent.

Supporters of Roberts say a challenger would have no chance.

“I don’t think putting an opponent up against him would do anything for the Republicans,” said Van Robinson, president of the Syracuse Common Council and a fellow Democrat. “Sam is extremely popular among his constituents.”

Robinson has known Roberts and worked with him for over 25 years. Roberts’ dedication to the working class and struggling people in Syracuse endear him to his constituents, said Robinson.

“He truly believes he is beholden to his constituents,” says Robinson. “He doesn’t mind taking calls at odd hours of the night if it’s about some grave danger or just a pothole in the road that needs fixing.”

In the state assembly, Roberts is a member of the committees on aging; labor; libraries and education technology; small businesses; tourism, parks, arts, and sports development; and transportation.

As of January 2012, the most recent campaign finance report filed with the New York State Board of Elections, shows that Roberts had nearly $14,000 on hand for the election in November. A breakdown of the report shows:

From January 2011 to January 2012 Roberts raised $8,085.

Of that, 45 percent — or $5,900 — came from named individual donors.

22 percent — or $3,000 — came from political action committees.

11 percent — or $1,500 — came from labor unions.

The International Brothers of Electrical Workers union — or IBEW — contributed $1,000 to Roberts campaign. Roberts understands the importance of unions, said Pat Costello, president of the local 43 chapter.

“He knows the benefits of collective bargaining,” said Costello. “He sees that unions have not outlived their usefulness. We need more people truly representing the middle class, protecting minimum wage increases, and fighting for working class families.”

Roberts was a member of United Auto Workers union for 35 years while working for General Motors.

From 1990 to 1999, he served five terms on the Onondaga CountyLegislature. He has lived in Syracuse his entire life.

Roberts has an associate’s degree from Onondaga County College and a certificate in labor studies from Cornell University. He is a sixth-degree black belt in karate and was one time ranked in the top 10 nationally.

(Ben Klein is a senior with dual majors in magazine journalism and political science.)


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