In an announcement posted to his website last Wednesday, Squadron, who officially vacated his office on Friday, wrote that since Donald Trump’s presidential victory, he thought hard about how to “best change the direction of our country.”
“After much reflection, I have decided to lend my hand to make a difference in states across the country, pushing policies and candidates that will create a fairer and more democratic future,” Squadron wrote. “It’s not possible to take on this challenge and continue to be a full-time legislator, which is what I always promised I would be.”
When Squadron was first elected in 2008, in which he unseated a 30-year incumbent, he became the youngest member of the State Senate. Before running for office, he was a top aide for U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.
In a letter to supporters, Squadron listed some of his accomplishments in his nearly decade-long stint in Albany, including securing funds for public housing, storm resiliency and waterfront parks.
He advocated for a Lunar New Year school holiday, brought a pool to Brooklyn Bridge Park, and pushed for state campaign finance reform.
But in an op-ed to the New York Daily News, Squadron expressed his disillusionment with Albany. He blamed “heavily invested special interests” for thwarting state government’s promise, including “cynical political deals” that denied Democrats a majority – an indirect reference to the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference.
“Rank-and-file legislators face structural barriers, including 'three men in the room' decisionmaking, loophole-ridden campaign finance rules and a governor-controlled budget process,” Squadron wrote.
The former senator further explained his next steps in the op-ed. He plans to team up with entrepreneur Adam Pritzker and Jeffrey Sachs from Columbia University to launch a “national effort” focused on running strong candidates and enacting policies at the state level.
“Across my district, and across the country, people are engaging with civic and political life in a way that seemed unthinkable a year ago,” he wrote. “Our future – what kind of nation and world our kids grow up in – is at stake.”
Squadron reassured his constituents that his resignation won’t impact the partisan balance of the State Senate because his district is “safely Democratic.” He also said the timing of his decision gives enough time for his seat to be filled this November.
Some critics have already labeled the government reformer a hypocrite because his resignation allows Democratic Party bosses to choose the nominees for his special election. In the heavily Democratic district, the chosen Democratic nominee is almost ensured a victory.
To temper the criticism, Squadron released a statement that said he has long pushed for legislation to require nonpartisan special elections in cases like this one.
“The prescribed process for choosing a nominee in most circumstances of a vacancy – a vote of the Democratic County Committee – leaves much to be desired,” Squadron said.
In a letter to New York County Democratic Committee Chair Keith Wright and Kings County Democratic Committee Chair Frank Seddio, Squadron said he wants to ensure Brooklyn’s votes are counted when choosing a Democratic nominee, since Lower Manhattan makes up a larger portion of his district.
“Every neighborhood, including those in Brooklyn, where I live, should have a say in choosing a nominee,” he said. “To disenfranchise Brooklynites would be unfair and undemocratic.”
Brian Kavanagh, a Manhattan assemblyman representing a district from the Lower East Side to East Midtown, has already thrown his hat in the ring.
Some of his priorities would include improving schools, safeguarding the environment, promoting economic justice, and creating a fairer political system.
“I am running for State Senate to fight for our communities in Manhattan and Brooklyn and create the progressive, reform-minded Senate that New Yorkers deserve,” Kavanagh said. “For 11 years in the Assembly, I have advocated for my constituents and stood up when government in Albany has failed to function as it should.”