Paraplegic LI politician seeks state senate seat

Published: November 5, 2006  |  Source: brookeellison.com
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SMITHTOWN, N.Y. — The title of her autobiography says it all about Brooke Ellison’s longshot chance of upsetting a two-term incumbent Tuesday in her state Senate bid: “Miracles Happen.”

Paralyzed from the neck down and Ventilator-dependent since a 1990 traffic accident, the 28-year-old Democrat is making her first bid for public office. She hopes to inspire voters with the obstacles she has overcome, and promises to bring the same grit and determination to Albany that earned her a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 2004.

“I went into the campaign expecting a lot of hard work, a lot of hours on the phone, and that’s exactly what it has been,” Ellison said just hours after her endorsement by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.

“I have loved all of it. I have not been daunted by any of it. I certainly have enjoyed it.”

Ellison’s 2002 autobiography, “Miracles Happen: One Mother, One Daughter, One Journey,” co-written by her mother Jean, was later made into a movie directed by Christopher Reeve and starring Lacey Chabert.

Like the late Reeve, Ellison has strongly supported embryonic stem cell research and strongly criticized President Bush’s veto of stem cell research legislation.

“Not since the advent of antibiotics has there been so much promise on the medical horizon,” she said. “Legislators who will let this unjust veto stand have turned their backs on anyone with cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or spinal cord injury. The cure for each of these ailments lies in stem cell research.”

Ellison’s task is daunting: It’s been more than a century since a Suffolk County Democrat was elected to the state Senate, and she’s challenging a popular and well-financed incumbent in Republican John Flanagan.

Flanagan, 45, is seeking his third Senate term after first being elected to the state Assembly in 1986. He did not return repeated calls to his office for comment, but he and Senate Republicans have spent nearly $1 million on advertising his accomplishments.

Ellison’s camp has accepted nearly $300,000 in donations, including checks from Reeve’s late widow, Dana, and Long Island native/actor Alec Baldwin.

Flanagan, who flirted with a possible bid for statewide office, has worked to remind voters that he’s brought considerable state funding back to his district: $25 million for the Stony Brook University wireless research complex, $35 million for Stony Brook’s energy resource center, and $7.5 million for a new science building at Suffolk Community College.

Endorsements in the race were split: Newsday backs Flanagan, while The New York Times supports Ellison.

“Endorsements are very nice and very important, but what it comes down to are the people,” Ellison said. “I’m out there every day meeting people. That’s what’s important. I cannot kiss babies and shake people’s hands, but being able to connect with people? That’s what I’m doing.”

By FRANK ELTMAN
Associated Press Writer