Dave Franklin has shaved his head, dressed in drag as Cher and even dove into Jell-O – all in the name of benefiting others.
“I never say no to charity,” Franklin said in a phone interview.
But his biggest challenge will come in November when he’ll be on the ballot as the Republican nominee for the Seventh District of the New York State Senate.
The Seventh District includes Floral Park, New Hyde Park, Williston Park, Mineola, Garden City Park, North Hills, Albertson, Old Westbury, East Hills, Roslyn, Roslyn Harbor, Roslyn Estates, Albertson, Searingtown, Lake Success, Manhasset, Munsey Park, Plandome, Plandome Heights, Plandome Manor, and the entireties of the Great Neck and Port Washington peninsulas.
Incumbent State Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck), a former council member for the Town of North Hempstead, defeated sitting state Sen. Elaine Phillips (R-Flower Hill) for the seat in 2018 and is pursuing a second term.
Born upstate in Syracuse in 1957, Franklin initially grew up in nearby Baldwinsville before moving to parts of New Jersey, including Irvington and Newark.
He graduated from Jersey Academy in Jersey City and would spend some time at Saint Louis University in Missouri before attending Manhattan’s New School for Social Research, studying TV and radio.
His first job in New York came in 1981, working as a production assistant at MSG Networks.
“I found a pay stub from my time there just the other day,” Franklin recalled. “I brought home $425 every two weeks as a PA.”
He worked at MSG Networks for two years, and in 1983 accepted a job as an operations technician for HBO in Hauppauge. Franklin would spend 36 years at the company, moving up to a position as a radio frequency technician, then an operations supervisor, working nights to raise his sons during the day.
In the meantime, Franklin and his wife moved to Port Washington in 1986, and would raise their two sons there.
“We had heard about how great Port was from our friends,” Franklin said. “And they were right!”
Franklin’s sons would attend the soon-to-close St. Peter of Alcantara School, and he first became involved with the Port community with fellow parents there.
“The mom of a student had been stricken with illness and was in the hospital,” Franklin said. “And there was a group of moms at St. Peter’s that got together and organized to make sure this family was taken care of, with who would do meals and laundry on what day all laid out. From then on I’ve done whatever I can to help the community.”
Among other community events, Franklin has volunteered at the Port Washington Chamber of Commerce’s annual Souper Bowl and the Port School District’s Community Read Aloud, as well as activities for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation (aforementioned head shaving) and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (aforementioned Jell-O dive). He has also spent 15 years as a performer and writer with Port’s Red Stocking Revue (aforementioned Cher drag).
“As a result of that exposure, people got to know who I was,” Franklin said.
In the days immediately following Superstorm Sandy in 2012, Franklin was one of a number of residents who founded the Port Crisis Relief Team.
“I would go from work in the morning straight to the Landmark Theater, and we would feed people and distribute clothing to those who needed it,” Franklin said.
2010 would see Franklin run for office for the first time, for a seat on the Port Washington Police District’s board of commissioners. He won that race plus two other terms in 2013 and 2016, before losing his seat last year to “a friend of mine,” Frank Scobbo.
Weeks prior to the commissioner election, Franklin was let go from HBO when AT&T’s buyout of parent company Time Warner led to his job being moved to Atlanta, Georgia.
“I’d lost two jobs in six weeks,” Franklin said with a laugh. “But I believe that when one door closes, another opens.
Not long after, he was approached by the local Republican committee to run for state senate. He took the opportunity, announcing his candidacy earlier this year.
Among the issues that Franklin foresees for the election are bail reform.
“I thought that [those changes were] criminal,” Franklin said. “The crimes that qualify for bail include criminal sale of an illegal substance on school grounds, criminal sale of an illegal substance to a child, reckless assault of a child. That shouldn’t be. I understand a need for taking a look at who can and can’t afford it, but you’re taking the flexibility out of the judge’s hands. If it’s a repeat offender or one that could be hurtful to the public or themselves, then the judge’s hands are tied.”
With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Franklin says he is in favor of creating jobs through creating facilities that produce personal protective equipment and ventilators, both in the district and in places upstate.
“We’re losing 270 New Yorkers a day, they’re moving out of state due to high taxes and a lack of jobs,” Franklin said. “You can’t keep increasing taxes, it’s too much of a burden on people. Anything that affects the state will affect us in the long run.”
The candidate also says that schools will need a better option than distance learning come the fall.
“Already, we’re two months away from what would be the regular school year,” Franklin said. “I read a study from the University of Washington, they checked 477 school districts and only 27 percent of those districts recorded students who logged on. You want to open school safely, but there’s so many other factors that will affect the parents and the teachers. Do you have to hire tutors to come in, hire childcare, have a parent stay home? Not to mention that kids could lose some vital social skills. I think the governor and legislature have to work out a way right now to open them safely.”
Franklin is also in favor of supporting the openings of vocational high schools, streamlining bureaucracy, arts education in schools, and trades. He also looks forward to having town halls and hearing what can be worked on.
“If you don’t know what’s wrong you can’t fix it, and it’s listening rather than speaking that I think will make the difference,” Franklin said.
For Franklin, the run for state Senate is the latest in a long line of chances to give back.
“My motto is and always has been, people over politics,” Franklin said.