Yard signs for Tompkins Legislature candidate Anna Kelles

ITHACA, N.Y. — On Tuesday, former Tompkins Legislator and the Democratic Party’s nominee Nate Shinagawa will square off with Anna Kelles, who is running as an independent, in a contested race to represent the 2nd District/Fall Creek seat on the Tompkins County Legislature.

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Yard signs for Tompkins Legislature candidate Anna Kelles
Yard signs for Tompkins Legislature candidate Anna Kelles

See full coverage: Shinagawa, Kelles run for Fall Creek seat

Shinagawa was the area’s Democratic nominee for Congress in 2012. A legislator now for about a decade and the former roommate of Mayor Svante Myrick, Shinagawa has been a mainstay of local politics for several years.

But Kelles has also amassed a series of endorsements from prominent Democrat officials in Ithaca, both in office and out, despite not getting the party’s nomination.

Late last week, Kelles announced what may be her biggest endorsement to-date: That of former Ithaca Mayor Carolyn Peterson, who served two terms in the city’s most visible office.

“Having served as a Common Council representative for Fall Creek and as city mayor, I am keenly aware of the unique culture of this ward. To be effective, it is important that a representative have a deep connection with the community they serve,” Peterson said in the statement. “Not only has Anna been a homeowner for years in Fall Creek, but she grew up with close ties to the neighborhood.”

It’s not that Shinagawa has failed to secure key local endorsements — far from it.

Mayor Myrick, for instance, has publicly endorsed Shinagawa, as has Legislator (and former Congressional nominee) Martha Robertson; Legislature Chair Mike Lane; and Ithaca Common Council members like Josephine Martell and Deb Mohlenhoff.

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Yard signs for Shinagawa

“I’ve lived in Ithaca for over thirty years and have had the chance to work with many dedicated community leaders and elected officials. Nate stands out as one of our community’s most compassionate, hard-working and thoughtful leaders and has been a terrific legislator,” said Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, another leading figure among local Democrats, in an endorsement for Shinagawa.

Still, Peterson is not the only local Democratic official who is bucking the party line.

Kelles has also been endorsed by Tompkins Legislator Dooley Kiefer; former County Chair Tim Joseph; former city attorney Dan Hoffman and Patty Sipman, who was on the Democratic committee that endorsed Shinagawa.

Sipman has since resigned from the committee, and is now volunteering for Kelles’ campaign.

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Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.