ITHACA, NY – Money alone may not make a campaign, it’s undoubtedly a powerful tool for any political campaign. Ithaca lawyer Leslie Danks Burke, who is challenging Tom O’Mara for the 58th district state Senate seat, is off to a strong start on that front.

The 58th state Senate district includes Ithaca and the western half of Tompkins County, as well as Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben and Yates Counties. O’Mara has held the seat since 2010, when he beat out another Ithaca democrat, Pamela Mackesey. Mackesey was a Tompkins County Legislator who also ran for mayor of Ithaca.

Danks Burke has raised $385,894 so far this campaign season, more than any other state Senate challenger in the state, according to a press release from her campaign. O’Mara, meanwhile, has raised $244,670 during the same period.

To put those numbers in context, when Mackesey challenged O’Mara she raised $91,680 to O’Mara’s $333,015. O’Mara won the general election with 60 percent of the vote. In his time running for, and sitting in his current state senate seat, O’Mara has brought in a bit over $1,000,000.

Danks Burkes’s campaign continues to highlight that her biggest contributions come from individuals — 94 percent of the over 1,100 contributors are individuals, as opposed to companies or PACs.

Ithacans, in particular, have gotten behind Danks Burke in a big way: at least three individuals from Ithaca have donated $10,000 apiece, and roughly 40 more have donated at least $1,000. Out of 2,000 individually listed donations, around 750 came from Ithaca residents or businesses, totaling around $200,000 (this is not including money that Danks Burke contributed to her own campaign).

O’Mara’s contributors are more diverse, with a mix of individuals, businesses, labor unions and other PACs contributing.

It’s not too surprising to see so much support for Danks Burke come from Ithaca. It’s here hometown, for one thing. And Ithaca and Tompkins are the biggest liberal holdout of an otherwise rather conservative district. Whether all the money raised will translate into positive results beyond the Ithaca area remains to be seen.

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.