ITHACA, N.Y. — The Town of Ithaca Democratic Committee has announced its endorsements for candidates running for town and Tompkins County Legislature seats. The committee chose to support two political newcomers for Tompkins County Legislature over people with long backgrounds in politics.

Town candidates, who were all incumbents, all received endorsements. James Salk is running for Town Justice. Rich DePaolo, Tee-Ann Hunter and Pat Leary are running for Town Board.

Town of Ithaca Democrats also made endorsements for some Legislature candidates whose districts cross into the Town of Ithaca.

In District 5, Jim Dennis currently holds the seat and is being challenged by two candidates, Democrat Anne Koreman and an Independent Keith Hannon. The Democratic Committee endorsed Koreman over Dennis.

Koreman does not have a political background, but has pledged to fight for the average citizen of Tompkins County and be a voice for working class families.

Dennis has served on Tompkins County Legislature for about 10 years, and served in local government for 13 years before that. He chairs the Industrial Development Agency and the Budget, Personnel and Capital Committee. Despite not getting the endorsement, Dennis said Wednesday he is not dropping out.

“I’m not dropping out and I wouldn’t drop out because I know there have been Democratic candidates over the years who ran for office countywide, statewide who didn’t get endorsed by Town of Ithaca Democrats,” Dennis said.

In District 11, the Democratic Committee also endorsed a candidate, Shawna Black, who has no political background over candidate Herb Engman, who has a lot of prior experience in local politics and is the former Ithaca Town Supervisor.

Black is an activist and was a key organizer in Ithaca who brought people to the Women’s March on Washington. In an interview with The Ithaca Voice, Black said she chose to run because she said her generation “has been passive in the political process.” She said the presidential election was a huge awakening.

Since the endorsements, Engman has dropped out of the race, Town of Ithaca Chair Linda Hoffmann confirmed.

Peter Stein, who currently represents District 11, is not seeking re-election.

The Town of Ithaca Democratic Committee also endorsed incumbent Dan Klein in District 7, Deborah Dawson in District 10 where Dooley Kiefer is stepping down, and Amanda Champion in District 12 where Will Burbank is stepping down.


Hoffmann said she could not speak to how committee members made their selection, as she was not part of the decision-making. The committee members who are eligible to vote for the candidates in their district make the decision confidentially.

There are 42 seated members of the Town of Ithaca Democratic Committee, and 22 people are required to establish quorum. Though all committee members present vote on Town of Ithaca candidates, like town board and town justice candidates, everyone does not vote on Legislature candidates. It depends how many members are in the district. For example, in District 5, the Town of Ithaca is just a small portion of the district which also covers Ulysses and part of Enfield, so only four members of the committee could vote to endorse a candidate for that district.

Several legislative candidates will compete in the Democratic primary Sept. 12. Other races will be decided at the general election Nov. 7.

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.