ITHACA, N.Y.—Cornell University scientist Dr. Nathan Sitaraman has announced his entry into the race for Common Council for a seat representing the new Third Ward.

Sitaraman declared for the ward’s four-year seat (there is a two-year and four-year seat for each ward). Sitaraman becomes the first candidate to declare for the seat. The Third Ward’s current representatives will both be different come next year: Rob Gearhart has announced he won’t be seeking reelection, and Jeffrey Barken will be stepping down in June.

Sitaraman, who has received the Working Families Party endorsement, touted himself as a “progressive Democrat focused heavily on addressing systemic inequality, protecting reproductive rights, and improving our infrastructure.” He has also been endorsed by current Alderperson Jorge Defendini and Tompkins County Legislator Veronica Pillar, both prominent progressive figures in local government.

Sitaraman said he appreciates the action taken on immigration and reproductive rights locally, presumably talking about the decisions over the last several years to become a sanctuary city, both for immigrants here illegally and for abortion rights. But he listed affordable housing and tenant protections, improving public transit, better infrastructure maintenance all year round and childcare as primary issues the city must tackle.

He also took aim at Cornell University, saying the city can “push” the school and its wealthy counterparts to treat their workers better through more willing collective bargaining practices and implementing a living wage, invest in infrastructure and boost the housing market.

“It used to be that families with average incomes could save up to buy a home, but that’s not the case any more — in part because of the price and instability of renting,” he said. “Meanwhile, homeowners and renters alike have felt the effects of insufficient infrastructure spending, which makes Ithaca harder to get around especially in the winter. Our city needs to make housing more affordable and give tenants the rights and stability we need to enjoy the same quality of life as homeowners, and our city needs to invest in our roads, sidewalks, bike lanes, and public transportation so that Ithacans living everywhere can get to school or to work safely.”

Petitioning for local elections starts this week.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Managing Editor at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at