ITHACA, N.Y.—Tuesday marks the first day that candidates are allowed to start gathering the signatures they need to appear on the ballot in June’s primaries, yet there are a few races to land a seat on Ithaca’s Common Council that have no declared candidates, and most races only have a single candidate so far. 

All 10 of the seats on Ithaca’s Common Council and the mayor’s office are up for election this year. The beginning of the five-week window that would-be politicians and established local representatives have to gather the signatures they need to race in the primaries functions as an important milestone. 

Depending on the party they’re choosing to represent, and whether they’re seeking to represent city-wide office or a specific ward, candidates will have to gather anywhere from just one to 390 signatures to run for office in the City of Ithaca. The Tompkins County Board of Elections has made signature requirements available on the county website.

The City of Ithaca has five wards, each of which has two representatives on Common Council. The wards were redistricted in 2022 to reflect the results of the most recent census. Candidates will be running to represent the new wards for either a two or four-year term.

While there are rumors circulating of certain candidates yet to come forward with campaign announcements, no one has publicly announced — or at least contacted members of the media — their intention to run for the two-year term in the city’s 3rd Ward, which encompasses the South Hill, Belle Sherman and Bryant Park neighborhoods; the two-year term in the city’s 2nd Ward, which includes the Fall Creek, Washington Park and Downtown neighborhoods; and the four-year term for the city’s 5th Ward, which covers Cornell Heights, the University Hill neighborhood and part of Ithaca’s waterfront. 

Currently, there’s only one primary race that appears set to be contested. Kayla Matos, deputy director at the Southside Community Center, said that she will be running to represent Ithaca’s 1st Ward for a four-year term, meaning she will square off with Alderperson Cynthia Brock, who has represented the ward for almost 12 years. 

The race for mayor of Ithaca has only seen Alderperson Rob Cantelmo come forward. He announced his intention to run in January, soon after Mayor Laura Lewis publicly stated that she would not be seeking the four-year term.

The last day for candidates to file their designating petitions is April 6. It’s not necessarily a cut-off date for one seeking to win a party primary to start campaigning, but time is a valuable asset in completing the daunting work of signature gathering, door knocking, messaging and all the other roving tasks that come with running for local office.

Yet, late campaign starts aren’t all that uncommon. Tompkins County Democratic Commissioner Stephen Dewitt said that “You always get these people who come out of the woodwork and they get to March 20th, and they go ‘Oh, I want to run for office.’ And they go through a mad dash and sometimes they get on the ballot, sometimes they don’t.”

In the Democrat-dominated City of Ithaca, Dewitt said that he hasn’t seen any candidates from the GOP come forward this year. “I haven’t heard a boo on the Republican side.” 

Down the road, the opportunity for candidates to come forward as independents is still wide open. Independents will be able to start gathering signatures for their nominating petitions on April 18 and will have to file their petitions by May 30. 

Jimmy Jordan

Jimmy Jordan is a general assignment reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact him at Connect with him on Twitter @jmmy_jrdn