ITHACA, N.Y.—The voters of the City of Ithaca now have the clearest view yet of this year’s Common Council and Mayoral races. Monday marked the final day for candidates seeking to appear on the ballot in the Democratic and Republican primaries to submit their petitions to the Tompkins County Board of Elections.  

What was a sparse field of candidates a little over a month ago has now seen 18 people step forward to race for a spot on Ithaca’s Common Council in a year where all 10 council seats are open. Ithaca’s Mayoral race also has another entrant, leaving four races with only a single candidate: both seats in Ithaca’s Fourth Ward, the four-year term in Ithaca’s Second Ward, and the two-year term in Ithaca’s Third Ward.

But perhaps the most striking development at this point in the political season are the number of candidates in the city that are expressly standing to the left of the Democratic party. 

Of the 18 candidates now running for Common Council, 17 are running on the Democratic line, nine of which have also been endorsed by the Working Families Party, which sits to the left of the Democratic Party. Of those nine, five are running on the leftist Solidarity Slate, a political project local to Ithaca that comes from a collaboration between the Tompkins County chapter of the Working Families Party, the Ithaca chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, and the Ithaca Tenants Union. 

The slate was formed in 2021, and during that year saw two of its candidates, Alderpersons Phoebe Brown and Jorge DeFendini, elected to office. Slate candidates Brown and DeFendini are running for reelection in Wards 1 and 4, respectively. On Saturday, the slate announced that the two incumbents are being joined by Kayla Matos in Ward 1, West Fox in Ward 2, and Nathan Sitaraman in Ward 3.

The slate candidates are amplifying their messaging beyond what individual candidates can do alone, staking out their platforms on a number of shared issues, like increasing the payments in lieu of taxes that are made to the City of Ithaca by Cornell University, which has vast tax exempt land holdings throughout the city; expanding and making public transit free; implementing legislation hat would prevent employers from firing workers without cause in the city; and reparations for Black Ithacans — an initiative that was introduced last year by Brown and DeFendini in the city’s 2023 talks, but which ultimately did not gain traction at Ithaca’s Common Council. The program would have set aside $1 million of city funds to make direct cash payments to Black Ithacans. 

Three of the five slate members are set to appear in Democratic primaries this June. Brown will be running against Republican Zach Winn in November, a right-wing activist, in the race for the 2 year term for Ithaca’s First Ward. 

Winn was previously cagey about revealing whether he would be running for office or not. He told The Voice in a statement that he intends to continue to run on addressing crime in the city, a marquee issue of his previous platform. While Winn has earned scorn from many of the city’s left leaning activists for fear mongering, incitement and more, he is pitching himself as a candidate that will be “restoring a measure of balance to the Common Council.” He will be taking on a well-supported opponent in Brown. 

The Solidarity Slate has started to define a pattern of success after working to get Brown and DeFendini elected, as well as Alderperson Tiffany Kumar in 2022, however, Kumar is no longer a member of the slate, having lost the endorsement of ITU and DSA in Nov. 2022 under what still remain vague circumstances.

In a statement released by the slate following their Saturday announcement, Alderperson DeFendini said the group will be fighting to “win the progressive change Ithacans have been demanding for years.”

The question embedded in all of the Slate’s races now is if the Democratic stronghold of Ithaca has the appetite to move further left down the political spectrum.

Ithaca’s Mayoral race, which previously had only seen Alderperson Rob Cantelmo announce a campaign for the office, appears to have another contender stepping forward in Daniel Medina, a Republican.

Medina could not be reached by The Ithaca Voice for comment. His campaign has not been publicly announced, it seems. On the entrance of an opponent into the mayoral race, Cantelmo, who has been endorsed by the Working Families Party, emphasized in a statement to The Voice a commitment to promoting housing, and furthering Ithaca’s sustainability goals and public safety reforms, as well as restoring the relationship between the city and its employees.

“Over the course of this campaign, I will continue to speak with residents across the city to work together to bring progressive and pragmatic solutions to our community,” said Cantelmo.

Candidates seeking to run as independents can start collecting signatures on April 18.

Correction (04/12/2023): This story originally reported that there were three Common Council races with only a single candidate seeking election in them at this time. There are four.

The following is a list of all the candidates running for Common Council and the Mayor’s office. 


  • Alderperson Rob Cantelmo (D); Working Families Party
  • Daniel Medina (R)

Ward 1

Four Year Term

  • Alderperson Cynthia Brock (D)
  • Kayla Matos (D); Solidarity Slate

Two Year Term

  • Alderperson Phoebe Brown (D); Solidarity Slate
  • Zach Winn (R)

Ward 2

Four Year Term

  • Alderperson Duscon Nguyen (D); Working Families Party

Two Year Term

  • Alderperson Kris Haines-Sharp (D)
  • West Fox (D); Solidarity Slate
  • Aryeal Jackson (D)

Ward 3

Four Year Term

  • Nathan Sitaraman (D); Solidarity Slate
  • David Shapiro (D)

Two Year Term

  • Pierre Saint-Perez (D)

Ward 4

Four Year Term

  • Alderperson Jorge DeFendini (D); Solidarity Slate

Two Year Term

  • Alderperson Tiffany Kumar (D); Working Families Party

Ward 5

Four Year Term

  • Michelle Song (D); Working Families Party
  • Margaret Fabrizio (D)

Two Year Term

  • Clyde Lederman (D); Working Families Party
  • Jason Houghton (D)

Jimmy Jordan

Jimmy Jordan is Senior Reporter for The Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact him at Connect with him on Twitter @jmmy_jrdn