ITHACA ,N.Y.—Daniel Medina is many things: a talented chef, a local business owner and, it appeared, also a candidate for Mayor of Ithaca. But, despite having enough signatures gathered to appear as a Republican on the ballot, Medina told The Ithaca Voice that plans have changed. Life has delivered some unexpected complications.
What would have been a campaign announcement has, instead, become Medina stating his intention to run at a future date.
“I just know I don’t feel represented. I can’t be the only one who feels that way,” said Medina.
Medina said that his desire to seek office was sparked after seeing Zach Winn, a local right wing activist and crime blogger, run for Mayor in 2022.
“We do not agree on a lot of stuff, but there’s a few things we do,” said Medina of Winn.
Winn, who is running to represent Ithaca’s First Ward for a two year term, had helped gather the signatures that Medina needed to appear on the ballot. By the time it became clear that he wouldn’t be able to run, Medina said it was March. But before he could begin the process of nipping his budding political campaign, his designating petition was filed with the Tompkins County Board of Elections, and the news was out: it appeared that someone named Daniel Medina was running for Mayor.
Since then Medina has taken care to formally close the campaign. The Tompkins County Board of Elections confirmed that Medina’s name will not be appearing on the ballot. Winn declined to comment to The Ithaca Voice.
Had he continued with a campaign, Medina said his platform would have been built around addressing a perceived rise in crime in the city, the instability that has permeated the Ithaca Police Department, as well as the high cost of living in Ithaca. However, due to the high housing costs in the city, he isn’t even sure if he’ll be living in Ithaca in the immediate future, which is part of the reason he had to put a campaign on ice.
The home that he’s rented for years in the city was sold by his landlord, Medina told The Voice. It isn’t yet clear to him whether the new owners are going to let him stay or not. If the rent sees a steep increase, then Medina said that he’ll have to move. It’s unclear if there’s housing in the city that he can keep within his budget, but it still feels within the realm of possibility.
“We’re still up in the air because the market is insane,” said Medina.
In addition to the uncertainty around his housing, Medina is also in the first year of running a restaurant, North Folk at the Gallery. He’s been doing pop ups for years under the name North Folk, but Medina and his business partners set up shop in a permanent space in February at The Gallery in Press Bay Court.
The venue offers a creative fine dining experience with prix fixe menus on Friday, and gourmet donuts on Saturday. It’s delicious food for people who want to be “challenged by food,” said Medina.
And much like his cuisine, Medina avoids simple definitions when explaining his politics. While he was running as a Republican — and said he’s registered to vote as one — Medina insisted that his views jump from one side of the aisle to the other but, if he were to be stuck with a label, he said he can be called a centrist.
Were he running, Medina said he would have advocated for the city to make tax cuts where it could, and reign in spending. But he expressed that the city should continue or increase funding to address homelessness and addiction in the city, as well as to social programs to assist low income families and individuals.
“To me, crime is always downstream of poverty,” said Medina.
Medina said he will run for office in the city at some point when his housing issues are settled and his business is off the ground, and it may be as a Republican, though he said it may even be as a Democrat or an Independent.
In the Democrat dominated politics of Ithaca, though, never running as a Republican may have been the best strategic choice. Republicans only make up about 6% of the registered voters in the city.
Asked why he chose to initially run as a Republican, given how it might brand him and make it harder to win office in the future, Medina said he’s trying to open up a dialogue.
“In today’s day and age, it seems like the middle is getting turned down, the ends are getting turned up, and there’s not really a balanced viewpoint and getting any platform.”
Whether he ends up running as a Republican or Democrat, he said, “I think it really comes down to explaining my ideas and positions on things and my intention for that having the honor of representing people. I think that’s relatable.”