ITHACA, N.Y.—It’s that time again, Tompkins County. Here’s what you’ll need before heading to the polls.
Polling hours and locations
Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. throughout Tompkins County. If you’re not sure of your polling location, you can look it up on the Tompkins County Board of Elections search tool found here. Be aware: the search function can be a bit finicky and addresses must be filled out in the correct format, such as “121 E Seneca St” for 121 East Seneca Street.
The Democratic primaries for Common Council have absorbed the most attention of the current election cycle, and with good reason. Every 10 years the City of Ithaca undergoes a redistricting process and each Common Council member, as well as the mayor, are automatically up for election. With the city currently facing a bevy of crucial issues, like the oft-discussed renegotiation of the Memorandum of Understanding with Cornell University, an ongoing housing affordability crisis and homelessness, among others.
Those stakes have brought a wave of money into the local races, with over $20,000 donated to Common Council Democratic primary campaigns this year, and nearly that much spent by candidates campaigning. They’ve also generated some creative strategies employed by candidates—Ward 5 contenders Jason Houghton and Margaret Fabrizio formed an independent party called Ithacans for Progress along with First Ward Alderperson Cynthia Brock.
Ward 1 – Cynthia Brock and Kayla Matos
Cynthia Brock is the longest-tenured Common Council member, taking on Kayla Matos, a Solidarity Slate candidate who is deputy director of the Southside Community Center (Correction: Matos was initially called the executive director here). While the two align on some issues, their most public disagreements during the campaign have revolved around how to address the city’s homelessness issue.
Matos has drawn the eye of the New York Working Families Party, which has made her a “priority candidate” in her race against Brock. That status has afforded Matos some extra ground game help and digital canvassing from the WFP. Slate candidates have all been endorsed by the Working Families Party, the Ithaca Tenants Union and the local Democratic Socialists of America chapter.
Brock has scored notable endorsements from several local labor unions, including area chapters of the IBEW, LiUNA, UAW and the Tompkins-Cortland Building & Construction Trades Council, as well as her longtime Ward 1 counterpart, George McGonigal, who is not running for re-election. On the other hand, Workers United Upstate New York, which is connected to the Starbucks unionization movement, endorsed the Solidarity Slate as a whole, including Matos.
Ward 2 – Aryeal Jackson, West Fox and Kris Haines-Sharp
Jackson, Fox and Haines-Sharp are running for the two-year seat for the Second Ward, as current Second Ward Alderperson Phoebe Brown has been shifted to the First Ward under the new district lines. Haines-Sharp currently holds the Fifth Ward seat via appointment by Mayor Laura Lewis, but her residence now falls in the Second Ward under the redistricted lines.
Along with aforementioned slate-wide endorsements, Fox was endorsed by Meryl Phipps, the executive director of the Village at Ithaca, where Fox works as program director, while Haines-Sharp received an endorsement from former Ithaca alderperson and chief of staff Dan Cogan and pro-choice advocacy group Eleanor’s Legacy. Jackson has been endorsed by former Mayor Svante Myrick, and Tompkins County Legislator Travis Brooks.
Ward 3 – David Shapiro and Dr. Nathan Sitaraman
Second Wind Executive Director David Shapiro and Cornell scientist Nathan Sitaraman are both vying for the four-year Third Ward seat. Sitaraman is a Solidarity Slate candidate who has been critical of Cornell during his campaign season, while Shapiro has touted his abilities as an organizational leader to help the city’s ills, particularly financially.
While Shapiro and Sitaraman have both said Cornell needs to pay more, their main differentiation could be which candidate is best positioned to help the city leverage itself effectively against the Ivy League school.
Sitaraman was endorsed by local labor figure Pete Meyers, while prominent Tompkins County Democrat Ann Sullivan has endorsed Shapiro.
Ward 5 – Margaret Fabrizio, Jason Houghton, Clyde Lederman and Michelle Song
The Fifth Ward race has the most subplots of any of the local races, between the emergence of the Ithaca Student Alliance and its accompanying financial might and the clearly defined faction lines. While Lederman and Song’s campaigns were under the umbrella of the Ithaca Student Alliance, Houghton and Fabrizio campaigned jointly through Friends of Fabrizio and Houghton, their multi-candidate committee.
The race has attracted thousands of dollars in campaign contributions, higher than any other race. That is mostly fueled by an impressive showing in fundraising and spending by the Ithaca Student Alliance, though a majority of the money stems from donations from Lederman’s hometown of Nyack.
This race also got a bit more interesting with a last-minute endorsement from mayoral candidate and current Ward 5 Alderperson Robert Cantelmo of Song and Lederman’s campaigns, an announcement that came via Twitter Monday evening.
Races around Tompkins County
While Ithaca’s races have gotten the most attention, there are plenty of competitive races happening around the county as well. There are also Democratic primaries in Caroline, where the future of the town’s heated zoning battle could lay in the balance, as well as Danby and Enfield. Enfield also has a Republican primary vote Tuesday.
Correction (06/27/2023): Alderperson Robert Cantlemo was originally reported to have endorsed Second Ward candidate Aryeal Jackson. Cantlemo has not made an endorsement in the three way race in the Second Ward.
The Ithaca Voice’s Jimmy Jordan and Judy Lucas contributed reporting to this story.