ITHACA, N.Y.—Alderperson Cynthia Brock ended more than a month of silence Tuesday when she declared she would be continuing her campaign to retain her seat on the city of Ithaca’s Common Council as an independent.
Brock, a 12 year incumbent on council, lost the Democratic primary in June to Kayla Matos, the Deputy Director of the Southside Community Center. She is now running on the Ithacans For Progress line against Matos for a four-year term representing the city’s First Ward.
Brock, as well as Matos, had committed to continuing their campaigns into November no matter the result of the June primary. But Brock appeared to get cold feet after the results came in, repeatedly stating she was not ready to confirm whether she would continue her campaign or not.
On Tuesday, she told a crowd of about 50 people at the Ithaca Farmers Market that she had “encouraged my supporters to accept the results of the primary. I was fully prepared to leave.”
“And then it rained, and it rained, and it rained,” Brock said.
She told supporters that the deluges experienced across the Northeast since June, and the growing signs of climate change’s impact on the environment, are what convinced her to continue running for office.
“I am running because when the storm comes or a crisis happens, I want to make sure that our city, our community is ready and able to respond,” Brock said.
A deep familiarity with city regulations, systems and infrastructure have served as hallmarks of Brock’s campaign messaging. This knowledge, and her experience as a legislator, Brock said, are what distinguishes her from her opponent and what puts her in the position to address a crisis.
Matos, who ran as a member of the Solidarity Slate — a group of five socialist candidates — captured 56% of the vote in the primary. She pitched herself as a more progressive choice than Brock. Her victory against the long-time incumbent came with the support of the New York State Working Families Party, which named her a priority candidate, and the Ithaca Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, as well as a wave of grassroots organizing.
After her victory in June, Matos claimed that the Solidarity Slate had over 100 individual volunteers supporting its candidates.
With the confirmation that Brock is back in the race, Matos told The Ithaca Voice, “I think that Ithaca is starting to realize that we need a change, and that I am willing to fight and put in the effort to make that change, and that is ultimately why I was able to win the Democratic primary in June.”
She added, “When you build momentum, you continue with momentum.”
Brock’s messaging largely stuck to the issues that she established in her primary platform
Brock emphasized that she wants to see the city of Ithaca expand collaboration with Tompkins County and surrounding municipalities. This, she said, is the approach needed to “address those living in homelessness, to expand housing opportunities and affordability” and many of the city’s issues.
She said that the city of Ithaca also needs to reverse its policy that encourages the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency to approve tax abatements for real estate developers building for-profit market rate housing.
Many organized labor groups remain coalesced around Brock, even as she continues her campaign as an independent.
Ann Marie Taliercio, president of the Central New York AFL-CIO, spoke in support of Brock on Tuesday, as did Marcus Williamee, an organizer and business representative of the Plumber and Steamfitters Union, and representative of the Tompkins Cortland Building Trades Council.
Brock’s choice to run as an independent risks ostracizing her from the local Democratic Party. She was forced to resign from the party, which she has been a loyal member of for over a decade.
Yet her announcement Tuesday was well attended by local officials and recent winners of the Democratic primaries for city council seats. Alderperson George McGonigal spoke in support of Brock before her announcement. Alderperson Donna Flemming was also in attendance.
Margaret Fabrizio and David Shapiro, both recent winners of the Democratic primaries in the city’s Fifth and Third Wards, respectively, both showed up.
Asked to explain her thoughts on the potential fallout with local Democratic Party officials she may experience, Brock told reporters on Tuesday that her commitment has “always been to the Democratic Party and supporting Democratic candidates” and that she is not “interested in higher office.”
“So I hope they understand why I’ve made this decision,” Brock said.
Tompkins County Democratic Committee (TCDC) Chair Linda Hoffmann issued a newsletter last week addressing inquiries of whether a TCDC member can publicly support a candidate that has lost the Democratic primary.
In the instance a TCDC member chose to support a candidate that lost the primary, Hoffman wrote that they would be removed from the local Democratic Party upon a two thirds vote of the committee — a process Hoffman called an “arduous” one.
Now, without the support of the local Democratic Party, Brock is in the position of having to build a coalition to rival the organizing might behind her opponent. Asked about the network she is building as her and Matos prepare campaign against each other into November, Brock said, “I’m going to have to play to my base and my base is the working people of the city of Ithaca in the First Ward.”