ITHACA, N.Y. — Alderperson Tiffany Kumar found her car vandalized with a note left on the windshield that read “Resign B—-” Thursday afternoon.
Photos of the note provided by Kumar, and reviewed by The Ithaca Voice, show a torn piece of paper with the word “Resign” written on one side and the word “B—-” written on the other in all capital letters. Photos of Kumar’s car show dents and scratches along its rear right-side door.
“It didn’t look like it got keyed. It looked like somebody took a brick to it or something,” Kumar said.
Kumar won an unopposed race Election Day to represent the city’s Fourth Ward. She has represented the ward since the start of 2023. She told The Ithaca Voice she discovered the note and the damage done to her car Thursday afternoon. She said she returned home around midnight the night before, and did not see the note or damage to her car, which she left parked in her apartment’s driveway. Kumar intends to file a police report Friday.
Kumar, an undergraduate student at Cornell University, said she is “still trying to wrap her head around what happened,” but finds the act disturbing. She considers the pejorative directed at her a slur.
“I want to be very clear: here in Ithaca and across the United States we choose our leaders through free and fair elections and not through intimidation or bullying,” Kumar said in a statement. “I am disturbed that anyone in our community would think that this is the appropriate way to voice opposition, and I am calling on all of Ithaca’s leaders to denounce this undemocratic act.”
When asked what she thought the note and car damage were motivated by, Kumar declined to comment. “I don’t really feel comfortable talking about the motivations right now,” she said.
The note and the damage done to Kumar’s car comes after the wider public learned of a surprise write-in campaign to elect Cornell Student Assembly President Patrick Kuehl to a seat representing the City of Ithaca’s Fourth Ward on Common Council. If Kuehl wins, he would unseat Alderperson Jorge DeFendini, a member of the Solidarity Slate, a two-member socialist political bloc on Ithaca’s 10-member Common Council.
The group’s presence would grow to three members on council if DeFendini retains his seat after the election results are finalized. The slate includes Alderperson Phoebe Brown, and Kayla Matos who won a race to represent the First Ward in the general election against Alderperson Cynthia Brock.
While Kuehl chose not to make his campaign public in the lead up to Election Day, he told The Ithaca Voice in a text message that he spoke with community members for “over a month and a half” leading up to the election and that it is “not our fault that no one told the slate.”
In a separate statement, Kuehl named Kumar and Alderperson George McGonigal as supporters of his campaign. However, both Kumar and McGonigal have sought to portray their involvement in Kuehl’s campaign as limited in comments to The Ithaca Voice.
Kumar said she “didn’t endorse Kuehl,” but is “glad there is a democratic process of more than one candidate.” McGonigal said he didn’t consider himself a part of Kuehl’s campaign, and only knew about it the night before Election Day.
Kuehl’s write-in campaign flew under the radar of local media and DeFendini, only coming to the public’s attention Tuesday a couple of hours before polls closed in the general election. DeFendini, who is in his first term on council, thought he was unopposed throughout the primary and general elections and ran a mild reelection campaign. He has called Kuehl’s campaign “deceptive and undemocratic.”
The Fourth Ward, which is largely populated by students, historically has low voter turnouts. DeFendini only captured 28 votes in the unofficial election results, while 12 write-in ballots were submitted. There are at least 38 affidavit ballots that need to be counted, according to the Tompkins County Board of Elections Democratic Commissioner Steve DeWitt. The race is a toss up, and the results won’t be clear until all the ballots are counted next week.
DeFendini posted a statement Friday on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, condemning the note Kumar received and the damage done to her car. “These actions are both disgusting and undemocratic. They do not speak for me,” DeFendini said.
Alderperson Ducson Nguyen called the note Kumar was left “misogynistic” and an “act of political retaliation” in a post on X. “This is reprehensible behavior and anyone who cares about elections in the slightest should be well above such conduct,” Nguyen said.
Kumar said she was initially “hesitant” to file a police report, but is doing so in order to document the incident after consulting her colleagues on council.
Kumar said, “I think it’s really, really messed up that somebody would choose that [word] when there are many other ways to get an argument about disliking me across [other than] to use a slur and to weaponize violence against women.”
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