Correction: Due to incorrect information provided to the Ithaca Voice, the original version of this story incorrectly stated that Rich John will be running on the “Independent Line” in the general election. In fact, he is running as a write-in candidate.
ITHACA, N.Y. — Local attorney Rich John announced Tuesday night that he is campaigning for a seat on the Tompkins County Legislature this November.
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John will face Cornell student Elie Kirshner, 19, in a race to represents the county’s Fourth District — which includes Collegetown and much of downtown Ithaca.
Kirshner, field director for Mayor Svante Myrick’s reelection campaign, won a controversial Democratic Party nomination that was decided by a handful of local committee members at a private meeting. It had not been clear until Tuesday night whether John, who lost that nomination, would continue to seek the seat.
(In the race for the legislature’s Second District, Nate Shinagawa was nominated over Anna Kelles after a similarly criticized process discussed at length in this story.)
New to this story? Find full related content here: Contested race for 4th District seat
Chair of the Tompkins Democratic Committee Irene Stein responded to criticisms of the nominating process in a letter published yesterday in the Ithaca Voice, saying that the local Democrats’ hands were tied by state election law.
“According to the Law, there cannot be a primary,” Stein wrote. “Candidates who do not receive Party endorsement may choose to circulate petitions and run on an Independent line.”
Still, John said that he was “really troubled” by the nominating process. He added that he was encouraged that Stein’s letter noted that candidates can still run — as he now plans to do as a write-in candidate.
“I have received repeated requests from residents in the District to get back into the race so that the voters would have an actual choice in who represents them,” John added in a statement.
John cites experience | John says he has lived in Ithaca for 50 years, has raised a family on East Hill for the past 18 years and has practiced law for 29 years.
Asked about his candidacy, John pointed to the size of the county’s budget — $175 million — and the large number of employees the county is tasked with overseeing.
“You want someone who has held a job before and paid taxes in the district and has long experience here,” John said.
Student representation? | Some proponents of Kirshner’s candidacy have argued that it is important to have student representation in local government, in part because of how many students live in Tompkins County.
“Sure, they should be represented like anybody else,” John said. “But the idea that only a student can represent students is not true … I have a daughter who just graduated from Cornell; I think I can represent students, as well as any other type of person in the district.”
“Is it important that students are involved? Sure. Is this a county rep. seat reserved for students? I don’t think that’s right.”
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