Anna Kelles, left, ran against Nate Shinagawa, right

ITHACA, N.Y. — Nate Shinagawa says he is not upset that several prominent local Democrats have endorsed his opponent in his bid for the Fall Creek seat on the Tompkins County Legislature.

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Shinagawa says he has not sought the endorsement of these officials — who include former Ithaca Mayor Carolyn Peterson — because they represent a previous generation of local leaders whose priorities differ from his.

By contrast, he said, “The endorsements I’ve received represent the leaders who take the issue of high property taxes seriously, and have made the tough decisions to rein in spending and expand the tax base … We care about property taxes because we represent our neighbors in Ithaca who increasingly can’t afford to stay in their homes.”

On Tuesday, Shinagawa — a legislator of about 10 years and a Congressional nominee in 2012 — will face independent candidate Anna Kelles in a race for the legislature’s Second District.

Kelles disagreed with Shinagawa’s characterization of the endorsements, saying that she has the backing of many up-and-coming, young local leaders and that the campaigns should remain above petty divisions.

See related: Democratic officials split over Ithaca election

Shinagawa has the party’s nomination. But as detailed in an Ithaca Voice story published on Sunday, Kelles has gotten the backing of several current and former prominent local Democrats, including those of former County Chair Tim Joseph and former City Attorney Dan Hoffman.

Shinagawa, meanwhile, has been endorsed by Mayor Svante Myrick, Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton and several members of Ithaca’s current Common Council.

Shinagawa says he sees the split as evidence of a generational leadership divide among local Democrats.

“The current generation of leadership is supporting my campaign while Anna’s campaign gained the support of mostly former elected (officials),” Shinagawa said. “… It’s like the past generation of elected leadership is trying to assert their influence again.”

Anna Kelles is running an independent campaign against Nate Shinagawa.

Kelles’ take on endorsements

Kelles disagreed with Shinagawa’s characterization of her endorsements as representing a previous generation of Tompkins leaders.

She pointed to endorsements she had received from Katie Stoner, of the Park Foundation, as well as that of Emma Frisch.

“To relegate them to bygones or past messengers is, I think, disappointing,” Kelles said.

Kelles also stressed that she was also a Democrat and that both sides of the claimed generational divide are, in fact, generally unified in their priorities.

“We are both Democrats. People shouldn’t forget that we both fundamentally believe in the values of the Democratic oath,” Kelles said.

Additionally, Kelles said that it’s crucial to respect older generations of leaders even if one does not agree with their every action.

“I think that there is something that has happened with the advancement of technology there has been a breakdown between generations in our culture,” Kelles said.

“There was a time when elders held a tremendous wisdom and there was a deference for what that wisdom brought because they had not only experience but enough distance from their own experience to have humility and reflection on what that experience meant.”

Shinagawa said in his email that county property taxes jumped 67.77 percent under Chair Joseph’s tenure and by 66.8 percent under Mayor Peterson’s tenure.

But Kelles said it was unproductive and unfair to blame problems on single individuals. (Both Joseph’s and Peterson’s tenures also largely predate Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2011 tax cap, which has been credited with stemming property tax increases across municipalities in New York.)

“We have healing to do, and I think we need to remember that the problems are so much bigger than this,” Kelles said.

“We can’t be divided … the problems we face — as a country, as a city, as a county — are too big to be petty.”

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.