ITHACA, NY – The general election is less than three months away, on Nov. 8. On that date, people across the country will be headed to the polls to, most of them focused on the race for the next President of the United States of America.
However, there are a number of other races down the ballot that will determine local, state and federal lawmakers. Here’s a quick guide to the rest of the races that people across Tompkins County will be voting on, depending on where you live:
While state- and national-level races are already fairly well established, local races for offices in the towns of Tompkins County aren’t entirely off the ground yet.
For most town-level positions, this is an off-year — the only reason elections are being held for many of them is because the previous office-holder retired or otherwise left the office before their term was finished. This is the case for two Town Board seats in Dryden, one in Caroline and one in Enfield, as well as a Town Clerk seat in Lansing and a Highway Supervisor position in Ulysses.
Winner of those elections will serve out the remaining one year (three years for the Lansing Clerk spot) of the previous holder’s term, and those seats will once again open up in 2017.
Additionally, the Tompkins County District Attorney seat is up for grabs, and the four-year seats for the office of Town Justice are open in the Town of Ithaca and the Town of Ulysses.
Thus far, the only officially registered candidates for the open offices are Dan Lamb and Kathy Servoss for the Dryden Town Board seats and Tammy Morse for the Town Clerk seat in Lansing. However, the nomination deadlines aren’t until Sept. 20, so there is still ample time for others to enter the race.
We’ll update this article as more details are solidified.
New York State legislature races
State Legislature races are important, but often fly under the radar. There are four races for state legislature seats around Tompkins — one in the Assembly (the lower house), and three in the State Senate.
125th Assembly District: Barbara Lifton vs. Herbert Masser Jr.
Everyone in Tompkins, as well as some people from Cortland County, can vote for the 125th Assembly District.
Ithaca Democrat Barbara Lifton has held the seat since 2002. She is being challenged this year by Newfield Republican Herbert Masser, Jr. Masser also challenged Lifton in 2014, but was defeated, receiving 33.2 percent of the vote to Lifton’s 66.8 percent.
58th State Senate District: Tom O’Mara vs. Danks Burke
The 58th State Senate district includes the City and Town of Ithaca, and the Towns of Enfield, Newfield and Ulysses. That’s just a small part of one of the geographically largest districts in the state, however. Five counties in the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier regions, mostly west of Tompkins, make up the rest.
Republican Tom O’Mara has held the seat since 2010, when he beat Tompkins County Legislator Pam Mackesey, a Democrat. O’Mara took home 60 percent of the vote in that race. He’s run unopposed in the last two elections.
This year, he’s being challenged by Leslie Danks Burke, an Ithaca lawyer. Danks Burke has seen a great deal of support from Tompkins County and is off to a strong fundraising start, which may be enough to make this a close contest.
51st State Senate District: James Seward vs. Jermaine Bagnall-Graham
The 51st State Senate district includes the towns of Caroline, Danby, Dryden and Groton. Like with the 58th, this is just a small part of a large rural district, which is actually the size of Connecticut and includes all of Cortland and sprawls east into Scoharie, Ulster and Herkimer counties.
Republican James Seward has held the district for nearly 30 years, starting in 1987. He handily defeated his last challenger, Howard Leib, in 2014. Seward received 68.6 percent of the vote.
This year, Seward is being challenged by IT Analyst and Army veteran Jermaine Bagnall-Graham, a Democrat from the town of Sherburne in Chenango County.
54th State Senate District: Kenan Baldridge vs. Republican Nominee
The 54th State Senate District includes the town of Lansing, and stretches northwest through much of Cayuga, Seneca, Ontario and Wayne Counties.
Republican State Senator Mike Nozzolio, who has held the 54th district seat since 1993, announced he would not seek reelection this year. While the Democratic side has settled on Kenan Baldridge, who has served three terms as Town Supervisor of the Town of Rose, the Republicans are headed toward a primary to choose from five remaining candidates.
The primary will be held on Sept. 13, between the following Republican candidates: Canandaigua businessman Floyd Rayburn, Canandaigua Town Supervisor Pamela Helming, Lyons Town Supervisor Brian Manktelow, retired Greece police officer Jon Ritter and former 130th district Assemblyman Sean Hanna.
Lansing polling places will be open from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sept. 13 to vote in that primary. The winner of the primary will face Baldridge in the general.
23rd Congressional District: Tom Reed vs. John Plumb
The 23rd Congressional District covers wide swaths of Western New York, the Southern Tier and the Finger Lakes, including all of Tompkins County.
Reed won the seat in 2012 when the state was redistricted, narrowly holding off former Tompkins County Legislator Nate Shinagawa. He went on to defeat another Tompkins legislator, Martha Robertson in 2014, with a more comfortable margin.
If mainstream pundits are correct about presidential candidate Donald Trump’s potential effects on down-ticket races, the race for the 23rd district may be a close one. Reed was the second New York congressman to endorse Trump and has maintained that support.
Senate: Chuck Schumer vs. Wendy Long
This year, Veteran Senator Charles Schumer will face a challenge from Trump-inspired lawyer Wendy Long. Long previously challenged New York’s junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand in 2012. She was defeated in a landslide, picking up just 26 percent of the vote.
Odds are equally long for Long this year, with a May poll putting her 40 points behind Schumer.
(Featured file photo by Ed Dittenhoefer.)