ITHACA, NY – The general election is just two weeks away on Nov. 8. On that date, people across the country will be headed to the polls to vote, with many being 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. Below is a quick guide to the rest of the races that people across Tompkins County will be voting on, depending on where you live. You can also check out the Tompkins Board of Elections website for more information, including voting locations and times.
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. Winners of those elections will serve out the remaining terms of the previous holder’s term, and those seats will once again open up in 2017.
Most of the races for these local positions are uncontested, with a few exceptions:
In Dryden, two one-year council seats are available: with incumbents Dan Lamb and Kathy Servoss running on Democrat and Protecting Dryden party lines being challenged by Deana Madigan on the Republican and Independence tickets. Voters may choose two.
In Enfield: a one-year town council seat is available, with no incumbent. The two candidates are Beth McGee on the Democratic party line and William Connors on the Republican and Libertarian lines.
Lastly, in Ulysses, there are two public referendums up for vote: one to change the Highway Superintendent position from elected to appointed, and the other to change the Town Clerk position from elected to appointed.
The Tompkins County District Attorney seat is up for grabs and when the dust settled after a somewhat contentious primary process, two candidates remain: Matthew Van Houten, running as a Democrat, and Edward Kopko who had challenged Van Houten in the primary but is now running on the Independence ticket.
The Ithaca Voice has covered both candidates in detail. Follow the links below for details:
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 Enfield 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.
Masser told The Ithaca Voice that he thinks he has a better shot this year thanks to what he learned from the last campaign.
58th State Senate District: Tom O’Mara vs. Leslie 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. Pamela Helming
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 held a five-way primary, with Canandaigua Town Supervisor Pamela Helming emerging as the victor.
Floyd Rayburn, who challenged Helming in the primary is also running on the Reform party line.
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 Democratic Senator Charles Schumer will face three challenges. On the Republican ticket is 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 recent polls putting her roughly 35 points behind Schumer.
(Featured file photo by Ed Dittenhoefer.)