ITHACA, NY – With Leslie Danks Burke, John Plumb and Hillary Clinton all losing their respective races, election night was a difficult night for Democrats in Ithaca, but at least they didn’t have to go it alone.
As the election results started to roll in on Tuesday, the Hotel Ithaca ballroom was packed with dozens of generally excited and smiling Democrats, including several local politicians and some of the hopeful candidates. While calling the event a “Victory Party” would end up a brutal irony for many, the night began with energy and optimism.
Meanwhile, not five minutes down the road at the Royal Court Restaurant, a Republican gathering planned in that same spirit was a stark contrast. Really, one could hardly call it gathering as it consisted of just two people — Republican candidate for the New York State Assembly Herb Masser and a reporter from The Ithaca Voice.
Masser himself had organized the get-together with the intent to celebrate and watch the election results come in. The gathering was supposed to kick off at 7 p.m., but as 9 p.m. rolled around, Masser was still the only one in attendance. He left shortly after.
“It’s like the Republicans have just given up in Tompkins County. For some reason, whether they just don’t care or they’ve given up,” Masser says. “I’ve tried to stimulate them, tried to get them going… so I’m disappointed in that, but I’m very happy that Trump won.”
In previous years, he says, even if Republicans couldn’t secure any electoral victories, there was still solidarity through those sorts of gatherings. While Republicans had been phone banking from the Ramada Hotel earlier in the evening, and victory parties were being held in other cities in the region like Corning and Elmira, Masser’s party remained a party of one this year.
Masser believes that there is a strong Republican base in Tompkins County, particularly in the rural towns, but that base is fractured and demoralized living in an area that is perceived as overwhelmingly liberal. He believes that if he can just get those people to come out and vote, the Republicans might actually be able to win a county-wide election.
Despite aggressively reaching out to that base through direct mailing, it didn’t give Masser anywhere near the bump he needed in the polls. His opponent, long-time incumbent Barbara Lifton, won over 26,000 votes, while Masser came up a bit short of 10,000.
“If the people aren’t going to come out and vote, what can you do? It’s like beating a dead horse,” Masser says. “I’m not frustrated that I lost, I’m more frustrated that apparently the Republicans have given up in this town… I don’t get it, it makes no sense to me.”
Despite the election loss and seeming collapse of local Republican morale, Masser says that overall the night ended on a positive note. For him, the Trump victory and the fact that Tompkins County was one of just a few liberal bastions in an otherwise very red New York (and very red country overall, in geography if not in population) was a bigger victory.
“I left a note for my wife that night that said, ‘I lost but my country won,” Masser said.
(Featured photo: The Royal Court. Not pictured: Republicans. Photo by The Ithaca Voice)