ITHACA, N.Y. — Inspired after organizing the Women’s March on Ithaca, Ithaca resident Amanda Champion is diving into politics to run for a seat on Tompkins County Legislature.
Champion is running for District 12, which covers the southwestern portion of the Town of Ithaca. The district includes upper South Hill, Inlet Valley and a portion of West Hill. Legislator Will Burbank, who currently represents that district, announced Thursday he will not seek re-election.
As women’s marches were being planned in Washington, D.C., and across the country in January, Champion decided to organize one in Ithaca. She worked with a handful of people to put on the event, which ultimately drew nearly 10,000 people and made Ithaca protest history.
Champion said she planned a local women’s march to counteract her own feelings of despair and frustration with the November election and gave her something to focus on. Though Champion does not have political experience, successfully organizing the march gave her the confidence to run for local government, she said.
“I can be a positive influence. I can make good choices and not just for me and my family, but for lots of people and hopefully will effect some positive change,” Champion said.
Champion, 41, has lived in Ithaca since 2000 and is a writer. She lives with her husband, Rob Champion, who owns Creative Constructions of Ithaca, and her 11-year-old son. She studied environmental studies and anthropology at the University of Michigan and recently completed her master’s degree in writing. She writes creative non-fiction.
With a degree in environmental studies and a love of nature, Champion said she is passionate about protecting the environment. She spent a few years working as a park ranger in Maine, Utah, and Virginia and has also has backpacked the Appalachian Trail. Champion came to Upstate New York to volunteer at Farm Sanctuary, outside of Watkins Glen, and fell in love with the Finger Lakes.
If elected legislator, Champion said she will bring a fresh set of eyes to a wide range of county issues, like jail overcrowding, renewable energy, an increasing population of opioid abusers and high property taxes.
Though she does not have prior political experience, Champion has been educating herself on the issues, attending Tompkins County Legislature meetings and digging through past minutes of committee meetings.
Champion, a Democrat, said she is progressive and passionate about issues of social justice and environmental protection.
And while she has strong views, she said compromise is important.
“For me, it will be about listening to the other side and listening to all the arguments and just trying to keep moving forward,” Champion said.
Champion said the job of a legislator is to listen to citizens and make decisions based on what they want. She said plans to get out and knock on doors and let everyone know she is available and willing to listen to their concerns.
“I’m willing to do the work. I’m ready to move the county forward and be progressive and I think I have strong ideals, and I’m a strong woman,” Champion said. “I think it’s important for women to get involved and I’m happy to be the one to do it.”