ITHACA, N.Y. — Local resident and business owner Ian Golden has announced he will run for New York’s 23rd Congressional District, which Tom Reed currently represents.

Golden owns Finger Lakes Running and Triathlon Company on the Ithaca Commons. He has worn several hats as a business owner, former occupational therapist, husband, father and runner, but politician is not one of them. Golden said he has been paying attention and engaging enough to see the “dysfunction and corruption” in Washington.

“I just got to the point where I could just sit back or observe or comment so long before I felt the need to kind of do my part and really step up,” Golden said.

Golden, 40, studied occupational therapy at Ithaca College and worked for several years as an occupational therapist, but eventually “stepped off the path” and pursued a different career that he was always passionate about — running. In 2006, he founded Finger Lakes Running in the Ithaca Commons. He later opened stores in Binghamton and in the Hudson Valley, too.

Golden’s wife also went to Ithaca College and works in speech and language pathology. They have two daughters, ages 6 and 8, who go to South Hill Elementary.

Golden said it will be a big change to enter politics, but said he’s excited. Golden said he wanted to jump past local politics to Congress because he said he can make a bigger difference in Washington.

“It just seems like there’s so much greed and corruption in the system and seats being filled with those who are really just looking for political advancement and a career in politics … that I think is really coloring their intentions…” Golden said. “Until more people do step up and don’t necessarily have an intention toward career politics, there aren’t politicians who are really on the ground, I think that’s where I see the change.”

Democrat in a Republican-majority district

Golden is running for the seat currently held by Republican Tom Reed. Reed’s current term ends Jan. 3, 2019. He was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2010.

Reed, an attorney and former mayor of Corning, was challenged by Democrat John Plumb for the seat in the 2016 election. Reed won re-election with 57 percent of the vote. He also beat Democrats Martha Robertson in 2014 and Nate Shinagawa in 2012.

The 23rd district encompasses 11 counties — Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tompkins and Yates — and Republicans outnumber Democrats in all of those counties except for Chautauqua and Tompkins. The district also includes parts of Ontario and Tioga counties, which also have a Republican majority.

Though Golden might have an easy time winning votes in a Democrat-majority Tompkins County, reaching Republicans in surrounding counties might be a challenge. But, Golden says he feels fairly confident with the “larger socioeconomic district.” He grew up in a fairly rural area near Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He said he will spend as much time as possible meeting people in his district, and is even considering literally running across the district as a way to meet people.

Golden also discussed wanting to overcome the left-right divide on every issue.

“I don’t really believe that they are left and right. I see it more as — and I think more and more the people are seeing it as — a top-down. It’s more who’s I think benefiting from the system that’s in place and those who aren’t benefiting. It’s really my hope to help those who aren’t benefiting. … My hope will also be that if I can convey that I see it more as top-down as opposed to left-right, then my hope is some of that left-right divide will fade away,” Golden said.

Economy, jobs and education

Golden highlighted the economy, jobs and education as key issues he is passionate about. He also said he supports single-payer health care and Medicare for all.

Golden said he will push to make economies more local and fair.

“Whether that comes down to trying to impact federal trade policies to focus on fair labor or fair trade as opposed to free trade. I think that might be a way that we can try to more intentionally support American workers and labor and economies. I want to try to support balls that are already rolling. For instance, with the New York State various economic zones.”

“I want to focus on really making a difference and supporting at the state and local level business development. Maybe it’s in the form of ally improve their business climates. So that may be as simple as having a dedicated economic loan development officer on the ground supporting those communities. And then really focusing on how that hits home,” Golden said.

Golden owns three running stores. When he opened his second store in Binghamton, Golden said he got funding from an economic loan development corporation. He said the federal budget is looking to cut one of those line items  in the 2018 budget.

“For me, I can look at some of these conceptual line items and see how they really make a difference on the ground. And that’s something that I want to fight for,” Golden said.

While Golden said he will work for things with immediate impact, he also wants to look toward the future. What is the regional economy going to look like in 2040? He wants to push for renewable energy or microgrids, he said, which will be needed in the next 15 to 20 years.

Trust in government is at a historic low, according to the Pew Research Center. In the most recent survey conducted in April, they found that only 20 percent of respondents “trust the government to do what’s right always or most of the time,” and 68 percent of survey takers said they trust the government “some of the time.”

Golden said he thinks the way to begin restoring trust in government is to connect with people.

“We’re really losing touch with genuinely getting to know people,” Golden said. “So if our elections are all about who’s coming in with the most money and who has the most commercials on the air, then I think we’re really losing what I think what it should be about — which is how we’re connecting with our neighbors. Not just in Ithaca for me, but how I’m connecting with somebody in Cattaraugus County, or Chautauqua. If they don’t know me, then I can’t relate to them. Or they can’t relate to me. It’s my hope to do it differently. My hope is that’s still possible, I think, in our political environment and we’re not just assuming that it’s a lost cause.”

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Photo by Allison Usavage. 

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at koconnor@ithacavoice.com and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.