DRYDEN, N.Y. – As polling data rolled in Tuesday evening in Tompkins County, members of the Dryden GOP gathered at The Dryden Hotel, huddled around the bar as the results were tallied up.
Shortly after the polls closed at 9 p.m., several people were gathered around Thomas Hatfield and David Bravo-Cullen, two men in charge of adding up tallies for District 14 as they rolled in.
Hatfield, a registered independent, said he initially became interested in politics at a young age, remembering back to one presidential election he recalled his father voted in.
“The first campaign I remember was Goldwater with my dad and I was 6 years old – it was a lot of fun,” he said.
Hatfield, who served on the Dryden Town Board for eight years and is currently on the Dryden Planning Board, said he has always been involved in grassroots political efforts and has also been helping with poll tallying in Dryden for nearly 30 years.
The past 10 years, he said, has unveiled a certain shift in the political climate.
“I think it’s difficult to pinpoint any one thing, anyone who tells you they have the answer is out barking at the moon,” Hatfield said. “I think we continue to be in transition, and there’s a lot of things that swing the pendulum back and forth. Right now, it’s very clear that District 13 voters are very loyal to the democratic vision.”
District 13, which showed a strong Democratic turnout, was filled with democratic candidates for each available seat in this election. However, Hatfield pointed out that Republican votes nearly tripled in certain polling spots in Dryden.
“These results show very clearly that the folks in the rural side of Dryden see this community much differently than the other side of town,” Hatfield said.
Jason Leifer (D) won the seat for Town Supervisor with more than 500 votes against Bruno P. Schickel (I) (R). Dan Lamb (D) and Kathy Servoss (D) were also elected for the two Dryden Councilperson seats.
Mike Lane, (D) was also re-elected into Tompkins County Legislature for District 14, which covers Dryden.
“You’ve got Dryden and Freeville in District 14. “This, I would tell you, is the rural side of our community, the agrarian side of our community – there’s a strong impetus to protect that in Bethel Grove and the Varna Community Center,” he said. “The other side of our town is the more urban community, and it’s very clear why this community is so split. What the Democrats should work on doing, in my opinion, is bring these two sides together. We need to reach out to each other and try to heal this community.”
Bravo-Cullen, a registered Republican, said the turnout also had a lot to do with the different school districts.
“The way people associate with one another is largely based on schools,” he said. “The people over here, all the kids go to the Dryden School District. You associate with parents and other families if you have kids in the same school district, and the same thing happens on the other side if they go to Ithaca. The bulk of the taxes come from the school districts.”
However, Bravo-Cullen explained that in Tompkins County, town lines become blurry, which also may have an effect on the split votes, he said.
“In the city of Ithaca, there is a lot of development – all the hotels, they don’t need any services from the schools,” he said.”That property tax is helping to either lower the school taxes for people who are using the schools – as a result the people in Ellis Hollow pay lower school taxes than the people over here in Dryden because of that development.”
While no Republicans were voted into seats in Dryden, 20 minutes away, Mike Sigler (R) celebrated a victory for the District 6 seat in Tompkins County Legislature, covering Lansing.
While Sigler won the seat by 170 votes, he questioned the motives of the 1,092 people who voted for his opponent.
“Frankly, this election for me came down to supporting the salt mine. The 1,000 people that voted against me, I have to wonder if that was an issue for them,” Sigler said. “Why wasn’t that an issue for them? That’s 1,000 people who decided that the people working in that mine weren’t as important as voting for the other guy – that is hugely important to me, and that hugely concerns me.”
Sigler ran a campaign largely supporting the Cargill salt mine and the power plant in Lansing, the mine which currently employs over 200 people.
“Here I am, defending 200 families, who work in the salt mine – that’s a big chunk of people saying that’s not important to them. We should be producing our own power here and not buying it from Pennsylvania,” Sigler said. “This is a big election for Lansing, and I want to know what those people are thinking. I’m thinking: what do you want from this town? What’s missing? I would like to know what they think that is.”