ITHACA, N.Y. — The federal primary is fast approaching and it’s a packed Democratic primary.

Polls are open from noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday.

Here’s a quick look at the candidates. For a deeper look at where they stand at issues, be sure to check out our full coverage of the forum held Thursday.

Related: Democratic congressional candidates take one last stand in Ithaca before the primary

How to use this guide: Click on the candidate’s name to see more information and a Q&A with them.


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Max Della Pia (left). (Photo provided by the Max Della Pia Campaign.)

Max Della Pia – Click here to expand/close Q&A

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In the days leading up to the primary June 26, Max Della Pia has been touring the 23rd District, which is as big as New Jersey, in an RV.

“We’d like to have an office in every town, but that’s not really possible,” Della Pia said while on tour this week.

Max Della Pia has a long career of military service and leadership experience. He has worked as an air force officer, attorney, U.S. legislative assistant, and analyst at Lockheed Martin. In an interesting side note, Della Pia actually has a glacier named after him.

Who has endorsed Max Della Pia?

Martha Robertson, chair of Tompkins County Legislature. Steuben County Democratic Committee Chair Hornell Shawn Hogan. Former Chautauqua County Assemblyman Rolland Kidder. Gwen Wilkinson, former district attorney of Tompkins County.

How did you decide to run for Congress?

Della Pia said his broad experience, in leadership and with politics, makes him a good candidate for Congress. In the past, he worked on former Senator Carl Levin’s staff. He said it allowed him a good insight on how Congress works. “And how it works when it works,” Della Pia said.

“But as we look at things today, it’s not working very well and part of the problem is it’s so polarized that people can’t really talk to one another. But I honestly believe what the American people expect and what they deserve are representatives that don’t just call each other names … but actually, they want people to engage in that hard work of consensus building and compromise and doing legislation together.”

What are some of the biggest issues facing your constituency?

Medicare for all makes sense to me. That’s something I truly support, and I think the time is right for us to do that as a country.

The other issue is opiates are actually a big issue across the district. It’s one that’s affecting a lot of families, and a lot of people are dying, and we need to do several things. That’s one that there’s a lot of pain, and a lot of people are dying, and we need to do several things. We need to expand economic opportunities so that we … could spare the most vulnerable to addiction.

I think that our infrastructure is crumbling. Although, I believe small business is the proper generator of jobs in this country and other countries.
What we need to do it have the infrastructure and foundation for them. That ranges from transportation systems, airports, sewer and water systems, clean energy, broadband internet. All those things need to happen.

What makes you the ideal candidate for the 23rd district?

When I go across the district … (people) ask me if I’m running as a Democrat or Republican. Once I say I’m running as a Democrat, there are many people that will just try to stop the conversation and walk away or try to. And I’m able to say, “Now, wait a second. I spent 30 plus years in the airforce as an officer or a pilot defending this country, my family, and yours. It’s it about time we look for solutions as Americans. And they look back at me and they go, “You know, you’re right. I’m sorry. I don’t often vote straight ticket. Thank you for your service.” Then we can have a conversation and that conversation is absolutely critical.

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Tract Mitrano (right). Photo provided by the Tracy Mitrano Campaign.

Tracy Mitrano – Click here to expand/close Q&A

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Background

Mitrano, who has deep roots in the region, grew up in Rochester but has also lived throughout the Southern Tier in Niagara Falls, Endicott, Ithaca, Buffalo and Penn Yann. 

Mitrano graduated with a B.A. from the University of Rochester, received her M.A. and Ph.D in American History from Binghamton University, and a J.D. from Cornell Law School.

From 2001 to 2014 Mitrano served as the Director of Information Technology Policy at Cornell University, where she developed a framework of information security policies. Now, Mitrano hopes to bring some of that expertise to Washington. 

Who has endorsed Tracy Mitrano?

Working Families Party, Jamestown City Councilwoman Vanessa Weinert, Tioga County Democratic Committee Chair Diane Lechner, Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick, Watkins Glen Mayor Sam Schimizzi, The Women’s Equality Party, Deputy Supervisor for the Town of Dryden Dan Lamb, and Corning Mayor Bill Boland.

How did you decide to run for Congress?

In 2016, after the election, I became concerned that no one in Congress had a grasp on issues like Russian interference, government surveillance, and internet security. I looked up if anyone at the time in Congress was qualified to deal with these issues, which they were not.

At that moment, I stopped and thought, “Tom Reed doesn’t want my help.” It became apparent to me that he has grossly neglected his constituency. He has turned his back on the people in this district. It was at that moment I realized that I had to step up.

What are some of the biggest issues facing your constituency?

The biggest issue here is economic development and jobs. I do not regard this as a simple matter, but for there to be investment in the area, we need healthy and skilled people, and we need to focus on environmental conservation. That is the foundation, but all of those things have been lacking and Tom Reed has done nothing to help.

We need to focus on providing access to the internet in the district, affordable healthcare, vocational training, alleviating student loan interest and protecting the environment from the external fossil fuel industry.  

What makes you the ideal candidate for the 23rd district?

In all of the work I’ve done, democracy and citizenship have been at the core of my work.

I think my being from this area sets me apart from the other candidates, along with my education, experience, expertise and my track record of professional success.

I have, among all of the current candidates, the clearest vision and set of proposed policies, but I am also dedicated to finding common ground between the perceived differences of urban areas, rural areas and so forth. It binds all of us together.

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Eddie Sundquist (speaking). (Provided photo by Zach Altschuler)

Eddie Sundquist – Click here to expand/close Q&A

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Sundquist is the youngest candidate. He graduated from Jamestown High School in 2007. He received a bachelor’s of arts in political science from St. John Fisher College. He has worked as an educator and later became an attorney.

Who has endorsed Eddie Sundquist? 

Dunkirk Mayor Willie Rosas; Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi; Cattaraugus County Legislature Vice Chair Sue Labuhn; Cattaraugus County Legislator Barb Hastings; Cattaraugus County Legislator David Koch; Cattaraugus County Legislator Vergilio “Dick” Giardini; Chautauqua County Legislator Chuck Nazarro; Chautauqua County Legislator Christine Starks; Chautauqua County Legislator Bob Bankoski; Dunkirk Common Councilman Don Williams; Former Fredonia Mayor Steve Keefe; Former Cassadaga Mayor LeeAnn Lazarony; Fmr. Jamestown City Council President Greg Rabb; 2017 Chautauqua County Executive candidate Mike Ferguson; Steuben County Vice Chairwoman Margie Lawlor; Stonewall Democrats; Chautauqua County Democratic Committee; Cattaraugus County Democratic Committee; Cattaraugus Party Chairman Frank Puglisi; Chautauqua Party Chairman Norm Green

How did you decide to run for Congress?

It’s incredible to me just how cut off we are from both New York State and the nation. You know it’s like we’ve been insulated and no one wants to deal with the problems that we have here in 23rd congressional district. Not our representative. Not the folks at the state level … for me I thought it was an opportunity really to bring in a new voice to the district … We’ve not had a voice for this district. How do you expect young professionals to come back … when you’re not being able to give them a voice and you don’t have anything for them?

What are some of the biggest issues facing your constituency?

So I think that there are a wide variety of issues across both the west and east parts of our district. And I would say the common thread that goes through all of it is really the fact that we have an economy that’s sinking rapidly and we’ve got the loss of jobs across our district. You know, we’ve got a few places like Tompkins County which has a very low unemployment rate. But the rest of the district has 6, 7 percent unemployment …We need to improve our district to attract people back, and that’s been my biggest focus is not only jobs and our economy but making sure we reinvest in our infrastructure here — not only our roads and our bridges but our broadband, making sure we reinvest in our people, getting folks retrained for trade skills that manufacturers across this district are begging for: welders, plumbers, metal fabricators.

On top of that a huge, huge opioid epidemic. That is the second biggest thing that I hear talking to folks, is that no matter who you are, it’s touched everyone.

What makes you the ideal candidate for the 23rd district?

You know, just working back in the district and being home, I realized it just couldn’t wait. You know we, we’ve not had a solid voice for people in our area in many years and now was the time. Not only am I a younger candidate who’s willing to fight, but you know, to be honest, we can piss a few people off along the way. And that’s a good thing because that’s what we need. We need someone who is going to be able to challenge what’s going on in our government and hold people accountable.

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Linda Andrei – Click here to expand/close Q&A

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Background

Linda Andrei worked as an interventional cardiologist and internal medicine specialist throughout her career. She’s had an academic and private practice in Elmira, Corning, 

“The thing is we have a shortage of cardiologists in rural America. My last practice was in Ithaca.”

Who has endorsed Linda Andrei?

Adelaide Gomer, president of the Park Foundation; Josephine C. McAllister, MD FAAD; Dr. Jud Kilgore, recipient of 2018 Human Services Coalition’s Ann T. Jones Award for Dedicated Volunteer;  Demand Universal Healthcare; Dana Ross, Town Supervisor of Amity; The Chautauqua CAT; Robert W. Howarth, the David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology, Cornell University; Diane Ravitch; U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education under Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

How did you decide to run for Congress?

After I retired from practicing medicine, I received my masters in painting. I was having a very successful career as an artist, but I couldn’t be happy with that, because there are so many people suffering, and I have the education and expertise to do something about it.

This administration was somewhat a trigger, but the fact that it is now time for us to have a comprehensive healthcare plan, such as a single-payer system so everyone can enjoy the benefits.

What are some of the biggest issues facing your constituency?

I don’t see issues as single issues, but intersectional. In this district, there is a huge need for jobs and healthcare. The underlying issues in healthcare are inadequate housing, food supply poverty and social isolation. And all of those things are related to not having living wage jobs.

In addition, the environment is threatened, not only on a global scale but here in our district as well. Infrastructure is crumbling, the use of fossil fuels is polluting our environment. We need to provide an infrastructure plan to transition into a clean energy economy.

What makes you the best candidate?

I have been intimately involved in the lives of the people in this district for the past 16 years. I am aware of their physical needs, and I am uniquely qualified to address the healthcare issue. I have been in leadership roles my entire adult life, managing and leading teams to problem solve.”

“I think that this district needs to have someone who can pull it together. There is a lot of division. The answer is one of healing. We need someone who can listen to the needs of the people, acknowledge them, and respond.

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Ian Golden. Photo by Allison Usavage.

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Ian Golden – Click here to expand/close Q&A

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Background

Ian Golden grew up in rural Pennsylvania. He attended Ithaca College for his bachelors and masters degree in Occupational Therapy.

He started four small businesses in Upstate, including the Finger Lakes Running Company in the Ithaca Commons.

Who has endorsed Ian Golden?

Justice Democrats, a national Political Action Committee; New York Progressive Action Network; Cornell chapter of the College Democrats of America; Rich John, Tompkins County Legislator; Don Barber, retired Town of Caroline Supervisor; Richard Argentieri, City of Hornell Common Council; Jenniffer Mullen, RN, MSN, Corning Town Councilwoman;  Lorraine Dias, Village of South Corning Village Trustee; Barbara (Bee) Keck, Village of Hammondsport Trustee; Gloria Sanchez, friend and executive assistant to Ian

How did you decide to run for Congress?

As an Occupational therapist, I helped to make a lot of difference in a lot of people’s lives.

Running for Congress was never part of the plan, but I remember standing at one of Tom Reed’s town halls, thinking about all the real and legitimate concerns, that weren’t being represented.

What are some of the biggest issues facing your constituency?

One of those issues, at that point, was the focus nationally on the Republicans in their continued attempt to repeal the ACA, and what they were trying to replace it with. There were a lot of people that wanted to discuss a single-payer platform … As a healthcare practitioner, I have seen firsthand how rural centers often pick up the tab.

As a small business owner, I can attest to how hard it can be. I can relate on so many levels, and I’ve been a proponent for single payer healthcare. I believe that it makes more financial sense, especially when we see how unsustainable it is now, it will save families and individuals money, and I just believe it is moral and just system.

The economy continues to be an issue. I think the reality is that it just isn’t playing out in day-to-day in real terms for the people here.

We have only gained a fraction back of what was lost after the recession. Unlivable wage jobs seem to be dominating our employment sectors.

What makes you the ideal candidate?

My roots are rural, and while they are out of the district, I think they represent many of the people here. It’s critical to relate and understand what these people are going through.

I am actually creating jobs as a small business owner, and I am one of two candidates who can weigh in as a healthcare practitioner.

What separates me is that these are issues that I’ve literally been living and have experience, rather than just talked about.

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Stock photo by Ed Dittenhoefer Photography

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.