ITHACA, N.Y. — On election night, pretty much all watch parties are the same: candidate supporters crowd around phones and laptops to see the latest numbers roll in, hoping that the person they’ve supported will win. For the Democratic primary Tuesday, candidates Ian Golden and Max Della Pia both had supporters turn up in Ithaca to hope for the best.
At the Argos Inn Warehouse, a few dozen Golden supporters alternated between talking amongst each other while munching on snacks to taking hopeful looks at a projection from The New York Times, which is tracking the statewide results. Early in the evening, with about 2 percent of the districts reporting votes, candidate Tracy Mitrano was overwhelmingly leading the election with Linda Andrei and Max Della Pia trailing after her. Golden was far from breaking the top three at the time.
Collectively, the room groaned and spoke amongst each other about the incoming results.
Ithacan Paula Cohen said she’s supported Golden since the very beginning.
“He’s such a great guy. He’s such a real person,” she said. “He resonates well across the district.”
Cohen said the 23rd District needs someone like Ian who is able to relate to people on a personal level, which is something she’s seen time and time again.
Supporter Deborah Lynch drove in from Horseheads to support Ian. She first met him in a van last April when a group of people carpooled to Albany to protest the state senate about healthcare issues.
“You’re running for Congress?” she said upon meeting him. “That’s exactly what we need.”
She said he inspired her and continues to inspire her. Lynch is now running for Legislator at Chemung County
Golden walked around the room catching up with supporters. When the Ithaca Voice caught up with him, he held his nine-year-old daughter Maren in his arms and eventually sat her on a table. Within minutes, his seven-year-old daughter Nora also wanted to be carried and he picked her up.
“I really wanted to just not look back and say, ‘I could have been part of the change,’” Golden said.
He said he had no expectations for the election and would have been surprised to win or lose the primary. He said he’s proud of the work his friends, family, and volunteers have put into the campaign and that they can all be proud about getting people to the polls.
He said the economy and healthcare are major issues for him and the people in the district, and the campaign gave him the chance to get messages out to voters about those issues. He said all the candidates can be proud that they helped get people engaged in the election process.
Golden gave his concession speech about an hour later, at around 11 p.m.
A few blocks away, Della Pia’s supporters gathered at Red’s Place. The candidate is in Owego for election night, but about two dozen supporters gathered together to watch the election results.
Ryan Marx, the Regional Field Organizer for the Ithaca office, said the night had been a bit of a roller coaster with Mitrano starting strong.
“But it’s a strange year. Trump has fired up voters on both sides,” he said.
If the Democrats are going to take the district, he predicts that this is the best shot the part has had since Democrat Nate Shinagawa gave Reed a run for his money in 2010. Reed won the election by slightly more than 10,000 votes.
Supporter and Volunteer Karen Chimento said she was moved to vote for Della Pia after she saw how he connects with people, specifically Republicans.
“Okay, this is why I’m supporting this guy. He can talk to everyone on whatever side of the aisle they’re on,” she said.
In addition to Della Pia’s appeal, she said Reed’s own record works against him. Just pointing out his votes should be enough to show people that he has not worked in the best interest of constituents.
“I do believe that people are energized and speaking out,” she said.”Trump was a wake-up call.”
As of midnight, Della Pia won the vote in Tompkins County and beat out Mitrano by 26 votes in the district. Absentee votes still need to be counted and could sway the final outcome of the election.
Featured photo: Karen Chimento checks on numbers rolling in at Della Pia’s watch party Tuesday night. Photo by Jolene Almendarez/The Ithaca Voice