ITHACA, N.Y. — A little after 8 p.m. on election night and Mayor Svante Myrick is on the patio of Liquid State Brewing taking a call.
“I’d pay $500 to fast forward an hour,” the incumbent Democrat said shortly before the polls closed, a span he says is always a nervy one.
A couple dozen or so friends, supporters and other City of Ithaca Democrats milled about the brewery’s production room, piecing together voting info on large pieces of paper taped to the vats used for brewing beer. As it got later, the crowd thinned.
Just before 11 p.m., Myrick, halfway through a cold slice of pizza, found out he had won.
And after a difficult close to another election cycle, his fourth success as a candidate in Ithaca, Myrick said he mainly felt relief.
“I feel relieved but I feel like, honestly, I’m just happy to get a chance to go back to work and focus on what really became the largest issue of this campaign, which was the need for more affordable housing in the city,” said Myrick.
Myrick’s grandfather, a revered educator and musician in the rural community in Central New York where he grew up, passed away on Oct. 26 at 88 years old. On Saturday afternoon, Myrick delivered an emotional eulogy for a man he described as “a father in every way that matters.”
“I feel very much like my grandfather is with me,” said Myrick Tuesday night. “He would have been here, he’s never missed something like this.”
While Myrick ultimately won comfortably, bringing in more than 76% of the vote, he says that he got the message being sent by his challenger Adam Levine and his supporters and looks forward to bringing those who disagree with him into the conversation.
“It’s humbling to know that one-in-four people left their house today to vote me out of office,” said Myrick. ”While I’m happy with the results, my hope is that we can be a city government that serves 100% of the people who live here.”
On Tuesday night, Myrick said he is eager to get to work tackling the issues facing the city.
“Tomorrow I’ve got a meeting with the (police) chief first thing in the morning to figure out how we can improve community relations,” said Myrick. “I’ve got a meeting with the local trade union — carpenters and electrical workers, masons, to talk about how they can be a part of our Green New Deal and then I’m spending the afternoon interviewing candidates for the city judge opening Scott Miller’s Election to county judge has made possible.”
The mayor said he plans to reach out to his opponent and his supporters in the future to understand how he can better serve those who disagree with him, he is certainly taking his margin as a mandate.
“I think the voters sent a clear message that they want this issue tackled and that they trust my administration and this team and this Common Council to get the job done. And I want to live up to that trust,” said Myrick.
That Common Council will have all the familiar faces when they reconvene on Wednesday evening to finalize the 2020 City Budget.
The three candidates, believing they were running unopposed, weathered late write-in campaigns from members of Sunrise Movement Ithaca, a climate activist group that has had a strong presence at city meeting this year and has sought to push Common Council to increase staffing and funding for the implementation of Myrick’s Green New Deal.
Alderperson Steve Smith was one of those facing a challenger. He says he knocked on doors and spoke with more than 60 voters in the final days of the campaign and was overwhelmed by the support he found.
“The thing I heard most from people on the doors remains issues around housing,” said Smith. “But the solution to our housing problem is also a solution to our problems around sustainability. Urban density is a way to create the kind of competition we need to solve our housing issues but also a way to create a density of humans in a space where they depend less on fossil fuels to get around. I think at the end of the day people realize that my core philosophy has been one that is that does address issues of sustainability.”
While Ithaca is a notoriously liberal city, it is represented at the State Senate and Congressional levels by Republicans who have directly and indirectly sought to thwart sustainability legislation. While the decision of Sunrise Movement to run candidates against arguably Ithaca’s only elected officials trying to address the climate crisis puzzled some officials, Smith, who defeated his challenger 109-13, says he is holding no grudges and that the write-in campaign has opened lines of dialogue.
“The real difference came down to a half a staff member or a staff member that way,” said Smith. “So the divide between us really isn’t that significant. These are folks I expect to be marching arm in arm with as we address the issue of climate change in the future.”