ITHACA, N.Y. — Ithaca’s long-serving Assemblymember Barbara Lifton announced her retirement on Friday afternoon.
In front of a crowd of staff, supporters and local officials from across the 125th Assembly District at Dryden Town Hall, Lifton emotionally announced that she would not be seeking re-election for a tenth term.
“It is with more than a little sadness that I announce today that I won’t be seeking a tenth term in the state assembly this November,” said a choked-up Lifton. “Wherever I go in this two-county district…people have been kind and encouraging and I appreciate it greatly..important work remains, but I’ve decided the time has come for me to put down this work.”
Lifton served as chief of staff to Assemblyman Marty Luster for fourteen years previous to running for his seat. She reflected on an uncertain time in March of 2002 while she was weighing a run for the seat.
“Despite my initial hesitation, I think it’s been a pretty good run,” added Lifton, to applause.
Lifton highlighted her work on voting reforms, relief for over-regulation of midwives and fracking, as some of her proudest legislative achievements over the last 2 decades.
As for the rest of the year, Lifton says she hopes to tie up an important loose end — a ban on fracking.
“I think we are going to see something soon on that, we are working on a ban bill to actually put a ban in statute,” said Lifton.
Tompkins County Legislator Martha Robertson heaped praise on Lifton’s career as well, also citing her work in pushing for higher taxes on New York’s most wealthy residents.
“Barbara has always been a leader in saying that raising income taxes on the wealthy is a good idea, it’s the right thing to do,” said Robertson. “Barbara has been critical on that issue for so many years.”
An emotional Svante Myrick, who worked as a volunteer organizer for Lifton’s third campaign, thanked her for what he describes as the education she imparted to him early on in his political career.
“I was very enthusiastic and not very useful,” quipped Myrick on his time as an organizer for Lifton’s third re-election campaign. “One of the most useful things I could do was drive the candidate and any of her surrogates around, and this is a large district, I would have a lot of opportunity to ask Barbara for advice, wisdom,” recalled Myrick.
“The true legacy lives on in the lives you touched, like rivers diverging just one inch….the conversations in that car…I was moved to do more and as we get miles and now more than a decade down the road, those rivers have turned into oceans of change, and your legacy will live on past even your legislation,” added an emotional Myrick. “The people you’ve touched, the people you’ve led and the people you’ve taught, are going to continue changing the world in your image. Congratulations on a life and career spent making the world better for people who needed change.”
Lifton, first elected to the New York State Assembly in 2002, represents all of Tompkins County, the City of Cortland and the towns of Cortlandville, Virgil, Harford and Lapeer in Cortland County.
Lifton is a native of Geneseo, where she attended college at SUNY Geneseo before serving as a high school English teacher at Geneseo Central School from 1976 to 1982 and in then in Ithaca from 1985 to 1988.
The nine-term assemblymember sat on the Agriculture, Education, Election Law, Environmental Conservation and Higher Education Committees.
The announcement is sure to trigger a scramble among local Democrats seeking to fill the vacancy, with a source familiar with the situation telling the Voice that the state Democratic party has already begun feeling out potential candidates.