ITHACA, N.Y. — City of Ithaca Alderperson Seph Murtagh has announced that he will run for the New York State Assembly seat currently held by retiring Barbara Lifton.
Murtagh is the first to announced his intentions to run after Assemblymember Lifton announced last week that she did not intend to seek a tenth term in Albany, setting up a potential primary fight amongst the district’s Democrats to fill the seat.
“Last Friday, Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton announced that she will not seek another term in the New York State Assembly. Her announcement marks the closing of an incredible career of service to her constituents in the 125th, marked by hard-fought battles for the environment, voting rights, healthcare, and education, among many others,” said Murtagh in a statement to media on Monday afternoon. “She’s been an exceptional role model to me and others in our community. It is with great respect for the office and Assemblywoman Lifton’s legacy that I have made the decision to run for this seat in the Democratic primary.”
Murtagh, a native of Trumansburg, currently serves as Lifton’s communications coordinator and has worked for the nine-term assemblymember for the last 5 years. In addition to his day job in Lifton’s office, Murtagh serves on the City of Ithaca Common Council, representing the city’s Second Ward, where he was first elected in 2012. He had previously worked as a reporter for the Ithaca Times before wading into city government. He also chairs the Planning and Economic Development Committee and as Alternate Acting Mayor.
“Seph has proven his commitment to our community both in his intelligent leadership as chair of the Planning and Economic Development Committee on Common Council and in his role as Alternate Acting Mayor. I have benefitted from his mentorship and I’m thrilled he’s seeking this new opportunity,” said Laura Lewis, Ward 5 alderperson. “Our 125th district encompasses urban and rural communities and I am confident that Seph Murtagh will effectively fight for and represent all constituents.”
Alderperson to the 5th Ward, Deb Mohlenhoff, has also given her support to Murtagh’s bid.
“He has proven himself to be a dedicated public servant and a crucial player in the city’s recent affordable housing projects, economic growth in the urban core, and updated zoning regulations,” said Mohlenhoff. “He truly listens to constituents and takes the time to explain complicated issues with a sincere interest in ensuring that complicated decisions strike the right balance. I have been proud to serve with him on the Ithaca Common Council and know he’d work just as hard for all of us in Albany representing the 125th.”
Murtagh’s support doesn’t end at the city limits, according to former Ulysses Town Supervisor Liz Thomas. Murtagh’s willingness to work collaboratively in the interest of all Tompkins County, not just the City of Ithaca, makes him a natural fit for the state Assembly, says Thomas.
“Having known Seph for many years as a family friend, and now as a colleague in local government, he has impressed me with his unique mix of being incredibly direct and hardworking, while also having a warm, welcoming and calming presence,” said Thomas. “Seph does his homework and then some, weighs out pros and cons carefully, and most importantly reaches out to others with an open mind to gather input before moving forward on projects.”
Petitions to appear on the ballot for Murtagh and any other candidates will begin circulating on Feb. 25 and are due to the Board of Elections between March 30 and April 2. The primary election will take place June 23 ahead of the general election on Nov. 3
And earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to Alderperson Deb Mohlenhoff as Alternate Acting Mayor. She is Acting Mayor while Seph Murtagh is Alternate Acting Mayor.