TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—Early voting is continuing through the weekend, and endorsements in the many Tompkins County Legislature primary races have continued to pour in ahead of the election, being held June 22. Here, we’ll recap the endorsements that have been received in races so far.
A reminder: all 14 Tompkins County districts are up for re-election this year, but these four races are the only ones that are having contested primaries—all of which are Democratic. Details on early voting and election day voting, being held from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on June 22, are here.
Nicole LaFave and Travis Brooks are facing off in what is potentially the most intriguing race, vying to replace the retiring Leslyn McBean-Clairborne in representing the City of Ithaca. With that level of intrigue, endorsements have been steadily flowing into the race.
LaFave has secured endorsements from Ward 2 Alderpersons Ducson Nguyen and Seph Murtagh, who praised her passion and ability to listen even on contentious topics.
“As a neighbor and constituent, Nicole has shown me utmost kindness and thoughtfulness while challenging all of us in city government to do more and do better, particularly in the areas of housing and equity,” Nguyen wrote. “Her activist spirit and deep connections within the community will make her an effective and transformative legislator.”
Cornell professor and Black Lives Matter Ithaca co-founder (with LaFave) Dr. Russell Rickford, Dr. Nia Nunn, president of the Southside Community Center Board of Directors, and the local Democratic Socialists of America also endorsed LaFave’s campaign, the latter stating that she’s “a working-class candidate with a demonstrated commitment to working-class policies like a living wage, housing justice, and alternatives to incarceration.” The Voice has also received several letters of support for her candidacy.
Meanwhile, Brooks’ candidacy has also received plenty of support from notable figures locally, including current Common Council Alderpersons George McGonigal and Donna Fleming, the former saying that Brooks “has a deep understanding of how our city can benefit from wise and innovative policy actions by the Tompkins County Legislature.”
Along with several local small business figures, prominent former Alderperson Michelle Courtney Barry and Black Hands Universal founder Harry O. Smith, he also received support from the City of Ithaca’s First Ward Democratic Committee.
“Two excellent candidates are presenting themselves to Democratic voters as candidates for county board,” wrote the First Ward Democratic Committee. “The committee unanimously endorses Travis Brooks because of his proven ability to build coalitions and his deep familiarity with the issues.”
McBean-Clairborne has not yet offered an endorsement of either candidate.
This will be another interesting contest, as Leslie Schill and Veronica Pillar squared off in one election already in 2021—a special election held to select a temporary replacement for former Tompkins County Legislator Anna Kelles, which Schill won by a razor-thin margin.
Schill has generated a prominent list of endorsements ranging from the Local Union 81 workers to Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick and outgoing Tompkins County Legislator Martha Robertson—Myrick commended Schill’s “diligence and brilliance.” She also has the support of current and former Common Council members, including current Fifth Ward representatives Deb Mohlenoff and Laura Lewis.
“She is incredibly smart, has a deep understanding of county government, and brings a clear vision on how to address the needs for every person and family in our community,” wrote former Ithaca Chief of Staff Dan Cogan about Schill.
Pillar, on the other hand, boasts endorsements from an extensive list of leftist/progressive organizations, including the New York Progressive Action Network, the New York Working Families Party, Decarcerate Tompkins County, the Ithaca Democratic Socialists of America and more, including some local labor groups.
She has also sent out notification of several individual endorsements, including former Tompkins County Legislator Kathy Luz Herrera, Nguyen and Murtagh, and Patricia Rodriguez of the TC Immigrant Rights Coalition, among others.
“Veronica will be able to use the resources of the county to promote decent housing as a human right, strengthen the commitment to racial justice, and advocate better wages for those most in need,” wrote former Town of Ithaca Supervisor Herb Engman in support of Pillar.
In a race that has flown somewhat under the radar, Vanessa Greenlee and Robert Lynch are running for the Democratic nomination for the District 8 seat, which David McKenna is vacating.
But despite a lack of headline-grabbing instances, Greenlee has assembled an impressive list of current Tompkins County legislators who have endorsed her, including Dan Klein, Anne Koreman, Martha Robertson, Amanda Champion and Deborah Dawson. She’s also received an endorsement from the Working Families Party.
“Her experience in education, workforce retraining, working with federal agencies and national non-profits, including public/private partnerships will be an immense asset as we help our community recover from the pandemic,” wrote the legislators in their endorsement announcement. “Her involvement in a global network of change-makers for food security will help our farmers and our most vulnerable members not just survive, but thrive.”
The famously loquacious Lynch, on the other hand, has just one endorsement, though he says he has not sought any endorsements. Greg Stevenson, who previously served as the District 8 legislator before McKenna, has announced his support.
“District 8 voters in Tompkins County now can elect a candidate to the county legislature who will be an independent thinker and a voice for all District 8 residents,” Stevenson said in his endorsement. “I’ve worked with Robert Lynch before and during the pandemic. Bob analyzes issues and proposes common sense solutions like few elected officials that I have personally known.”
Running for the Democratic nomination in District 13 are Greg Mezey and Samantha Lushtak, both of whom are trying to replace aforementioned longtime county legislator Martha Robertson.
Mezey heads into the primary election day with two particularly important endorsements, most recently from Robertson herself. Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick also announced earlier this month that he would be supporting Mezey in the primary election against Lushtak.
“What I saw in Greg at the TCDC forum was a well-thought out, nuanced perspective on our district and the county as a whole, with a special concern about how we’re going to ‘build back better’ from the economic fallout from the pandemic,” Robertson wrote. “He feels an urgency about using the county’s American Rescue Plan funds to stimulate our local economy to reap a strong return on investment—on initiatives such as transportation, childcare and workforce development.”
Lushtak, though, can counter with the support of Shannon MacCarrick, who serves as the executive director for Habitat for Humanity of Tompkins and Cortland Counties, retired Ithaca firefighter Chris O’Connor and the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network’s Executive Director, Hilary Lambert.
“What I like best about Sam Lushtak is her interest in helping people from different backgrounds work together to find common solutions to the problems we are all facing,” wrote Lambert in her endorsement. “That’s what we need during these difficult times. Her approach to leadership is an effective combination of realism and idealism.”