TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—Political organizer and activist Leslie Danks Burke will challenge incumbent New York State Senator Tom O’Mara for his seat representing the 58th senate district in 2022.

Danks Burke made the announcement on Thursday evening, but somewhat telegraphed her decision while conceding the 2020 election, a speech during which she said she would “see [voters] back on the field.” In that contest, Danks Burke lost to O’Mara by a 56.3 percent to 43.7 percent margin. Four years prior, she also challenged and lost to O’Mara.

Danks Burke, an attorney by trade, said in her announcement that she is anticipating new district lines that could make the new district more amenable to a Democrat’s chances at victory.

“The simple fact is, we won’t get heard if we’re not at the table,” she said. “We see it in our flooded bridges, in lost jobs, in health care rackets crushing our seniors and sick people, in terrible internet, and in our kids’ run-down schools. Meanwhile, Albany never forgets to rake in our taxes, the highest in the country.”

This is Danks Burke’s third State Senate run. After the first, she founded the Trailblazers PAC, which aims to support progressive political candidates through mentorship, donations and endorsements.

She also used similar rhetoric to her past campaigns, emphasizing the need for upstate voices in the legislature who are Democrats, since Democrats now control both houses and the governorship. The majority of upstate representatives are Republicans, which Danks Burke argues puts them at a disadvantage when topics like regional money distribution (for just one example) are under debate with Democrats in power—though she called corruption in Albany “bi-partisan.”

“It’s time to take our clear voice into the State Senate,” her announcement states. “Inside the Senate Democratic Conference, we need more upstate voices, more rural voices, to get a fair deal for our families, our farmers, our seniors, and our students. Even as Albany slow-walks its job of figuring out district lines, we won’t let the Southern Tier fall behind in our fight for a fair deal. […] People all over New York are ready for a new day, and here in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes, I’m running to make damn sure we finally get our seat at the table.”

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Managing Editor at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at