This is a letter to the editor from Ithaca resident and local Democrat Ann Sullivan. It was not written by the Ithaca Voice. You can submit letters to the editor by sending them to Matt Butler at mbutler@ithacavoice.com.

Dear Editor,

For the past few years, my husband and I have celebrated Valentine’s Day in a distinct way. We might buy flowers and candy, but we also donate to Planned Parenthood. It seems a good occasion to support an institution that has unwaveringly provided respectful and compassionate sexual health care to every individual, whatever their gender or sexual orientation.

The values that underlie my commitment to Planned Parenthood are one reason I support Leslie Danks Burke in her race for the new NY 53rd State Senate seat. I first spent time with her seven years ago when I attended Planned Parenthood Lobby Day in Albany. The energy and passion she displayed lobbying against the assault on women’s access to health care inspired me. That our State Senator Tom O’Mara, a vehement opponent of abortion, would not even meet with us, infuriated me. Impulsively, I asked Leslie to run for his seat. A few years later, she did, both in 2016 and in 2020.

Both races were long shots. Republican gerrymandering had created an overwhelmingly Red district, with Blue Tompkins County divided into three districts. Still, Leslie took on the challenge and carried an unapologetic progressive message to Republican strongholds. Although she vastly outperformed expectations and lost, she gave Democratic and other progressive voters in these deep Red counties a choice and a voice.

Tompkins County’s new senate district is not gerrymandered for Republicans. Democrats now have a legitimate chance to win this Upstate seat. Leslie is the one candidate who has a long history of actively defending and working for the rights of women to make their own health care decisions. Leslie has stood with the women of the Southern Tier for years. That is one reason I stand with her.

Ann Sullivan

City of Ithaca