ITHACA, N.Y.—New Congressional district lines have generated excitement for the 22nd New York District, which has swung from a strong Republican to a strong Democratic voting population as a result of the redrawn lines.

Environmental activist Vanessa Fajans-Turner has declared her campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives, entering a crowded field of Democratic candidates. Fajans-Turner is the first person from Tompkins County officially in the field, though more are expected to emerge in the coming weeks—several candidates have already declared from the Syracuse area.

Fajans-Turner previously worked with the United Nations, and currently is the executive director of BankFWD, a non-profit organization that aims to “hold Wall Street accountable for its untenable fossil fuel funding,” as well as working with Investable Oceans as a founding principal and senior advisor. She is also assisting with the implementation of the Ithaca Green New Deal.

Her announcement came in the form of an outdoor video called “Thin Ice,” which features Fajans-Turner skating on a frozen pond and speaking to some apparent constituents. Fajans-Turner started the first women’s hockey team at Ithaca High School following the passage of federal Title IX legislation.

“We’re skating on thin ice, in New York, in our nation, in the world,” Fajans-Turner said. “Climate change threatens our future, and our values are under attack by Washington Republicans. […] As someone raised in the 22nd District, and a lifelong climate activist, I’m ready to get into the rink.”

Even before redistricting, outgoing Rep. Tom Reed announced he would not be seeking re-election amid revelations of harassment allegations and a drinking problem. That, plus the newly-drawn district lines, opened the door for a growing batch of new candidates.

“The next decade is going to see dramatic change; on climate, on infrastructure, and on jobs,” Fajans-Turner said in her campaign announcement. “I’ve committed my life to fighting climate change and to standing up for and with the frontline communities that are already feeling the impacts of climate injustice, so it’s no surprise that that’ll be my top priority in Congress. This decade will see the largest influx of federal money to the states in our lifetimes and I’m ready to wake up every day laser-focused on ensuring we get our fair share. This district has the rich manufacturing, agricultural, and educational tools to take center stage in this country’s new, sustainable economic chapter and the growth in new jobs, infrastructure and opportunities that must come with it.”

As an example of the “real change” Fajans-Turner aims to bring to the job if elected, she touted that her campaign would be fully carbon-neutral, including using electric vehicles, reusable materials and carbon offsets when necessary. Plus, her campaign workers will be paid a living wage, have medical and family care provided, and will be volunteering in local efforts around Ithaca.

“If we, as Democrats, are going to fight for these things in Congress, we better not put them on ice until we get there,” Fajans-Turner says in the video as her ice skates skid to a stop.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com