Republican Misha Checkovich ’13, a history major at Cornell, told The Sun Wednesday that she will run against Democratic nominee Stephen J. Smith in the election for Fourth Ward representative of Common Council on Nov. 6.
Smith was nominated Friday by the Tompkins County Democratic Committee to run for Eddie Rooker’s ’09 (D-4th Ward) former seat on the Ithaca Common Council.
Rooker announced his abrupt departure from the Common Council last week, leaving his seat empty for the final year of his four-year term. The Democratic Committee recommended Smith to fill Rooker’s seat during the period leading up to November’s election and nominated him as the Democratic candidate for that election.
Checkovich said that despite Rooker’s resignation, the Common Council should not be without a student voice. Cornell students comprise 97 percent of constituents in the Fourth Ward, which includes Cascadilla Park, West Campus and most of Collegetown.
“It seemed likely ... that the Democratic Party would propose to replace [Rooker] with yet another ward four resident who has never been a Cornell student and has little in common with the majority of people who live in ward four,” Checkovich said in an email.
Checkovich noted that in addition to a student point of view, she could bring a fresh political stance to the position.
“I will also provide a broader, more reality-based perspective in a city government now dominated by a one-party machine and devoid of political diversity,” she said.
Though she acknowledged that voter registration in Ithaca “tilts heavily” toward Democrats, Checkovich said Republicans running for Ithaca government is “becoming more common.”
“Ithaca is, in fact, ‘10 square miles surrounded by Republicans.’ Not only do we have the city surrounded, but I expect to see more Republicans in the city running for seats on Common Council,” she said. “I think some fresh political blood and diversity in political views would be a great benefit.”
Chair of the Cornell University College Republicans Jessica Reif ’14 said that regardless of her political affiliation, Checkovich would be “an excellent asset” to the Fourth Ward.
“While Misha identifies as a Republican, she has shown a lot of bipartisanship, and I think she will have an appeal to all voters,” Reif said.
Reif ran against Alderperson Graham Kerslick  (D-4th Ward) in the November 2011 elections for Fourth Ward representative. Kerslick won the election, receiving 87.4 percent of the vote.
“Ninety-seven percent of the Fourth Ward is students, so having a student representative just makes sense numbers wise,” Reif told The Sun in November.
Though Smith, the nominee for the Democratic party, is neither a Cornell student nor an alumnus, he said that he was looking forward to working with residents of the Fourth Ward.
“I am excited to run, and hopefully be elected, to advance the Democratic values of opportunity, equality and community,” he said. “I’m excited to work with students and permanent residents of the district to help advance those values.”
Kerslick noted that while Smith is not affiliated with Cornell, this will not affect his ability to represent his constituents. He added that he does not expect voters who typically vote Democrat to favor Checkovich simply because she is a student.
“I'm not sure that students would vote across party lines just because they’re a student,” Kerslick said. “I think as the election campaign develops, the voters in the ward will become more familiar with the candidates and the issues that affect both the ward and the city.”
For Smith’s campaign in November, he said he plans to meet with the Cornell Democrats and the Democratic Committee as a way to “combine efforts.”
“Once [the students] hear my platform and what I plan to do, [I think] they’ll understand that I’ll do a good job of representing their values,” Smith said.
Although Checkovich will graduate in December, she said she is looking at opportunities in Ithaca. She said she also plans to continue working in Ithaca politics past the one-year term she will run for in November.
“I love it here and plan to stay here after I graduate,” she wrote. “Ithaca has the potential to be a true powerhouse city in upstate New York, but getting there will take more than one year.”