After spending the last several months pitching their ideas to voters, Ithaca’s three Democratic candidates for Mayor will see where their efforts land them on Tuesday in the city’s Democratic primary.
The candidates — Tompkins County Legislator Pam Mackesey ’89 (D-1st District) and Alderpersons J.R. Clairborne (D-2nd Ward) and Svante Myrick ’09 (D-4th Ward) — have debated in forums, sparred through several media outlets and furnished Ithacans with campaign yard signs in the run-up to Tuesday’s vote.
With the primary rapidly approaching, all three candidates have stepped up their efforts to a frenzied pitch, they say.
“It’s all consuming, this effort. It’s taken over my whole life,” said Mackesey, who many observers view as the race’s front runner. “I finish one list and I march off and do another.”
Although “very optimistic” about her chances, Mackesey said she would be working overtime Monday and Tuesday to ensure that her supporters turn out to vote.
“We’re doing everything we can to get our supporters out. From everything I’ve seen, there’s a tremendous amount of interest in this election, so I think we’re going to have a good turnout,” Mackesey said.
Myrick’s Field Director Karen Schillinger ’12 touted the candidate’s door-to-door efforts and said that the campaign has knocked on approximately 14,000 doors, sometimes visiting the same home multiple times.
Schillinger said that Myrick and many of the 33 people who have volunteered in the last three days would knock on an additional 1,000 doors on Tuesday.
“We really want to engage everyone in the city,” Schillinger said. “Every two hours [Myrick] hits about 60 or so doors, so he’s hit a ton.”
While Myrick’s campaign staff highlighted the number of people contacted, Clairborne said such figures may be a superficial measure of engaging with Ithaca residents.
“I don’t count doors knocked nor conversations held because when you’re dealing with people, I believe it’s about relating to quality, not showboating about quantity,” he wrote in an email. “When you’re counting heads, some people soon realize that they’re being viewed as a number not as a person who wants to contribute to the betterment of Ithaca. I choose to work with that latter perspective and collaborate.”
Clairborne added that he had been hitting the campaign trail aggressively.
“I’m everywhere today,” he said. “This is one of those days where all the loose ends get tied up.”
Like the other candidates, Clairborne said he is “hopeful” his hard work will pay off.
“Through the many forums I’ve participated in, written questions I’ve responded to and countless one-on-one conversations with people across Ithaca, I’ve worked to show voters that many of my views are based largely on my actions and experience on Council,” Clairborne said.
Some city officials said that, regardless of the election’s outcome, a competitive primary has led to an important discussion about the city’s future.
“What’s most interesting about this election is that there is a real competition, and I hope that it would increase the voting turnout because people feel they have more of an opportunity to voice their opinion,” said Graham Kerslick, associate director of two Cornell research centers and the unopposed candidate for Alderperson of the 4th Ward.
Kerslick added that the number of forums have heightened the level of public discourse, which he hoped would lead to a high voting turnout.
“Even though there are four independents in the general election, I would hope that high turnout would continue [in the general election],” Kerslick said.
However, if fewer voters turn out than expected, the candidates said it would not be for lack of effort.
“I think the question mark in this campaign is the turnout — who gets their supporters out? We’re doing everything we can,” Mackesey said.
Late Monday night, Myrick supporter Alderperson Eddie Rooker ’09 (D-4th Ward) said he was working the phones all day to reach as many potential voters as possible.
“We’ve done everything we can; it’s gone by fast and [Myrick’s] done a lot of work. Whatever way it goes, we have nothing to be ashamed of,” Rooker said. “We’ve left everything on the table.”