September 20, 2007

Herb Engman Elected New Ithaca Town Supervisor

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For the first time in more than a decade, the Town of Ithaca will have a new supervisor.
Residents of the Town of Ithaca, a horseshoe-shaped municipality that borders but is separate from the City of Ithaca, voted this past Tuesday in the Democratic primary for Town Supervisor. The Town overwhelmingly voted for Herb Engman.
Despite a low voter turnout of roughly 23 percent, Engman, a Town of Ithaca board member, beat incumbent Cathy Valentino for town supervisor by roughly 656 votes.
“I’m a little overwhelmed. I was confident we were going to have a pretty good victory, but this is overwhelming,” Engman told The Ithaca Journal.
The Tompkins County Board of Elections has not made the results official yet, but it is highly unlikely the outcome will change due to Engman’s large margin of victory.
Engman works as an extension associate in the human development department at Cornell. He also works with the Cornell Migrant Program and 4-H Youth Development. He is currently serving the final year of his first term as a Town Board member.
Valentino had planned to run as an independent in the general election, whereby she would have avoided the fight for the Democratic primary nomination. A technicality with the Tompkins County Board of Elections prevented her from doing so.
She said her loss to Engman is likely the last political race she will compete in.
“I doubt I’ll run for another office,” Valentino said, although she plans to be involved as an activist within the community. Valentino has served as Town Supervisor for the past 12 years.
While Engman will appear as the Democratic nominee on the ballot, the Republicans may back a candidate who would then run against Engman in the general election. The GOP is scheduled to caucus at 7 p.m. today at Rumsey’s Bed and Breakfast. The deadline for the Republicans to file papers with the Board of Elections is Sept. 25.
According to Valentino, despite low voter-turnout in many areas of the country, the Town of Ithaca, which is home to many political activists, usually bucks such trends.
“We usually average 50 percent or better,” Valentino said.
According to Valentino, there are approximately 4,600 registered Democrats in the Town of Ithaca, and roughly one in four people voted.
Valentino said she was disappointed in the turnout, but would have been regardless of the winner.
Valentino had been pressured into declaring whether or not she would seek the position early in the year. She originally said she was not going to run, and the Democratic Party officially endorsed Engman.
According to Engman, the election was about Valentino’s record as Town Supervisor, and the citizens of the Town were ready for change.
“It’s a huge mandate for change and we’re going to have to implement those changes,” he told The Ithaca Journal.