November 13, 2008

C.U. Alums Win 5 Seats in House, 1 in N.Y. State Senate

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In the weeks leading up to the election, the Cornell community watched Keith Olbermann ’79 lead MSNBC’s television coverage, read the blogs of Ann Coulter ’84 and watched Bill Maher ’78 on HBO and live in Barton Hall. And when it came time for Election Day, C.U. saw its alumni rise to the top, winning coveted seats in public offices.
Last week’s election ballots featured a slew of Cornell alumni, and many of them won the races they ran in. Cornell graduates won five seats in the House of Representatives and one seat in the New York State Senate.
In the N.Y. State Senate, Michael Nozzolio ’73 (R-Fayette), who also earned his Masters in Public Administration in ’77, was reelected in the 54th district. Nozzolio, who first was elected in 1992, represents part of the Finger Lakes region, including Geneva, home to the Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. Nozzolio currently serves on the C.U. Council and the Board of the Cornell Agriculture and Food Technology Park. A seasoned veteran in the NYS Senate, which now has a Democratic majority, Nozzolio won handily with 71.5 percent of the vote.
This the first time in 40 years that Democrats have had the majority in the state senate and the first time since 1935 that they have full legislative and gubernational control.
Cornell alumni also battled for six spots in the United States House of Representatives. In Illinois’s 10th District, which covers the northern suburbs of Chicago, Mark Kirk ’81 (R-Ill.) won 54 percent of the vote. Hailing from a Democratic state and the home of President-elect Barack Obama, Kirk is an experienced representative who has served since 2001. Kirk sits on the House Appropriations Committee, largely thought of as being one of the most important committees in the House because of its role in doling out money.
Rob Andrews JD ’82 (D-N.J.) spent much of his time at Cornell working as an editor of the Cornell Law Review. Andrews, who has represented New Jersey’s 1st district since 1990, was re-elected with an impressive 72 percent of the vote. His win followed an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate, which he lost during the primaries. Andrews has served on numerous committees in the House. He supported the invasion of Iraq and was a superdelegate for Hillary Clinton during the primaries leading up to the election of 2008.
Another Cornell graduate to win office is Gabrielle Giffords Masters of Regional Planning ’96 (D-Ariz.), a democrat from Arizona’s 8th district, a traditionally Democratic district in John McCain’s home state. Giffords is Arizona’s first Jewish congresswoman. She is also the only congresswoman with a spouse, Mark E. Kelley, in active military duty and the only congresswoman to be in office while a spouse was traveling in outer space. While at Cornell, Giffords was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Mexico.
Capping off Cornell’s representatives-elect, Kurt Schrader ’73 (D-Oregon) won the election in Oregon’s 5th district, moving from the Oregon State Senate to the House. Schrader, a democrat, defeated his opponent with 54 percent of the vote. During his time at Cornell, Schrader met his wife, Martha Northam ’75, with whom he has four children.
The fifth Congressman-elect is Bob Filner ’63 and Ph.D. ’70 (D-Calif.), the incumbent, who easily won re-election, with 72 percent of the vote in California’s 51st district. This district covers portions of San Diego and its surrounding regions including the entire border with Mexico, an issue that he said “dominates over [his] district.”
Filner has served in Congress since 1993. He attended Cornell in a time of political and social movements and protests, including the famous Willard Straight Hall takeover in 1969.
As an undergraduate, Filner worked in the business department for The Sun. He also spent a significant amount of time in a southern jail, convicted as one of the Freedom Writers. “This is what really prepared me for Congress and … [it gave me] confidence in my ability,” Filner said.
Asked about President-elect Barack Obama’s historic win, Filner said, “I am equally excited [as students at Cornell].”
One Cornell alum on the ballot was not successful in his campaign. Chris Myers MPA ’96 ran an unsuccessful bid for representative of New Jersey’s 3rd district. Myers, the current mayor of Medford, N.J., ran as the Republican candidate, and was endorsed by the retiring incumbent Jim Saxton. Still, and in spite of campaign rallies with notable politicians Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and President George W. Bush, Myers fell short with 48 percent of the vote. John Adler, a Democrat and a Harvard graduate defeated him with 52 percent of the vote.
Overall, Cornell’s candidates did very well and hope to instill policies to help the American people, especially their constituents. “Washington will be glad to welcome Cornell alums. It’s good that Cornell will have significant representation in the House,” Italo Cruz ’12, a government major from Washington D.C., said.
Students are proud of the winners. “It feels great to know that Cornell alums make it big. The future is looking good for current students,” Sean Volk ’12 said.