November 2, 2010

Incumbents Hold On to Local Seats; Lansing Elected Sheriff

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Ithacans braved the blustery November chill on Tuesday to vote in a series of local and regional races that kept many incumbent politicians in office, but ousted the three-term occupant of the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office in favor of a candidate advocating change.Among the other winners were Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), who defeated George Phillips to win New York’s 22nd Congressional District; Republican Tom O’Mara, who won New York State Senate’s 53rd District; and Democrat Barbara Lifton, who retained her seat representing the 125th District in the New York State Assembly.The race for the top law enforcement seat in the county ended in a narrow victory for Kenneth Lansing (I), who defeated 12-year incumbent Sheriff Peter Meskill (D) by 5.98 percentage points, according to election data as of 1:30 a.m. Wednesday morning.Meskill’s emphasis on his long experience in public service helped gain the support of 47 percent of Tompkins County voters but was insufficient to fend off Lansing, a former Cayuga Heights Police Chief.In the past few weeks, Lansing has emphasized the need for change in the Sheriff’s Office, and refuted Meskill’s claims that Meskill effectively cut costs while in charge, citing instead a 5.5-percent increase in budget.“The key is not how you manage the budget, rather it is how you manage the people,” Lansing said during a radio forum last Wednesday. “I can assure you, when you have the support of your staff in administrating and controlling, reducing spending, for example, like overtime is a much easier task. I will build my foundations by establishing a sheriff’s oversight committee.”  In contrast to veteran Meskill’s defeat in the race for Sheriff, a longtime incumbent triumphed in the contest for New York’s 22nd Congressional District. Hinchey has held the seat since 1993, and he overcame Republican George Phillips at the polls Tuesday with 52.8 percent of the vote as of early Wednesday morning.Former President Bill Clinton endorsed Hinchey at a recent rally in Binghamton, which the Hinchey campaign touted as a vote of confidence in Hinchey’s economic expertise.“Someone who knows about turning the economy around more than anyone else in the country is supporting [Hinchey],” Hinchey spokesman Michael Morosi said earlier this week.Cornell students joined Ithaca residents in taking sides in the congressional race, though generally remained loyal to their preferred party.Terry Moynihan ’11, president of the Cornell Democrats, lauded the incumbent.“[Hinchey] has been great to the residents of Ithaca and the people in the rest of the district,” Moynihan said.Cornell Republicans chair Peter Bouris ’12, on the other hand, criticized Hinchey’s economic policy as “not sustainable,” praising instead the foreign policy and economic expertise of Hinchey’s Republican challenger.In another race focused on economic issues, Tom O’Mara (R-53rd) won 59 percent of the vote to defeat Democratic challenger Pam Mackesey and retain the New York State Senate’s 53rd District.Mackesey –– a former union organizer and current member of the Tompkins County Legislature — emphasized her support for gay marriage and abortion rights and advocated the suspension of hydrofracking until the procedure’s environmental effects can be fully assessed.Currently a state assemblyperson for the 137th District of New York, O’Mara focused on the need to reform economic policy in government.“It’s important for candidates and voters to stay focused on the overriding need for … fiscal reforms throughout government in New York,” he said during the campaign.In the New York State Assembly, incumbent Democrat Barbara Lifton retained the 125th District Seat, defeating Republican challenger Thomas Reynolds. Lifton won over 65 percent of the vote after a campaign focused on hydrofracking, gay marriage rights and the economy.Though Reynolds sought to cast his opponent as an “incumbent career politician” and member of a political establishment that “helped bring New York to the brink of bankruptcy,” Lifton still received enough voter support to propel her into a fifth term in the State Assembly.In her campaign, Lifton vowed to fight for consistently ethical practices in government and to prevent corporate money from corrupting the electoral process.

Original Author: Eliza LaJoie