July 21, 2011

Myrick ’09 Takes Early Fundraising Lead in Seven-Way Mayoral Race

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Common Council member Svante Myrick ’09 (D-4th Ward) has jumped out to a narrow fundraising lead in the race for Mayor of Ithaca, according to campaign finance reports filed with the New York State Board of Elections this week.

Myrick, however, faces stiff opposition from Tompkins County Legislator Pam Mackesey ’89 (D-1st District), whose staffers contend that Myrick should not be considered the race’s front-runner. Common Council member J.R. Clairborne (D-2nd Ward) is also staking his claim to the Democratic nomination.

Meanwhile, Republican and independent candidates said they believe the Democrats’ crowded, jostling field gives the race’s dark horses the rare opportunity to win in traditionally left-leaning Ithaca. Four Republican or independent candidates are in the race.

In collecting $12,335, Myrick drew from around 80 donors — more than double the next closest candidate. Yet supporters of Mackesey, who received about $9,000 from 31 donors, noted that more than 60 percent of Myrick’s donations came from outside of Ithaca.

“We’re looking at a local election and people willing to step up to the plate for their city,” said Matt Gray, Mackesey’s campaign manager. “I think he does have what I’d call a base with Cornell-affiliated voters, but I don’t think that would be enough to win the election. This city is made up of many neighborhoods, families and individuals having diverse concerns and hopes, and Pam is intent on representing this much broader base of citizens and their interests.”

Rob Flaherty, Myrick’s director of communications, called Gray’s focus on Myrick’s out-of-town donors a “pretty blatant manipulation of numbers.” Flaherty pointed out that, although Myrick may have also received more donations from outside the region, he still collected more donations from Ithacans — a total of 26 — than did Mackesey, who received donations from 22 city residents.

“26 donors does show a lot of support from within the city. It shows that Ithacans are stepping up to bat for Svante,” Flaherty said. “I certainly don’t appreciate, and I don’t think Ithacans will appreciate, campaigns manipulating facts for political purposes. As someone who’s worked with and respects Pam, I’m a little disappointed that her campaign would do this.”

Disputes within the crowded Democratic primary field may help other candidates capture the mayor’s seat, said Republican mayoral candidate Janis Kelly ’71, chair of the city’s Republican committee.

“I think the Democrats have some strategic problems and that this is the best chance for a Republican to win the mayoral race in the last 30 years,” Kelly said, citing the possibility that all three Democrats could run on different party lines in November’s general election. “The more people we have on the ballot to split the vote, the fewer any one [candidate] has to get to win.”

Kelly added that the “wide-open race” is helping spur open discussion about the city’s future.

“It’s really nice to see actual debate and argument happening, which has not happened in a very long time because of the kind of death-grip progressive, liberal politics have had on the city,” she said. “There’s tremendous public dissatisfaction with the last decade of Democratic party rule in the city of Ithaca.”

Christopher Kusznir, owner of Subway on the Commons and an independent candidate for mayor, also said that the number of candidates, particularly in the Democratic caucus, had given his candidacy hope.

“Having this many hats in the race makes it anybody’s game,” Kusznir said. “It certainly makes it easier than running against a unified [Democratic] front.”

Kusznir said the crowded field may ease the pressures of fundraising.

“I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of money going in, that the only way to have a chance would be to get face-to-face with every single resident,” Kusznir said, adding that he had been able to “do a lot with very little money” through his website and social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

Independent candidate Wade Wykstra, a member of the Board of Public Works, donated $3,500 to his own campaign and received a $100 donation, according to the State Board of Elections.

Fundraising totals for Clairborne were not posted online.

Neither Clairborne nor Wykstra could be reached for comment. Anthony Gallucci has also declared his intention to run as a candidate of the People’s Emancipation Party.

Original Author: Jeff Stein