September 13, 2011

Myrick ’09 Wins Democratic Mayoral Primary

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Just two years after he graduated from Cornell, 24-year-old Alderperson Svante Myrick ’09 (D-4th Ward) defeated seasoned politician Tompkins County Legislator Pam Mackesey ’89 (D-1st District) and Alderperson J.R. Clairborne (D-2nd Ward) in the Democratic primary for Mayor of Ithaca Tuesday.

Myrick captured a resounding 46 percent of the vote, defeating Mackesey — who was widely considered the favorite — by eight points. Clairborne came in third with approximately 17 percent of the vote.

Myrick’s surprise victory makes him both the city’s youngest major party candidate for mayor and its first African-American nominee.

With approximately eight times as many registered Democrats as Republicans in Ithaca, the winner of the Democratic primary enjoys a distinct advantage in the general election. Myrick will face Republican Janis Kelly ’71 as well as independent candidates Christopher Kusznir and Wade Wykstra, commissioner of the Board of Public Works, in November.

In a primary race often defined by his connections to Cornell — Myrick quit his job in the University’s alumni affairs office during the campaign — the young candidate won wide support from across Ithaca’s five wards, shocking many who thought he lacked the necessary connections to the city to win.

Myrick beat Mackesey and Clairborne in seven of 11 election districts.

After his victory was assured, Myrick spoke to a boisterous, energetic crowd of about 50 people outside his campaign headquarters on South Cayuga Street.

“Our work is not yet done,” he told the cheering crowd. “I can promise you over the next two months I will show you my gratitude.”

The supporters ranged from prominent city officials — including Deborah Molenhoff (D-5th Ward) and Nathan Shinagowa ’05 (D-4th District), early endorsers of Myrick — to a large number of volunteers, a group Myrick and his staff touted as a decisive factor in the election.

“We had an incredible outpouring of support with over 100 volunteers,” Myrick said. “It was incredible to see people actually engage, to see what a dialogue here in Ithaca looks like.”

Field Director Karen Schillinger ’12 said that nearly 40 volunteers went door-to-door on election day.

“I don’t know if it’s really hit me because I’ve been up since 4 a.m. hanging lists and banging on doors,” Schillinger said. “I’m feeling great; it’s a huge rush.”

Although his campaign staff was comprised of students and recent alumni — Schillinger, Fil Eden ’10 and Rob Flaherty Ithaca College ’13 — Myrick’s supporters emphasized that he only won Ithaca’s Fourth Ward, which includes much of Collegetown, by about 10 votes.

“Students were important for sure, but really this was a win that came from this community,” said Flaherty, Myrick’s director of communications.

Myrick said that the low youth voter turnout indicates that “we still have a lot of work to do with this age group.”

“I encourage the Cornell community to participate and become part of Ithaca  … When staff and students engage in the life of the city, we’ll both be better off,” he said.

Mackesey, who also lost a bid for New York’s State Senate last year, did not return a request for comment Tuesday night. She came up short despite winning the endorsements of Mayor Carolyn Peterson, Alderperson Ellen McCollister (D-3rd Ward) and Alderperson Maria Coles (D-1st Ward).

While recognizing that Myrick won the “overwhelming support” of Democrats, Clairborne said he would continue to run in the race as a member of the Independence party.

“Coming out of this tonight, I ran into a few people who said they were mad they couldn’t vote for me because they weren’t Democrats,” Clairborne said. “So I think that goes to show that there were a lot of voices not represented today.”

Myrick also emphasized that the race was not yet over.

“We get to continue this discussion until November,” Myrick said. “There’s still a lot of hardwork to do.”

Michael Linhorst and Liz Camuti contributed reporting to this article.

Original Author: Jeff Stein