November 6, 2011

Reif ’14 Challenges Kerslick for Collegetown Seat

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After running unopposed for Fourth Ward representative on the Ithaca Common Council for nearly five months, Democratic candidate Graham Kerslick learned Thursday that he would be challenged by Jessica Reif ’14, co-chair of the Cornell Republicans. The election is Tuesday.Kerslick said he first learned of Reif’s write-in candidacy for the Fourth Ward — which encompasses West Campus, Cascadilla Park and most of Collegetown — from an email forwarded to him by a Common Council member on Thursday evening.The seat is currently held by Common Council member Svante Myrick ’09 (D – 4th Ward), who is running for mayor instead of seeking reelection.While admitting that she “hasn’t done much campaigning,” Reif — who said she committed to running for Common Council in early October — emphasized the necessity of having a student represent the majority of the ward’s population.“Ninety-seven percent of the Fourth Ward is students, so having a student representative just makes sense numbers wise,” Reif said. “Additionally, it is important to have somebody to cater to the interest of students who live there.”In 2009, Common Council member Eddie Rooker ’09 (D – 4th Ward), a Cornell student at the time, won the seat with 49 votes.Reif noted that much of her campaign has been informal and greatly dependent on support from the Ithaca Republican Committee.“To be perfectly honest I didn’t have a formal date of announcement — it was sort of an idea that Janis Kelly [’71] brought up to me at the end of last year.” Reif said. “There’s somebody in the Fourth Ward who I met with who then sent out a flier asking people to show support for me … I didn’t know about an email that went out to Common Council.”Though a victory for Kerslick would represent the first time in four years that a Cornell student or recent alumnus would not represent the Fourth Ward, Kerslick maintained that being a Cornell student is not a qualification for the seat.“Students are a unique and diverse group of people and I don’t think you can say that they have just one opinion,” Kerslick said. “Just because [Reif] is a student doesn’t mean they necessarily will vote for [her] just because they are also students.”Though she entered the race shortly before the election, Reif defended her decision to run against Kerslick as one that was necessary to uphold a democratic political process.“I feel like an important part of the political process is having a choice, and the only choice on the on the ballot right now is Graham Kerslick,” Reif said. “While I’m sure Graham is very qualified to be on Common Council, I think that having a student option or someone who is more fiscally conservative is of value.”Reif also said that she and the Ithaca Republican Committee have made last-minute campaign efforts, including sending out fliers instructing residents how to write in their votes.“There was a mailing sent out by an Ithaca resident who supports me … I’ve also been doing some phone calls and reaching out door-to-door to individuals in Fourth Ward,” Reif said. “Anyone that I’ve talked to has been very supportive.”Kerslick argued that Reif’s late entrance into the race prevented the candidates from engaging in what he considers a necessary public forum prior to the election.  “I think that the best way to learn about candidates’ platforms and positions is for them to engage in a public forum, where candidates can also learn how they can best represent their constituents,” Kerslick said. “It’s difficult to convey that without talking to your constituency as a whole and answering their questions in a public forum … Presumably she decided not to take that route.”Kelly, the Republican candidate for mayor, expressed her support for Reif and said she thought Reif had a good chance at winning the Fourth Ward election.“Jess is a very bright, very energetic young Republican,” Kelly said. “It’s not that I think of the Fourth Ward as just a student ward, by any means, but I think it’s good for Common Council if there is a really hardworking, conscientious student [on the council] who is in touch with student concerns.”Though he ran for Common Council while still a student at Cornell, Rooker said he was “confused by the way [Reif] entered the race.”“I ran as a student and I like having students on Common Council, but students aren’t inherently the best people to be running in the Fourth Ward.” Rooker said. “I’m all for students if they’re running for the right reason, but I haven’t heard anything about her reasons for running.”

Original Author: Liz Camuti