Democrat Martha Robertson ’75 announced Thursday that she will run to represent the predominantly conservative 23rd congressional district — which is currently being led by Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) — in the 2014 congressional elections.
Robertson, who is the chair of the Tompkins County Legislature, has lived in the county for more than 29 years, according to her profile on the legislature’s website. Since being elected to the legislature in 2002, Robertson has spoken out at protests against the state’s efforts to advance fracking, pushed for increasing housing affordability and advocated reducing the county’s carbon footprint.
Before serving on the Tompkins County Legislature, Robertson was the director of the President’s Council of Cornell Women, a division of the University that advocates the leadership of female Cornellians.
Asked by The Ithaca Times why she is running for Congress, Robertson said that “we are at a critical point in our country.”
“The Republican agenda is the wrong direction to go in,” she added.
Robertson faces several challenges in her Congressional campaign. Her opponent, Reed, will be a two-term incumbent in 2014, and the newly carved-out district she seeks to represent — encompassing the Southern Tier and the New York-Pennsylvania border — is dominated by Republicans.
But Robertson said that, in addition to having a history of bipartisan support, she thinks she will be able to appeal to voters based off of the positions she has taken on critical issues facing the district.
“I think party lines are really deceiving. I think people in this district are ready to listen to where we stand on the issues,” she said to The Ithaca Times.
Shortly after Robertson announced her run for Congress Thursday, the Tompkins County Republican Party slammed her candidacy.
Tompkins County Republican Chairman James Drader questioned whether Robertson will be able to remain a member of the Tompkins County Legislature while campaigning across 11 “largely rural” counties in the 23rd district.
“It is improbable that any single human will find time to adequately serve as chairperson and/or member of a County wide Legislature, be a committed political activist frequently in Albany, raise money and be a congressional candidate in a huge district, all while attending meetings and doing all of these well,” Drader said in a Tompkins County Republicans Party press release.
Drader pointed to Tompkins County Legislator Nate Shinagawa ’05 M.A. ’09, who ran against Reed for Congress in 2012. In 2010, Shinagawa sat through the entirety of just 13 of 25 legislature meetings; in 2011, he did not attend three meetings and was late to or left early from at least six meetings.
When confronted by Reed about his voting record at a 2012 debate, Shinagawa said he had only missed meetings because he was campaigning.
Drader said it would be unfair for Robertson to possibly miss legislature meetings for the same reason.
“Due to the many demands that will be made on her time by these many roles, we call on Martha Robertson to immediately resign her positions both as Chairperson of the Tompkins County Legislature and as a member of that body and not to seek reelection,” Drader said in the press release.
Robertson, however, said to The Ithaca Times that she will not seek a third term as chairperson of the legislature so she can continue to meet the needs of her constituents.
“People have been asking me for a long time to run for something else, and I think they’ll support me being on the County Legislature as long as possible,” Robertson said.
She added that, as someone who is “very good at multitasking,” not serving as chair of the legislature will give her enough time to both run for Congress and serve the county.
Drader countered that Roberton’s intention to not run for reelection for the chair position is “neither soon enough nor complete enough” an action. He said Robertson “needs to declare she will not run for, or serve on, the County Legislature during its next term from 2014 through 2017.”
“The people of Dryden deserve a [full]-time legislator,” Drader said in the press release. “Without such action, Ms. Robertson inevitably must be either an absentee candidate or an absentee legislator.”
Original Author: Akane Otani