Two Cornellians are running against each other to represent the fourth district — which includes Collegetown and the Commons neighborhoods — on the Tompkins County Legislature. Write-in candidate Rich John ’81 launched his campaign two weeks after candidate Elie Kirshner ’18 obtained the Democratic nomination.
While John said he believes Kirshner is “a very nice young man” and that “their political positions really aren’t that far apart,” John said he has more experience, making him a better candidate.
John has practiced law in Ithaca for 29 years after having worked as a city prosecutor, municipal attorney and general councilman and chief compliance officer for Intertech, an international testing laboratory. Additionally, he has lived in Ithaca for 50 years and is a graduate of Ithaca High School, Cornell University and Notre Dame Law School. Referencing his daughter who graduated from Cornell in May, John said he has been paying particular attention to Cornell-related matters.
“It is important to have students involved in the government, but I disagree that students have to be represented by a student,” John said. “The voters should have a capable representative that understands the district and will listen.”
If elected as legislator, John said he hopes to play a significant role in the district’s fiscal policy.
“For any student that is paying rent, they are also paying property taxes and should be concerned about how the county is managing its $171 million budget,” John said.
Additionally, John said he would like to address energy efficiency in Tompkins County, especially as the county planning department has spent the past several years working on an “energy roadmap” to determine whether it is possible to reduce the county’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
“It’s clearly possible,” John said. “Some decisions will be relatively easy but a lot of them involve trade-offs and difficult decisions.”
John said he imagines that the biggest challenge, however, will be getting people to vote, since the district has had relatively low voter turnout in recent years.
“I spent my time going door to door talking to people and encouraging them to go and vote,” John said.
John faces Kirshner, an Ithaca native, who in a Sept. 21 interview with The Sun said he considers the issues of affordability, living wages, social justice, environmental sustainability and mental health to be of immense importance.
Kirshner said he spent the summer working as a field director on Mayor Svante Myrick’s ’09 re-election campaign and has also interned at Ithaca’s City Hall over the past year.
“I think what has prepared me for running for legislature is living in Ithaca my entire life, specifically living in the neighborhood that I’ll be representing,” he said. “In addition to that, having knocked on doors in Ithaca this past summer, having organized with Collegetown small business owners this past summer has helped me to engage with a lot of different people.”
The election will take place on Nov. 3. There are five polling places in the district, and polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.