Democratically endorsed candidates Elie Kirshner ’18 and Nate Shinagawa ’05 both pointed to their party’s lack of a primary election as a source of frustration in their defeats in Tuesday’s Tompkins County Legislature elections.
“The reality is that everybody would have preferred a primary,” Kirshner said. “When that didn’t happen, people were frustrated and that ultimately bled over into the overall campaign.”
Kirshner and Shinagawa were chosen as the Democratic candidates via the Tompkins County Democratic Committee, instead of by a standard primary election, in accordance with the governing laws and regulations for special elections, according to Kirshner. Both candidates indicated that this process resulted in a sense of disenfranchisement for Democratic Party voters, who wished for a greater voice in selecting their candidates.
“We need to have reforms across the board,” Shinagawa said. “This law applies to the state and national levels as well.”
Shinagawa, who served for ten years as the previous representative for the fourth district on the legislature, recently resigned and moved his residence to the Fall Creek neighborhood. Because of his mid-term resignation, a special election was held for the fourth district with a committee selection instead of primary.
Kirshner, who ran to replace Shinagawa, emphasized that the different election format infused a negative tone into his campaign. This format is currently under review, according to Kirshner.
“I think it’s good that the Legislature is looking at the special election guidelines. I think that’s very positive.” Kirshner said.
While both Kirshner and Shinagawa lost while running for the Democratic Party, Shinagawa emphasized that he does not consider this a blow to the party.
“I want to point out that the Democrats on the whole did really well,” Shinagawa said. “Mayor [Svante] Myrick ’09 won reelection by 89 percent of the votes.”
According to the unofficial returns posted on the Tompkins County website, Democrats secured the highest vote totals in a majority of the county elections in which they ran.
Looking forward, Kirshner and Shinagawa said they will aim to serve the community outside of the County Legislature.
“People often forget that the county legislature is a part time job,” Shinagawa said. “I’ll be continuing with my full-time employment as vice president for hospital operations at Robert Packer Hospital. I think I’ll be taking a break in politics for a while.”
Kirshner said that he will be refocusing his life on his studies in government and psychology at Cornell.
“I need to catch up on a little sleep and I need to apologize to my Spanish [teaching assistant],” Kirshner said. “All I know is to be positively engaged with the community. That’s really all I want for the future.”
Both candidates expressed gratitude for the support that they received during their campaigns.
“People have this idea that there is this Democratic machine,” Shinagawa said. “There is no Democratic machine. This was a grassroots effort.”
Kirshner also expressed pride in being part of the Democratic Party in the recent elections, stating that the party members he worked with were tremendously supportive.
“I can’t even name the number of people I’ve met that have amazed me with their tremendous integrity, dedication and passion, people like Brian and Ellen King,” Kirshner added.
Shinagawa reported that he ended his political campaign on a particularly cordial note by going to Anna Kelles’ victory party after she defeated him in the second district election.
“I completely support Anna,” Shinagawa said. “I’m looking forward to working with her in the future.”