Ithaca Common Council Alderperson Seph Murtagh Ph.D. ’09 (D-2nd Ward) launched his campaign to represent the 125th New York State Assembly District on Monday.
Murtagh will look to succeed Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D-N.Y.) — whose office he currently works for as communications coordinator. Lifton announced she would not seek reelection on Friday.
As a Common Council Alderperson, Murtagh said he can “walk from one end of [his] district to the other,” so one challenge he anticipates in his campaign for New York State Assembly is navigating a significantly larger district.
Currently, Murtagh represents Ithaca’s second ward — which comprises parts of the Ithaca Commons, Six Mile Creek, Cascadilla Creek, Washington Park and Dewitt Park. On the other hand, the 125th district consists of Tompkins County in its entirety and neighboring towns.
“That’s a very different thing than representing a district that includes an entire county, and part of another county,” Murtagh told The Sun.
But Murtagh feels ready to take on the challenge of representing the 125th district in Albany.
The alumnus currently serves as chair for the Common Council’s Planning and Economic Development Committee, a standing committee that oversees issues like city planning, housing, land use, zoning and historic preservation. Additionally, Murtagh serves as the Alternate Acting Mayor.
On the Common Council, Murtagh voted to introduce historic landmark designation for the buildings hosting Collegetown Bagels and The Nines. He also helped pilot an e-scooter program in Ithaca.
In his race for the assembly seat, Murtagh shared how he hopes to focus on three main issues: housing and property taxes, education funding and the environment.
Murtagh wants to make sure that local communities across New York state are protected from the impacts of climate change and that New York state schools receive equitable shares of education funding.
Earlier in his career, Murtagh worked as an Ithaca Times reporter where he covered the Common Council — Murtagh explained that his interest in the issues he is now campaigning on blossomed from his time as a reporter.
“I probably started to become more interested in the issues than I should’ve been as a reporter,” Murtagh said.
Murtagh previously taught writing at Ithaca College from 2009 to 2015 after receiving his Ph.D. in English from Cornell.
As of Monday afternoon, Murtagh told The Sun he had only “heard some names” of potential Democratic primary challengers. However, that changed on Monday night, as Dryden Town Supervisor, Jason Leifer, entered the race.
The state-wide democratic primary will occur on June 23. The general election is November 3.