Ming DeMers/Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Patrick Kuehl '24 (center) speaks at a Student Assembly candidate debate in Martha Van Rensselaer on April 25th, 2023. Kuehl won the Fourth Ward four-year position in a surprise victory as a write-in candidate.

November 16, 2023

Kuehl’s Write-In Campaign Defeats Incumbent DeFendini

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After launching a surprise write-in campaign for the Fourth Ward’s four-year seat on the Ithaca Common Council, Cornell Student Assembly president Patrick Kuehl ’24 edged out Jorge DeFendini ’22 (D-Fourth Ward) for the win. The last absentee and affidavit ballots were tallied on Thursday, Nov. 16, where Kuehl finished with 49 votes and DeFendini had 40 votes. 

A hand recount was called to verify the results, confirming Kuehl’s victory.

Kuehl will represent much of Cornell’s campus after the city’s wards were redrawn in 2022. The Fourth Ward’s area encompasses Central Campus, West Campus and Collegetown. 

Previously an uncontested race, Kuehl said he decided to run due to Ithacans’ dissatisfaction with DeFendini’s role on the Solidarity Slate, a group aiming to center racial justice, improve housing access and quality and bring the community together, according to the group’s website. DeFendini is one of three candidates in the group, along with Kayla Matos (D) — who defeated Cynthia Brock (D-First Ward) for the First Ward’s four-year seat — and Phoebe Brown (D-Second Ward). 

Kuehl’s campaign and its lack of public online presence has stirred confusion among other candidates and students. The Sun first learned about his possible write-in candidacy on Oct. 10, but when asked, Kuehl denied the campaign existed.  

“I’m not [running for Common Council] lmao who told u that [sic],” Kuehl said in an Oct. 11 statement, which was delivered via text message.  

Later expressing his wish to keep the potential candidacy private at the time — as it was not finalized — Kuehl emphasized he has been transparent in his campaign despite his uncertain post-graduation plans. It is unclear whether Kuehl intends to stay in Ithaca past his August graduation to carry out the four-year term.

“I had no intention of running initially, but as it became clear to me that there were no other options at the current time, I agreed to be the candidate knowing that my future in Ithaca is uncertain; I have made that abundantly clear to both those involved with the campaign and the community members I have talked to throughout this process,” Kuehl told The Sun on Wednesday, Nov. 8. “I believe that no person should run unopposed, ideas should be challenged and the people should be given a choice. If there is no opposition, there is no accountability to make the world a better place.”

Kuehl’s position will take effect on Jan. 1.

Correction, Nov. 16, 9:08 p.m.: A previous version of this article stated the incorrect date that Kuehl delivered a statement about his write-in campaign to The Sun. He spoke to The Sun on Nov. 8, not Oct. 8.