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Democrats Look Ahead To Next Election Cycle After Failing To Gain Seats On Onondaga County Legislature

flip leg candidates.jfif
These are the democrats who were seeking to represent their respective districts. All incumbents won reelection. Charles Garland will replace Vernon Williams, Jr, who serves as a democrat but ran on the Working Families Party Line.

The lead organizer of the effort called Flip the Leg to get more democrats elected to the Onondaga County Legislature says he’s disheartened that they were largely unsuccessful.  The balance of the legislature remains 11 to 6 in favor of the republicans, with no seats gained or lost by either party. 

On the surface, democrats had reason to be hopeful. The party ran challengers or incumbents in all 17 districts. But Organizer Joe Driscoll says they still couldn’t break through the republican wall.

"We saw fundraising and door knocking campaigns stronger than we've seen in past cycles, but the margins didn't move that much. If we came within 2 or 3 points in some of those races, I would feel, OK, we really moved the needle. But we still saw 10 point margins in a lot of those races. That was the difficult pill to swallow."

In fact, the margins averaged closer to 20 and 30 points. Driscoll says, though, the GOP was definitely nervous. While the candidates are disappointed, he says they’re ready to try again in two years. Driscoll says they probably shouldn’t have focused so much on redistricting and gerrymandering, which didn’t seem to register much with voters. Instead, he says there’s probably more concern about how county departments like health and social services have been cut back over the years.

"If we were to go back, we'd focus more on underfunding services, and issues that unions like CSEA were bringing up like staffing shortages and people feeling they're having to do so much with so little, while we're out doing economic projects. I think those were probably the issues that resonated more with voters.

Driscoll says they also needed to make a stronger case for why checks and balances are needed in county government, and how a democratic majority on the legislature would help. Driscoll says the lopsided political dynamics on both county and city governments could hamper the region’s future success.

"It doesn't feel good that there's no competition. A republican can't win in the city. A democrat can't win in the county, and the margins are large. It's not a great dynamic. Competitive races make it better for everyone, and keep everyone honest and accountable."