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Democrats say county redistricting, national political rhetoric to blame for shallow slate

A blue table with a ballot surrounded by a white privacy screen.
Katie Zilcosky
A voting booth at an Onondaga County polling place.

The leader of Onondaga County Democratic Party says redistricting and discontent with the tenor of politics are to blame for the lack of competitive races on this year’s ballot.  Many voters casting ballots Tuesday will see limited options for select races.

Democratic Party Chair Max Ruckdeschel acknowledges it’s been difficult to find candidates to challenge the majority of seats on the county legislature and for two state supreme court seats. The same could be said for the Republican party seeking challengers for seats on the Syracuse Common Council. Ruckdeschel says with national politics setting the tone of the rhetoric, people are simply tired, and not inspired to run.

“Our candidates come from voters, at least on the Democratic side, most of our candidates are usually people that started out as interested voters, and then they become volunteers and activists and then candidates," Rucksdeschel said. "And when there isn't as much interest in getting involved in the first place, it's hard to turn those people into candidates.”

Ruckdeschel also blames newly drawn county legislature districts that mostly favor Republicans, though he acknowledges there are some safe seats for Democrats. Still, he says they were determined to run candidates for county-wide races like county executive, district attorney, and clerk.

“It's always important to give the voters a choice as much as possible, where we can find serious candidates that that want to run, have something to say," Ruckdeschel said. "I always think it's a good idea to get them out there. A lot of people are very dissatisfied with both Attorney District Attorney Fitzpatrick and County Executive McMahon, and having opponents gives those people a place to throw their support.”

Ruckdeschel knows, though, it’s an uphill battle to unseat a well-funded incumbent county executive and a district attorney who’s been in office for 32 years. Onondaga County’s Republican Party Chairperson did not respond to our requests for an interview. But Benedicte Doran told it’s hard to find quality candidates who want to spend a year running an uphill battle for office.

Polls are open Tuesday from 6 am to 9 pm. Some polling places have changed. To find yours, click here.  

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at