"Outrage" Over National Politics Drives Democrats and Greens to Field Larger Slates of Candidates
Both the Onondaga County Democratic Committee and the Green Party are hoping frustration with the national political climate will work in their favor on election day.
Democrats are optimistic that they have a slate of candidates that will make inroads in the county legislature. Republicans hold a supermajority with 13 of 17 seats. The committee has fielded five candidates to challenge GOP incumbents, and two others to seek open seats held by outgoing republicans. That’s more than in recent memory. Chairman Mark English says larger forces are a motivating factor.
"People are more interested because of the national politics and want to get involved. We're certainly putting in a concerted effort. We've never been able until this point to raise the kind of money they're [republicans] opposing us, but we're doing a lot of door to door canvassing and phoning."
English says their candidates are being well received in traditional republican territory, and feels they’re making headway. He hasn’t seen the same level of activity from the GOP.
"The republicans have left many seats open in the city that they didn't contest at all. Beside the county legislature, we're also putting up stronger town slates. We feel we're on the ascending. Fear can be a great motivator, as well as idealism. Just a pure sense of civic duty."
But, English is fully aware of challenges facing democrats. Without a major race at the top of the ticket outisde the city, he says low voter turnout could be a factor.
"Always off-year is difficult. Historically, it's been more difficult for democrats."
This year is no different. While the GOP is a significant barrier, Democrats are also competing with the Green Party over like-minded voters. English the Greens can be a motivator…and also a thorn in their side.
"I wish they'd join the democratic party and try to move it and promote some of their ideas. Unfortunately, often, it takes the form of the Greens taking votes away from what we feel is our constituency, and therefore republicans may win."
The Democrats are going into the election with a majority in the Syracuse Common Council, where republicans hold only one seat. The GOP has fielded just two candidates…both for the two open councilor-at-large seats.
GREEN PARTY CANDIDATES GET MORE EXPOSURE
The Green Party has a slate of four candidates on the ballot this year, and New York State Party Secretary Ursula Rozum says there is more political engagement.
“I think we'd like to always see more candidates for every party and every position. As we've had more people active with our campaigns, candidates have been stepping up as well.”
Rozum says to run as a Green, though, a candidate has to be pretty self-assured.
"Fundamentally, the green party supports pretty radical, systemic changes in our economy to make sure we can end poverty, make sure to end environmental destruction.”
She attributes the heightened interest to outrage about national politics…and more candidate exposure.
“There have been many, many more candidate forums this year than in previous years when I've worked on elections for the Green Party locally since I've since 2010. Every single night there's some kind of place for candidates to make their case to constituents. We're expecting a surge in voter participation this year.”
At the same time, she acknowledges that it can also be difficult to get people to vote in this political climate. Still, Rozum says that hasn’t deterred the Greens from knocking on doors and talking to community members every day.
"Once we're able to get one-on-one with voters to talk with voters about their concerns and some of the solutions candidates are proposing, that's how we're able to get folks to break with how they traditionally vote. But, it is a challenge.”
But the Greens have outperformed expectations in the past. In 2011, Howie Hawkins won 48 percent of the vote in the 4th District in his run for Syracuse Common Council. Their slate this year includes Hawkins for mayor, along with Frank Cetera for councilor at large. Eric Graf and Serena Seals are seeking the second and fourth council districts respectively. Election day is Tuesday, November 7th.