County Executive Candidate to Turn Away Campaign Funds from County Vendors

Jun 25, 2019

Democratic candidate for county executive Tony Malavenda says we have to break out of a "19th century political system" that favors incumbents who are able to attract large campaign contributions.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

The democratic candidate for Onondaga County Executive says he won’t accept campaign contributions from any entity that does business with the county.  Tony Malavenda says it’s almost impossible not to be influenced after taking large sums of money from corporations, firms, practices, and consultants. 

He says he won’t be beholden to anyone except the voters.

"Decision making in the county should be based on the issues at hand surrounding that decision...the economics of it, the social impacts.  They should not be encumbered by political considerations."

Malavenda says pay-to-play is inherent in county politics, and he says the cycle stops with him.   He says he’s not singling out at any candidate or company, but rather a culture where most people don’t know who might be influencing candidates.

"So, let's say you have a law firm doing business with the county that's giving the county executive significant [campaign] funds, how would you know?  I think it breeds mistrust, that the electorate feels like they're not getting their voices heard."

Malvenda says he hasn’t had to return any donations so far because of his pledge.  But he still intends to be competitive in his run against incumbent republican Ryan McMahon, who was appointed in November to fill the rest of Joanie Mahoney’s term.  Malavenda, a former long-time businessman, has donated $400,000 to his own campaign. 


While Malavenda doesn’t face a primary Tuesday, there’s a rare contest among fellow democrats vying for three seats on the county legislature.  Malavenda says it’s great to see people get involved.

"For too many years in the past, we haven't had that.  How many times have we had a legislative race where there's just no opposition, or there's a name on a ballot?  That's true of the county executive races and a lot of the county-wide races."

Republicans have dominated the legislature for years, and currently hold a 12 to 5 supermajority.  Only three people have been elected to the post of county executive since it was created in 1962, and all have been republicans.  Republicans have also held the office of sheriff, district attorney, comptroller, and clerk for decades.  Democrats rarely try to seek those offices or challenge the incumbents, and when they do, the results are often lopsided in favor of the GOP.

Polls for the county legislature and other primaries are open from noon to 9.  More information on the races can be found here.