Syracuse democrats heading to the polls for Thursday’s primary will see three choices for city court judge on the ballot. All are Syracuse natives, all are running for office for the first time, and all have years of experience as attorneys who’ve tried a variety of cases in many different courtrooms. They also say the position is more important than people think.
Shadia Tadros says a city court judge reflects the community we live in.
"Who should sit and judge other folks in the community? That's why I'm giving people a choice. In my community, people that have my experience, compassion, and love for the community, are the folks judging this community. That's the significance of this race."
Tadros says she chose to run to talk about the issues and draw attention to a race that usually flies under the radar.
"All of us can take a nice picutre, smile, and put it on a flyer and say 'fair and unbiased.' Who's going to admit to being biased? These are issues and qualifications-based positions."
For example, Tadros says many voters are surprised to learn that bail and sentencing are at the discretion of a judge. Candidate Felicia Pitts-Davis says she hears concerns about bail and how people are affected.
"When you are held on a bail, if you have a job, you may not be able to report. If you have children, a house or an apartment...all of those things that affect us daily can go awry. So bail questions are very important."
Pitts-Davis says her 24 years as a lawyer have prepared her to serve the public at the next level.
"Dealing with real-life issues, and ultimately, that skillset: Being able to weigh facts; being able to understand circumstances and context. That can be so important."
Pitts-Davis says she empathizes with people who face any number of challenges that might arise. Party designee Ann Magnarelli says city court judges are unsung heroes who have the ability to effect change.
"There is obviously space for compassion, whether it's in the form of consiedering alternatives to incarceration, or working with the different stakeholders in the community to solve different problems, whether it be in landlord-tenant court, or when we're dealing with code violations."
Magnarelli says she’s seen first-hand some of the struggles facing residents in her previous role with the city’s corporation counsel.
"Whether it be income inequality, the racial disparity that exists in the city. I learned a lot, obviously. But being a native Syracusan, living here my whole life, I am invested in this community."
Magnarelli says most residents tell her they want to live in a safe community with adequate housing. Syracuse’s registered democrats will determine which candidate is the most qualified to advance to the general election and secure a 10-year-term. Polls are open Thursday from noon to 9.