2019 Elections

County Executive Race Drums Up Election Day Interest in Syracuse

By Thomas Russo, BDJ 464.02

Published on November 5, 2019

There may not be a federal or state contest to drum up interest in this off-year election, but that has not put a damper on turnout in Syracuse's 17th Ward. Video produced by (c) 2019 Tom Russo.

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Tom Russo:  On an Election Day without a state or federal legislator on the ballot, there is still one thing bringing voters to Erwin First United Methodist Church in Syracuse’s 17th Ward.

Charlotte Haas: I see it as my civic duty and I’ve voted ever since I was able to vote.

Peg O’Hara: Just so that you have a say in things.  I mean you don’t get any say in the family but you can say things for voting can’t you.

Russo: But aside from their civic duty, what’s driving voters to the polls is these races, right here.

Ben Switalski: The Onondaga County elections.  I still think that’s gonna bring a lot of people, a lot of publicity for that.

Mary O’Connor: There has to be a broader representation in county government.

O’Hara: County executive is the big one, and also the district attorney.

Russo: But these races have been getting increasingly heated, and the voters are becoming fed up with the increased antagonism between the candidates.

O’Hara: I’m old enough, I remember, yeah there was some negative stuff, but it wasn’t 90 percent negative and ten percent positive.  It shouldn’t be.  You know this is ridiculous.

Switalski: Kinda going for the jugular in a kinda dirty kinda way.  I guess its sort of that the bottom’s dropped out a little bit.  But I think politics has always been like sausage, you don’t want to see how it’s made.

Russo: But one man is quick to point out there’s only one way you can change that.

John Shahin: The polls are open till 9:00 p-m.  There’s time to get out there and vote.  So get out there and vote.

Russo: For Democracy in Action, I’m Tom Russo, in Syracuse.

Syracuse, N.Y. (NCC News)- Oftentimes, an Election Day that comes on a year where there is no presidential election will have a low turnout.  Turnout gets even worse when there’s no other federal officials on the ballot, and lower still when the major state offices are also not up for grabs.

You wouldn’t know that from standing in the Erwin First United Methodist Church today though.  Interest in the 2019 election was plenty strong as Onondaga County voters went to the polls to decide critical races at the county level.

“County executive is the big one,” said Peg O’Hara, who brought her brother Kevin to vote at Erwin this morning.  “Also, the district attorney.”

“I’d like to see a change in county government,” said Mary O’Connor.  “I’m more concerned with the district attorney than the county executive.”

Throughout the morning it was clear the two biggest things on the minds of voters were the race between Republican incumbent Ryan McMahon and Democrat Tony Malavenda for Onondaga County Executive and the race between seven-term incumbent Republican William Fitzpatrick and Democrat Chuck Keller for District Attorney.

“I think there has to be a broader representation in county government, that’s one of my concerns” said O’Connor.  “I think it’s time for a change.  The District Attorney, that’s a real issue, we need to replace our District Attorney.  He’s been there for a long time and I think it’s time for a change.  It’s the reason I’m here to vote.”

Ben Switalski agreed that the hotly contested county races were the big draw of the day for voters.

“The Onondaga County elections will bring a lot of people,” said Switalski.  “A lot of publicity for that Malevenda and MacMahon race.  It’s a big one.”

However, the voters of Syracuse’s 17th Ward expressed strong displeasure with the unsavory turn the races had taken, in particular the animosity shown in campaign ads in the final days between McMahon and Malevenda.

“They’re both kinda going for the jugular in a kinda dirty kinda way,” said Switalski.  “I guess it’s sort of the bottoms dropped out a little bit.  I think politics has always been like sausage, you don’t want to see how it’s made.”

“There’s no reason for all this negative stuff, regardless of what level,” said O’Hara.  “I’m old enough, I remember when there was some negative stuff early on, but it wasn’t 90 percent negative and ten percent positive.  It shouldn’t be.  This is ridiculous.  They all need to do their jobs.  Forget the advertising.  They need to do their jobs.”

Polls remain open in Onondaga County until 9:00 p.m. tonight.