Wonky Wednesday:  The Town of Van Buren

Welcome back to Wonky Wednesday.  Each week I do a deep dive into the election and registration data that makes up the electoral landscape of our home, Onondaga County.  I hope by looking into this data we can glean that this everchanging county is not monolithic as once thought and competition for Democrats, and all registrations, can be found everywhere.  This week I investigate the last of the 19 towns of Onondaga County, the Town of Van Buren.


The Town of Tully sits near the Northwestern corner of our county.  The northern, eastern, and western border of the town is created by the Seneca River. It shares the village of Baldwinsville with the Town of Lysander which straddles the river in the Northeast Corner of the Town. The Eastern border of the town along the river is denser with housing developments while the rest of the town is more agrarian and rural.


Van Buren would be the largest of the small towns of Onondaga, though it is probably more accurate to describe it as a hybrid of large suburban sprawl and agrarian rural living.  Van Buren has seen the typical gradual rise of registered voters since 2015 with the explosion of registrations we have seen in 2020 across Onondaga County. It is likely the population has grown in this town as well, but we will need to wait and see Census data later this year to confirm.  It is wholly inside the 13th County Legislative district currently held by Ken Bush (R).


The current registration of the Town of Van Buren shows a GOP plurality, but Democrats are within striking distance.  Republicans make up 34% of the town with Democrats at 30%. Non-enrolled (BLK) voters’ makeup 27% of the town.  Van Buren has 11 election districts, and they vary greatly because of the dichotic nature of the town.  More compact urban eds have larger populations then sprawling agrarian eds.


Van Buren might be the next town to turn blue, but that is several years off.  The GOP has maintained their voting population in this town at a consistent level. However, as the town grows so does the Democratic and non-enrolled populations lessen the GOP impact. Will this trend continue, and will the non-enrolled voters break towards Democrats in state or local elections are the questions that may dominate Van Buren politics if Democrats put up candidates in the future?  


 The eleven election districts really vary in terms of their size and Demographic makeup.  Eds 3 & 4 are the portion of the village of Baldwinsville that sits inside the town and the makeup of these districts are about evenly split.  The districts close to the river with large amounts of housing, 6,7,10 & 111 also look to be evenly divided.  The other 5 districts, 1,2,5,8,9 are the more agrarian districts and give the town its GOP plurality.


The significant six races provide some evidence that Van Buren may have a more Democratic future.  In 2019 Van Buren once again behaved like a typical rural town, heavily favoring all GOP candidates with the comptroller race being closer than the others. However, in 2020 the new enrollments and higher turnout started to show their influence.  Congress was typically a tough race for the Democrats here, but Mannion fought to 5-point deficit and Joe Biden had the tiniest of plurality in this Town.  If these voters continue to vote in local races at these numbers some positions in the Town of Van Buren could come into play.

The Town of Van Buren Democrats nominate candidates by caucus.  The town supervisor, highway superintendent, Justice, and three town councilors are up for election in 2021.  If you are interested in getting involved contact Van Buren Democratic Chair Jill Hayes by emailing her at jill.hayes091@gmail.com

This ends my look at the 19 towns of Onondaga.  Next week I will look at the changes we have seen since last year in Onondaga County as our June registration numbers are in.  Then I start looking at the 17 Onondaga County Legislative races in 2021. Hope you keep tuning in.

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