Wonky Wednesday:  Onondaga County Legislature 4th District

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 start my #Fliptheleg series looking at each of the 17 Onondaga County Legislative races.  Today I look at Onondaga County Legislative seat #4.


In 2011 this seat was represented by newcomer Judy Tassone. In 2009 Judy Tassone won election to this seat winning by less than 200 votes to Dave Stott. In fact more people voted for Dave Stott on the Democratic line.   The GOP majority on the redistricting commission altered this district drastically giving it a signature  weird shape , the 2011 maps were famous for.  In an effort to keep this district in GOP hands they removed the portion from Clay that was more Democratic and snaked it around Onondaga Lake to put more GOP votes into the district.  They also portioned a small chuck of the City of Syracuse to dilute the Democratic votes in the city.  This brought Tassone enough votes to survive re-election in 2011, though it was only by 50 votes.  However the motive was clear, fight the demographic changes happening in Salina by adding more conservative Geddes to the mix.


Despite the redistricting effort, Demographic change continues.  OCL 4 has a moderate Democratic enrollment advantage with 36% of registered voters Democrat and 28% are Republican and 28% non-enrolled.  In fact the last two years the non-enrolled has overtaken the GOP in the district.  Salina dominates the district making up 78% of the enrollment while Geddes has 13% and 9% of the district lives in the City of Syracuse.


The Demographic changes to this district were muted a bit by the addition of the Lakeview portion of Geddes.  That is until the suburban changes so common throughout Onondaga started in 2015.  Partially a reaction to Trump and partially an exodus of City residents OCL 4 Democrats showed remarkable rise from 2016 till today.  The GOP actually stayed stable during this time period but their lack of growth has led to third place in the district.  A tsunami of non-enrolled voters in 2020 for the Presidential race caused them to overtake the GOP and remain on top of them today.


The Salina portion dominates the district in voters and drives the enrollment for Democrats.  This follows a long trend of Salina as a whole becoming more Democratic. The Lakeview portion of Geddes continues to act as GOP stronghold muting the enrollment advantages for Democrats in Salina and Syracuse.  However OCL 4 is one of those districts that in a wave election or with the right candidate and an open seat tip Democratic as the GOP advantage in the shape of the district in 2011 has all but been erased.


As noted before Judy Tassone barely survived her re-election in 2011, but has had easier elections since then.  In 2013 and 2015 she easily handled her Democratic challengers. So much so the Democrats did not field a challenger in 2017.  In 2019 Kathy Zabinski ran a solid race against her.  In fact she came within a dozen votes on just the Democratic and GOP lines, however the third party designations brought Tassone over the top and Zabinski’s lack of a 2nd line hurt her.  It should be noted this will be an open seat in 2021 as Tassone has not sought re-election and Zabinski is running for Town Supervisor.


With an open seat the importance of how this district reacts in other races comes to the forefront.  In 2019 this district gave a moderate advantage to McMahon, less than his win percentage overall in his County executive race.  Dell winning at 5% for County Clerk was about equal to her overall. Beadnell losing the district by less than a percentage point shows the elasticity of the district even in a low turnout year.  In 2020 the district performed even better for Democrats.  Biden winning the district by over 16% is surprising and the NYS Senate Democrats Mannion split OCL 4 however the district still voted nearly 8% for the Democrats combined.  Even Congressional totals in 2020 are a boon for Democrats.  ON the surface Dana Balter lost by a little over 3% points.  However there were enough votes on the WFP line for placeholder name gone awry she actually won this district.  This is one of the few suburban communities to not give Katko 50%.


After Judy Tassone decided not to seek re-election the GOP chose Colleen Gunnip, the current supervisor of Salina.  Gunnip avoided a primary for this seat as a well timed job opened up for her GOP opponent just days before having to declare her candidacy for office.  The Democratic nominee for County Legislature in the 4th district is Stephon Williams.  This is his first run for public office but has received national endorsements from Run For Something and looks to make a splash in this district.  He can be found on Facebook at facebook.com/StephonForChange, on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Stephon4change or on the web at https://stephonforchange.com/ .  Follow his campaign to learn how to help.

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