Wonky Wednesday:  Onondaga County Legislative District 5

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 #5 covering parts of Cicero Salina, Dewitt and Syracuse.


In 2011 this seat was represented by Kathleen Rapp.  Kathleen Rapp was the majority leader of the County legislature and viewed as a safe seat.  That is why it is not surprising  the GOP majority on the redistricting commission altered this district to make it more Democratic.  Taking out moderate election districts in Dewitt and Salina and replacing them with Syracuse city districts is how this district got its weird shape .  Nicknamed the crab by the Post Standard the thought was to put city districts paired with moderate Salina and conservative Cicero districts and protect this seat from Democratic hands with the power of a popular incumbent.


This redistricting effort has long term consequences. OCL 5 now has a moderate Democratic enrollment advantage with 35% of registered voters Democrat and 28% are Republican and 29% non-enrolled.  Though slightly more conservative than the other Salina district, OCL 4, here the non-enrolled have overtaken the GOP again. Salina has most of the district making up 52% of the enrollment while Cicero 34%, Syracuse 10%, and the single ED of Dewitt that remains has 4%.  


The Demographic changes to the Suburbs along with the 2010 redistricting have really given the Democrats a recent advantage in the district. Democrats have grown their plurality adding 476 voters since 2009, the GOP has lost 303 since that time.  The non-enrolled has grown the most adding 991 voters.  Even though the GOP had a modest increase in voters in 2020, the current enrollment is showing a decided drop off since last year while Dems and Non-enrolled have grown. This shows the Democratic growth trend we have seen is continuing.


Gerrymandering is not a new phenomenon, and it didn’t just happen in 2010.  This district has always seen the Democratic portion of Salina paired moderate portions of Dewitt and the very conservative leaning Cicero.  However, the Democratic growth of the suburbs that we have seen since 2016 has had a dramatic effect on the neighborhood.  In face only the single ED of Dewitt has a GOP lean while Syracuse and Salina portions of the district. Even the Cicero portion now has a small Democratic plurality.  This district is the typical gerrymandered district that overtime loses the original partisan lean to and is ripe for a flip.


Kathleen Rapp, the majority leader easily won her 2009 race so it was thought she could add Democratic voters and not be seen as vulnerable.  In fact, in 2011 the Democrats decided to let her run unopposed.  However, in 2013 a conservative candidate ran on the Democratic line and almost toppled Rapp.  Rapp did go on to handily beat her next opponent Bryan Seaman.  However in 2019 Rapp took a controversial early retirement buyout that was poorly worded by the GOP administration and majority.  Seamans had a closer race against current County Legislator Debb Cody who was basically running as an incumbent having been appointed to the vacancy.  She went on to beat Jessica Bumpus in 2019 by a similar margin.


This district is a little more conservative than its other Salina counterpart OCL 4.  In our comparative races we see that the County Executive and County Clerk races did well here in 2019.  There was some contraction in the Comptroller race meaning the district does react against more Trumpian like candidates.  In 2020 a double-digit loss for the Democrats in congress was typical. However, in the two senate races in the district Democrats edged out their GOP opponents.  Biden won by over 7 points.  This shows there is some elasticity in swing voters and the challenge


Current County legislature 5 representative is running again.  She used to work with the NY Senate in DeFrancisco and Antonacci’s office but now works as the Executive Director for the County GOP.  The Democratic nominee for County Legislature in the 5th district is Jana Rodgers.  This is her first run for public office but has but has already won a primary for the WFP line and outraised her opponent in the July filings.  She is a lifelong teacher and school administrator who has been active in her union.  He can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JanaRogersforCountyLeg5 Follow her campaign to learn how to help.

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