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 #7 Representing part of the northside of Syracuse, E. Syracuse, and parts of Dewitt.
In 2011 this seat radically different then today. In essence this seat used to be two different districts, #7 represented by Tom Buckel (D) and #9 represented by Mark Stanczyk (D). Tom Buckel announced his intention not to seek another term after the legislature voted to reduce seats from 19 to 17. This gave the GOP majority on the redistricting commission an opportunity to take two Democratic districts and alter them to give a GOP candidate an opportunity. District 9 was compacted and kept inside the city of Syracuse allowing Mark Stanczyk (D) to have a forever Democrat seat, however district 7 was given the now infamous weird shapes to draw lines (nicknamed the vulture taking flight) in a way that a more competitive district incorporated the village of East Syracuse along with more conservative parts of the North side of Syracuse to give Dan Liedka (R) the current village mayor a chance to win this district, which he did in 2011. Nicknamed the vulture this gerrymander was the classic example of stacking and cracking that the 2010 maps were all about. Remnants of OCL 7 & 9 that didn’t fit into the district were shipped off to more conservative districts in Salina (OCL 4 & 5) to dilute Democratic votes.
OCL 7 is snow generally seen as one of the more Democratic districts, registration wise, in Onondaga County. Democrats account for 43% of the district while Republicans make up just 22%. Non-enrolled voters account for 28% of the registered voters outnumbering the GOP voters. This district is split almost evenly between Dewitt which has 52% of the enrolled voters and Syracuse which has 48% of the enrolled voters. It is one of just a couple of districts that have equal City and suburban populations.
While this is a Democratic district now it wasn’t always so dominant. In 2011 when this district was drawn to give Dan Liedka a chance at winning it, it wasn’t so dominant. There was a Democratic lean but with no incumbent in the district and a popular GOP mayor of E. Syracuse ready to run it made it competitive. However, since then this district has been subject to the overall trends we have seen in suburban and urban districts. Democrats have gained 889 voters since the last redistricting while the GOP has lost 738 voters. Of course the non-enrolled has grown as well gaining 846 voters.
The equal parts of suburban and urban parts of the district have started to both align into Democratic dominant halves. This is because Dewitt has progressed towards a reliably Democratic town. As the district itself has become more Democratic it is because Dewitt has changed dramatically since the last redistricting as opposed to Syracuse changing. Democrats now dominate both portions of the district. Its also important to note in both halves of the districts the non-enrolled outnumber the GOP, a sure sign of a Democratic leaning district.
As was intimated earlier, this seat was drawn specifically to allow Danny Liedka to leverage his popularity as Mayor of East Syracuse, a position he kept throughout his tenure of the legislature due to a quirk in election law. In fact, this district became somewhat of an E. Syracuse grudge match for the first three cycles. Former E. Syracuse mayor Lorene Dadey who lost the mayoral race to Dan Liedka ran against Liedka in 2011, 2013, and 2015. These races were heartbreakingly close (166 votes in 2011, 48 votes in 2013, and 199 votes in 2015). In 2017 both Liedka and Dadey decided not to run for the position, but former Onondaga County Legislature Tom Buckel (D) ran again, and political newcomer Courtney Hills tried to represent the GOP. With the E. Syracuse dynamic taken out of the race the seat reverted to the Democratic district it had become with Buckel winning by 1113 votes. In 2019, in a lower turnout race newcomer Mary Kuhn (D) was also able to best Courtney Hills who ran again by 969 votes. These two strong Democratic victories give Democrats hopes they can defend this seat in 2021.
The comparative aces show a district that is dominated by Democrats. In 2019 the distractive supported the Democrat in all 3 races with almost a 5-point margin for Malavenda for County Executive, almost a 10-point margin for Kolinski for County Clerk, and an outstanding 17-point margin for Marty Masterpole in the Comptroller race. In 2020 this the congressional race was one of the better margins for Dana Balter beating Katko by over 12 points despite a large number of votes on the WFP line for another candidate who was left on the ballot due to an error. The Senate district is divided between 50th and 53rd but the combined numbers of May/Mannion34 point margin of victory. Biden also saw 32-point margin in the Presidential contest.
Mary Kuhn is the current county legislator in OCL 7 and is running for re-election. Her progressive and independent stances have brought about the ire of the county GOP but has made her very popular in her community. If you live in OCL 7 you can follow her race on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MaryForCountyLeg7 and twitter: twitter.com/MaryKuhn315 and on her website: www.marykuhn.com.