Wonky Wednesday:  Onondaga County Legislative Seat District 8

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 #8 representing the west side of Syracuse and a portion of Geddes.


In 2011 this seat radically different then today.  The 8th legislative seat was wholly in the town of Geddes and represented by James Corbett (R).   The neighboring district, OCL 17 inside the City of Syracuse was represented by Martin Masterpole (D).  Both Corbett and Masterpole had decided not to seek re-election.  This gave the GOP majority on the redistricting commission another opportunity to utilize  weird shapes to re-draw districts to benefit a GOP supermajority. They took the Lakeland portion of and moved it into the district 4 to make it more of an even district.  They then took Solvay and other portions of Geddes and put it into OCL 15 a snake like district that benefitted commission member Ryan McMahon in his eventual run.  Finally knowing Chris Ryan had announced plans to run they extended the old 17 into the portion of Geddes where he lived.  While this was eventually good for Chris Ryan, the moves benefitted 2 other GOP hopefuls to create the supermajority they coveted. It is the very definition of stacking and cracking.


The redistricting created a legislative district that is overwhelmingly Democratic. Democrats account for 48% of the district while Republicans make up just 17%.  Non-enrolled voters account for 28% of the registered voters outnumbering the GOP voters by quite a bit.  The city of Syracuse dominates the district with 84% of the voters.  The Geddes portion of the district, nicknamed the Ryan peninsula, has just 16% of the voters.


This Democratic district has only gotten more Democratic over time.  Since the city dominates this district, it reflects the City of Syracuse ever increasing Democratic enrollment.  Since 2011 Democrats have gained 836 voters.  The GOP has lost 286 voters and started off in a major deficit.  The non-enrolled has grown by 642 voters.


The city portion of the district not only dominates in enrollment numbers but drives the partisan split in the district.  The Syracuse portion of the district is dominated by the Democrats.  The GOP runs a distant third to the non-enrolled.  The Geddes portion of the district is a bit more even.  Democrats have a small plurality, and the GOP is in a close second with the non-enrolled right behind.  This tends to mimic Geddes overall as the Syracuse side of the district mimics the city enrollment.  


It is important to remember this district was drawn to not be competitive.  They stacked as many Democrats into this district as well as an emerging Democratic candidate to protect other suburban seats.  This worked so well the GOP barely puts up candidates.  Chris Ryan ran unopposed in his first election in this district in 2011 as the GOP focused on solidifying their super majority.  In 2013 Russ Andrews a former county legislator came out of retirement to challenge Chris Ryan and was easily defeated losing by 913 votes.  In 2015 Chris Ryan once again was unchallenged.  In 2017 little known GOP candidate James Laspino challenged Ryan and fared even worse, losing by 1924 votes.  In 2019 and again this year Chris Ryan faces no challenger.


The comparative races show a district that is dominated by Democrats. In 2019 the distractive supported the Democrat in all 3 races with less than 2-point margin for Malevenda for County Executive, almost over 20-point margin for Kolinski for County Clerk, and an outstanding over 31-point margin for Marty Masterpole in the Comptroller race. In 2020 Dana Balter solidly beat Katko by over 27 points without even looking at the votes on the WFP line for another candidate who was left on the ballot due to an error.  Rachel May dominated the NY Senate run winning over 34 points. Biden saw an overwhelming support with a nearly 47-point margin of victory.    


Chris Ryan is the current county legislator in OCL 8 and is running for re-election.  He was a redistricting champion bringing the issue of gerrymandering to the County Legislature and City of Syracuse.  If you live in OCL 8 you can follow him race on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Christopher-Ryan-8th-District-County-Legislator-445512279140528/

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