Wonky Wednesday:  Onondaga County Legislative District 13


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 #13 which covers the western portion of Onondaga County including Van Buren, Elbridge, and the western part of Camillus.

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At the time of redistricting Robert Warner (R) was the legislator representing this portion of Onondaga County.  The GOP majority on the redistricting commission barely altered the district only adding a bit more of conservative parts of Camillus.  It was a safe GOP district for years and remained so, avoiding the weird shapes other districts fell victim to.  The safe GOP nature of the seat though has led to several GOP primaries for the seat.  This unlikely activity is only made possible because the Democrats rarely run candidates here and a slight civil war between the more moderate part of the GOP and conservative members have broken out.

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Though we do see some demographic change in this district. the GOP has a sizeable plurality of the district holding 35% of the voting population.  The Democrats have just 29% of the voting population and non-enrolled make up 28%. This district is spread amongst 3 towns. Van Buren dominates the district representing 46% of the voting population.  The western portion of Camillus has 35% of the population, while the entire town of Elbridge only has 19%.

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Democrats are gaining in this district, but like OCL 1 in Lysander they started from a large deficit it will be some time before they can catch up.  The GOP added 457 voters, a rarity in the districts we have looked at.  The Democrats though have gained over double that at 990 voters.  The non-enrolled has seen the biggest growth, adding 1303 voters.  The Democrats are gaining in this district, and we could see some significant gains in the future, but it may be a while before Democrats are competitive enrollment wise in the district.

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The three Towns of the district all are conservative as well. Van Buren is the dominant in population but the closes t in partisan differences.  The western portion of Camillus though is the more conservative part of this now blue town.  The GOP still dominate this portion of town.  Elbridge is small in population, but its strong GOP lean really sets the tone in this district pushing it from a lean R to a strong R seat.

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In 2011 Derick Shepard (R), ran a primary against sitting legislator Robert Warner (R).  He was supported by Ryan McMahon and the more establishment wing of the party.  He won his party and survived a three race against Warner and Jim Scaramuzzino (D).  This was the last time Democrats put up a candidate in this seat, but there was a little bit of intrigue here.  In 2013 and 2015 Derek Shepard ran unopposed and received conservative backing. However, in 2017 Ken Bush (R)challenged Derek Shepard on the GOP line and won the Conservative endorsement as well. The GOP were desperate to keep the seat in their loyal nominees’ hands and waged an expensive campaign with false claims of fraud to keep Bush off the ballot.  The court case was thrown out on appeal and Bush won the GOP primary.  Bush then ran unopposed in 2019.

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The comparative races show a district that is as conservative as one would expect, but some signs of hope as well.  In 2019 we saw strong showings for McMahon for county executive and Lisa Dell for County Clerk.  Even Matt Beadnell who lost his comptroller race polled in double digits here. In 2020 congress showed a big loss for Dana Balter as expected.  However, John Mannion performed in single digits in the district.  Joe Biden lost this district by less than 2 points. This means in certain races the non-0enrolled are aligning with the Democrats and creating a formidable block.

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Sara Aaserud is the Democratic candidate running in this district.  She is an engineer, mother, business owner, and political newcomer.  She felt it was important to run to offer voters a choice in her district.  She can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SaraForCountyLeg

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