Wonky Wednesday: Onondaga County legislative District #14


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 #14 the eastern part of the Town of Clay.

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At the time of redistricting Casey Jordan (R) was the legislator representing this portion of Onondaga County.  The GOP majority on the redistricting commission saw this as a safe GOP seat and did not alter it, avoiding the weird shapes other districts fell victim to.  However, they did have to add a few voters to it since the legislature was reduced from 19 to 17 members, however not as much as other districts as Clay was one of the fastest growing Towns in Onondaga County.  They added a few districts in southern Central Clay and called it a day relying on the power of incumbency to keep the district.

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What was once thought a safe GOP district has changed dramatically.  Democrats now have a small plurality in the district having 33% of the vote.  The GOP is now 2nd with 31% of the voting population.  The non-enrolled population is gaining on both parties with 29% of the population.  This is one of just 3 districts that are wholly contained in a town, so we must look to other ways to get some insights.  Fortunately, half of the village of North Syracuse is in OCL 14.  That makes up about 16% of the voting population so we do get a decent look at some differences inside the district.

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Democrats have overtaken this once solid red district.  Since redistricting Democrats have gained 795 voters. The GOP has gained voters as well, but at a lesser rat, just 358 voters.  The Non-enrolled is the big gainer here with 1061 voters.  As the population in this district grows the makeup seems to change.  While the GOP is holding ground there does seem to be the familiar suburban shift, we saw in reaction to the Trump election in 2016.  Newer voters and transplants tend to favor Democrats while many GOP are shedding their party label because of the national politics.  

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The North Syracuse portion of the district is where the Demographic changes are most prevalent.  The small plurality for Democrats in the district comes from this portion.  Democrats have a sizeable plurality of the North Syracuse village portion in OCL 14. Non-enrolled outnumber the GOP here. The remaining portion of the district is a statistical tie with the GOP outnumbering the Democrats by less than 40 registrants. If a Democrat could run even in the rest of the district, they could flip it with the registration advantage in N. Syracuse.

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In 2011 and 2013 the Democrats were not organized in Clay and did not run a candidate against Casey Jordan.  In 2015 before the Trump shift political newcomer Kevin Tees lost to Casey Jordan by a little over 800 votes.  However, in the next election another political newcomer Stephanie Heath (D) ran a much closer race losing by just 327 votes.  In fact, Heath won more votes on the Democratic line than Jordan did on the GOP line, but Jordan was reelected on the strength of the conservative and independence party vote.  In what should be seen as a lost opportunity, in 2019 the Democrats failed to capitalize on this momentum by not fielding a candidate allowing Jordan to run unopposed. This does not mean Jordan was popular. In fact facing growing public outcry over the White Pines development and a strong Democratic challenger this year, Jordan decided not to run when a convenient county job opened up for him.  This allowed the GOP to appoint and run the son of a tax collector in Clay for the job.

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The comparative races show a district that is becoming more competitive as the Registration patterns start to shift.  Without Democrats running competitive local races in 2019 the GOP candidates in the comparative districts did dominate the county wide races here.  McMahon won by 18 points, Dell by 17, and Beadnell by 12.  However, 2020 does show a different look at the district.  Katko did perform well for congress winning the district by 16 points, however John Mannion came within 1.5 points of winning the district and Joe Biden won the district by almost 6 points.  With a nearly full slate of candidate in Clay this year running as a team we will see if increased activity can make the district perform more like a presidential year than a local one.

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Shanelle Benson-Reid is the candidate running for OCL 14.  She is a mother, businesswoman, educator, and dynamic candidate.   Already she is winning union endorsements and putting on a serious campaign.  She can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FriendsofDr.ShanelleRBensonReid, twitter at https://twitter.com/FriendsOfDrSRBR and on the web at https://friendsofdrshanelle.com/

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