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Demographics shift on Syracuse council following Tuesday’s election

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Chol Majok and Rita Paniagua, right, are among the new councilors.

Democrat Chol Majok is now the first former refugee to be elected to the Syracuse Common Council. The demographics of the council are changing after Tuesday’s election. 

Majok, who is from South Sudan, won a close primary race in June. He spoke Tuesday night, about how his win in the general election, was a victory for those who come from across the world, looking for opportunities, a better life, and acceptance.

“Tonight, is really a night for those who grew up as orphans," Majok said. "This night, I do believe, is a night for a Lost Boy. It’s a night for somebody that was a refugee. It’s a night, truly, for somebody who was in foster care. Tonight is a night for those who see possibilities in impossibles.”

Other new council winners include Rita Paniagua, who is originally from Puerto Rico.

“Hispanics, it’s been 15 years since we’ve had representation at the council level," Paniagua said. "So, we’re back at the table.”

Onondaga County Democratic Chair Pam Hunter said the new representation mirrors what the city looks like.

“It’s richly diverse, from many backgrounds, cultures, countries, and that should be the people who are making decisions going forward,” Hunter said.

Republican Councilor Joe Carni was able to win reelection and fend off a challenge from another former refugee, Jay Subedi, who is from Bhutan.  

Democrats Michael Greene, who is 32, and Pat Hogan, who is 69, also won their council races. 

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.