© 2024 WRVO Public Media
NPR News for Central New York
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Democrats pick up 1 seat in Onondaga County Legislature, despite 30K voter advantage

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Democrat May Kuhn on election night.

Democrats were only able to pick up one seat in the Onondaga County Legislature on election night, despite running challengers to most of the Republican incumbents. That keeps Democrats in the minority, bringing their total to six out of 17 seats, even though they have a 30,000 active voter advantage over Republicans in the county. Democrats were able to break up the Republican supermajority in the legislature. 

Democrat Mary Kuhn was able to win the seat vacated by Democratic legislator Tom Buckel. She defeated Republican Courtney Hills. But several days before the election, Kuhn was the subject of a mailer, sent out to voters in the district that accused her of attacking Israel and the U.S. military, based on past Facebook posts she shared. Kuhn said it was an attempt by Republicans to smear her and accuse her of anti-Semitism, and she addressed it on election night.

“This has got to stop," Kuhn said. "We’re not going to use the playbook from Mr. Trump. Not in this community. Not ever.”

Democrat Bill Kinne defeated Republican incumbent Miles Bottrill. Kinne had previously served in the legislature from 1992-2011.

Republican Legislator Kevin Holmquist narrowly won reelection over Democratic challenger Mark Matt. Holmquist was up by only 320 votes on election night. The district includes the Town of Manlius, which Holmquist said is changing.

“The entire town board, all the Republicans lost," Holmquist said. "That was a surprise. They all lost. I’m very sad for that. However, I think it illustrates what a good campaign we ran, to be able to win in a very difficult climate.”

Holmquist said people are angry at the national politics, including President Trump, and it plays a part in local elections.      

Democratic Minority Leader Linda Ervin said she did hope they would win more seats in the legislature, but it’s never easy running against incumbents.

"If you go to a door, and they've known a candidate for six years, and you show up, and they don't really know you, it's tough to gain their confidence that way," Ervin said.

One issue Democratic legislators said they’ll be focusing on in 2020 is redistricting. Some say they want to copy what the city of Syracuse is doing, by having an independent commission draw the district lines for the common council after the 2020 census.

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.