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Onondaga County Dems hoping to take control of the county legislature for the first time in decades

Democrats are running candidates in all 17 Onondaga County legislative districts in 2021
Democrats are running candidates in all 17 Onondaga County legislative districts in 2021

Democrats in Onondaga County are hoping this is the year they flip the legislature from Republican to Democratic control, which hasn’t happened since the 1970s. But they’re hoping a 33,000 voter enrollment advantage and a political awakening can turn the tide.

Democrat Joe Driscoll, a Syracuse Common Councilor, is coordinating the effort with the ultimate goal to flip three seats from GOP to Democrat.

"It’s 6 to 11 right now, Driscoll said. “If we could get three more it would be 9-8 and we’d have the majority."

That also means incumbent Democrats all have to hold on to their seats. But Driscoll is optimistic because this year for the first time in years, there’s a Democrat on the ballot in every district.

"I can’t tell you how the races are going to go, but from my perspective, it’s been a victory to see the unity of the party from the progressive wing to the moderate wing, and doing the work, knocking on doors and talking to the people,” Driscoll said.

One issue Democrats are using to try and turn the tide is the controversial reapportionment process. A commission was formed to redraw legislative district lines. Democrats say it is being pushed through what will be a lame-duck legislature to create GOP-friendly districts.

David Knapp, legislature chairman and Republican from Lafayette, isn’t surprised at that strategy, but he believes voters will stick with the GOP.

“Folks, in general, think the county is going in the right direction, and we’ve done a good job especially during this pandemic when we were all out working hard in our communities," said Knapp.

County legislators are elected to two-year terms in odd-numbered election years.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.