Blusk, Knapp clash on issues in 12th district county legislature race

Blusk, Knapp clash on issues in 12th district county legislature race

Democratic candidate Jennifer Blusk is running on nonpartisan redistricting against incumbent republican David Knapp
Published: November 5, 2019
Onondaga County 12th District race between David Knapp and Jennifer Blusk

Sometimes, Jennifer Blusk wishes there was a “Running for Local Office for Dummies” book.

“It’s all unexpected because I haven’t done it before and there are many challenges,” Blusk said. “It’s all new and there’s no manual.”

One year ago, Jennifer Blusk had never run for office. Now, the career educator has personally knocked on more than 1,100 doors, she said, polling constituents mainly about her signature policy: nonpartisan redistricting.

Blusk (D) is challenging Onondaga County Legislature Chairman David Knapp (R) for the incumbent’s 12th District seat. Heading into Nov. 5 election, the GOP holds 12 of 17 seats, but Democrats are challenging 10 of those.

Onondaga County legislators serve two-year terms, and next year’s salary is $31,573. Early voting has already begun, and Election Day is Nov. 5. Blusk, 53, resides in 14 Bradford Drive, DeWitt, while Knapp, 57, lives on the same farm he grew up on at 6544 US Route 20, LaFayette.

Knapp, as the incumbent and unanimously elected chairman of the committee, makes Blusk a longshot. The district, which stretches from right outside SU’s campus to DeWitt, Manlius, Pompey, LaFayette, Tully and Fabius, is one of six in Onondaga County with more registered Republicans than Democrats, Knapp said.

The candidates disagree on several key issues, including redistricting, I-81 and the economy.

Knapp called Blusk’s main priority of a nonpartisan redistricting commission a “red herring” because such a committee already exists, which is not true. As it stands now, elected officials  redraw district lines every 10 years, which Blusk said has led to unfairly representing the district’s interests.

Led by Knapp, Republicans in the county legislature voted down a proposal for an independent redistricting commission in March. Knapp now said he’s open to looking to change the process, but “finding a nonpartisan group is not easy.”

Onondaga County has 25,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans overall. Democrats outnumber Republicans in 11 of the 17 districts, but Knapp said Republican candidates “work very hard” to win seats.

Another interest of the 12th district, Knapp said, is the debate surrounding the I-81 construction directly impacts his constituents. The main concerns of his district with regards to the issue are commute and emergency response times. His constituents overwhelmingly oppose the community grid, Knapp said, while Blusk favors it.

“It’s going to take longer for ambulances from my district to get to the hospitals,” Knapp said. “In an emergency situation, another five minutes could cost them their life.”

Arguing why she thinks she’s a better option for the 12th district than Knapp, Blusk said, “In the eight years since he has been there, the county has declined economically.” Instead of incentivizing outside businesses to move into the county with tax breaks, Blusk favors investing in existing local businesses and infrastructure.

“We don’t have increased opportunity for jobs,” Blusk said. “Our tax base has not increased … And he probably agrees”

Knapp does not agree. He said the district has welcomed Ichor Therapeutics, a biotechnology company, to Lafayette and introduced the first grocery stores in Tully and Lafayette. Knapp also said agriculture in the district is thriving.

“(Blusk) just needs to look around,” Knapp said. “Do a little more homework.”

Avatar for Danny Emerman

is a contributor to The NewsHouse.