Ahead of election, local candidates voice priorities, plans for constituent involvement

Local candidates voice priorities, plans for voter involvement

Human Services Leadership Council hosts meet-and-greet for Syracuse city and Onondaga County candidates.
Published: November 3, 2019
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On Oct. 17, candidates from across Onondaga County and the city of Syracuse came to Cookies with the Candidates, an informal meet and greet hosted by the Human Services Leadership Council. The organization is a coalition of nearly 70 human service nonprofit agencies throughout the county, including Vera House and the Food Bank of Central New York. HSLC’s advocacy committee co-chair, Angela Davis, said that the event was a chance for constituents and nonprofit workers to meet and talk to candidates ahead of the general election on Nov. 5.

In partnership with HSLC, The NewsHouse sat down with some of the candidates who were in attendance to talk about their respective stances on issues surrounding the city and county. You can find use the New York state voter lookup site to look up your polling place.

County Executive

Ryan McMahon — Republican

McMahon took over as county executive in November 2018 after predecessor Joanie Mahoney accepted a job in the state university system. He previously served as a Syracuse common councilor and a county legislator for the 15th district. He is currently focusing on addressing the area’s issues with poverty and economic opportunity.

County Executive Ryan McMahon outlines his three priorities should he win re-election.

Tony Malavenda — Democrat

Malavenda is a former businessman best known for his co-founding of Duke’s Root Control, now the nation’s leading contractor in removing tree roots from sewers. He has served in health nonprofits in central New York and plans to address bureaucratic issues within the county government.

Candidate Tony Malavenda outlines his top three priorities for Onondaga County should he become county executive.

District Attorney

Chuck Keller — Democrat

Keller is a Syracuse University law school graduate who has practiced in the central New York area since 1996. After working in the city courts as a public defender, he became a sole practitioner in 2009. Keller has publicly criticized incumbent Bill Fitzpatrick and emphasized the need to change the office’s culture.

Candidate Chuck Keller shares his top three priorities as a candidate and how he would help constituents get involved at the district attorney's office.

Other Candidates: incumbent Bill Fitzpatrick (Republican), Gary Lavine (Conservative Party)

County Clerk

Mark Kolinski — Democrat

Kolinski is a senior manager at Immediate Mailing Services and formerly served as a Camillus town councilor. He has emphasized the county’s problems with vacant homes and wants to use the clerk’s office’s information to help address the issue.

Candidate Mark Kolinski outlines his top three priorities as a candidate and how he would use a $1 million grant provided to the county.

Other candidate: incumbent Lisa Dell (Republican)

District 12 Legislator

Jennifer Blusk — Democrat

Blusk is an educator who has taught Spanish and computer literacy. Although this is her first run for office, she has previously campaigned for Dana Balter and current state senator Rachel May. Blusk plans to make the county legislature more accessible for working families who cannot often access sessions.

Candidate Jennifer Blusk outlines her top three priorities as a candidate and how she would get constituents involved in the decision-making process.

Other candidate: David Knapp (Republican)

District 15 Legislator

Bill Kinne —  Democrat 

Kinne is a former county legislator who served 10 terms from 1991 to 2011. As a member of the legislature, he served on the Public Safety, County Facilities, Education and Libraries, and Ways & Means Committees. Kinne plans to work on the county’s electoral districts, which he considers flawed.

Candidate Bill Kinne outlines his top three priorities as a candidate and how he would get constituents involved in the decision-making process.

Misse Ross — Working Families Party

Ross is a community activist and former paralegal who has worked towards issues surrounding schools, lead poisoning and the I-81 community grid. Her run for county legislature is her first attempt at public office. Ross plans to improve government transparency by live-streaming sessions in a similar manner to that of the Syracuse Common Council.

Candidate Misse Ross outlines her top three priorities as a candidate and how she would get constituents involved in the decision-making process.

Other candidate: Miles M. Bottrill (Republican)

Syracuse Common Councilor-at-Large (2 elected)

Rita Paniagua — Democrat

Paniagua arrived in Syracuse from Puerto Rico in 2003 and is currently finishing a term as a commissioner of education for the Syracuse City School District. Earlier, she was executive director of the Spanish Action League on the Near Westside. Paniagua said she is willing to work with nonprofits to help benefit the city.

Candidate Rita Paniagua shares how she would get constituents involved in the decision-making process, and whether the city should help out nonprofit organizations.

Frank Cetera — Green Party

Cetera is a senior small business advisor with the state government and holds a master’s degree in forestry from SUNY-ESF. He founded a nonprofit called the Alchemical Nursery to revitalize green spaces in Syracuse. Cetera said that he wants to reform the city’s decision-making process if he is elected.

Candidate Frank Cetera outlines his top three priorities as a candidate as well as what he would do if the city received a $1 million grant.

Other candidates: Michael Greene (Democrat), Jason B. Zeigler (Republican), Norm Snyder (Republican), Thomas Babilon (Libertarian Party)

Syracuse Commissioner of Education (4 elected)

Tamica Barnett — Democrat

Barnett is a Syracuse firefighter and a volunteer at the Parent Teacher Organization at HW Smith pre-K-8 school, where her child is a student. Barnett said she would like to increase student representation during school board meetings.

Candidate Tamica Barnett outlines her top three priorities as candidate and how she would get constituents more involved in decision-making at Syracuse city schools.

Other candidates: incumbent Dan Romeo (Democrat), Katie Sojewicz (Democrat), Mark Muhammad (Democrat), Michael R Hunter (Conservative Party), Eric Winfree (Republican), Twiggy Billue (Working Families Party)

Syracuse Common Councilor, 3rd District

Chol Majok — Democrat

Majok is a former refugee from South Sudan, and would become the first former refugee to sit on the Common Council if he is elected. Majok runs an adult employment training program at the Northeast Community Center, and formerly worked under Stephanie Miner and Dave Valesky. He said that addressing housing and poverty would be among his priorities if he was elected.

Candidate Chol Majok shares how he thinks the city should help CNY residents find quality, affordable rental housing, and how he has helped refugees settle in the region.
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is a contributor to The NewsHouse at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.