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Solidarity Slate Looks to Shake Up Ithaca

Alderperson Jorge DeFendini speaks at an event with New York Liutenant Governor Candidate Ana Maria Archila. (Courtesy of Jorge DeFendini)

A group of Progressive candidates in Ithaca are challenging the city’s Democratic establishment.

A group of Progressive candidates in Ithaca are challenging the city’s Democratic establishment. The Solidarity Slate has elected two members to the city’s Common Council, and are poised to elect a third in November.
With all 10 Common Council seats up for re-election in 2023 the slate hopes to expand their ranks with new candidates in other wards.
“I’d love to see more people of color on the Council. I’d love to see more women. I’d love to see more LGBTQ+,” said Phoebe Brown, Ward 2 alderperson and slate member. “I’m hoping that our presence invigorates others to say ‘I can do that too.’”
The group advocates for free public transit, housing reforms, and the city’s Green New Deal. The slate is a local incarnation of an ascendent left in the country through organizations like the Democratic Socialists of America, or the presidential campaigns of Bernie Sanders.
Solidarity candidates Jorge DeFendini in Ward 4 and Phoebe Brown in Ward 2 faced no opposition in the 2021 primary and no opposition in the November, 2021 general election.
In June of 2022, the slate’s newest member Tiffany Chen Kumar successfully defeated incumbent alderperson Patrick Mehler. Kumar is running unopposed in the November general election.
“I think we made a clear distinction that Tiffany was the progressive choice in this race this past June, and clearly the constituency agreed on that,” said Jorge DeFendini, the 4th Ward’s alderperson and interim chair of the Ithaca Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).
DeFendini describes the slate as a collaborative effort of local progressive groups in Ithaca including the Ithaca DSA, and the Ithaca Tenants Union (ITU).
“They crafted a collective agenda for progressive policies that we want to see advanced in the city,” said DeFendini describing a collaborative effort between local activists and community members. He added these organizations helped recruit candidates, including himself.
Alderperson Jorge DeFendini (D-Ward 2) poses with workers rights protesters (Courtesy of Jorge DeFendini)

The Solidarity Platform

Solidarity Slate policies include right to renew legislation, which, according to the Ithaca Tenants Union, would mandate tenants be given an opportunity to renew a lease, and only allow eviction for “good cause.” This is a critical issue for the ITU to prevent tenants from being denied an opportunity to renew their lease.
The group has also voiced support for the “FreeCat” proposal which would make Tompkins’ county wide bus system TCAT fare free.
Brown said helping working families is a priority for the party. “That means child care for all,” she said, adding that parents shouldn’t have to spend the bulk of their salaries on child care.
Campaign material for Ward 2 Alderperson Phoebe Brown (Courtesy of Phoebe Brown)

The Solidarity Slate’s Future

Looking to 2023, all 10 of the Common Council’s seats will be up for re-election, two in each of the city’s five wards. By that time the slate will likely have three incumbent members.
However, one will be in new territory. Brown’s residence was moved from the second ward to first ward in redistricting. This means Brown may have to challenge the two Democratic incumbents, George McGonigal and Cynthia Brock, in that ward.
This would not be Brock’s first challenge from the slate.
In 2021, Brock defeated Solidarity Slate member Maddie Halpert in the general election. While DeFendini said this isn’t slate’s primary strategy, preferring to win Democratic primaries, it isn’t off the table in future elections either.
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