Syracuse, NY – Six Democrats will compete for the party’s nomination for a pair of Common Council seats on Tuesday in the most crowded race in municipal politics this year.
The race includes many well-known city activists, neighborhood advocates and volunteers with a wide range of professional and community backgrounds.
The winners of the primary will most likely end up in city council. There are two Republicans vying for the seats – Randy Potter and Norm Snyder. Democrats, however, have massive voter registration and have historically beaten Republicans at the polls.
The six Democratic candidates are: Rasheada Caldwell, Alfonso Davis, Walt Dixie, Amir Gethers, Kayla Johnson and Ronnie White Jr. They are running for two seats on the board. Voters can choose two candidates.
The first open seat is currently held by White, who was appointed to the board last year after Tim Rudd resigned to a post with Mayor Ben Walsh. White is running for office for the first time.
The second is held by Khalid Bey, who is not running for re-election this year. Instead, Bey is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for mayor. If he fails his mayoral bid, he will leave the council, where he served for 10 years.
The overcrowded race means that the winners will likely come out with a plurality of votes, not a majority. Someone who gets 30% of the vote in the whole city, for example, can end up among the winners.
General councilors serve four-year terms. Council work pays $ 30,000 per year.
The election is Tuesday June 22. Anyone registered as a Democrat in Syracuse can vote in the race. Early voting is open now and ends Sunday, June 20.
The Democratic Council primaries are:
Caldwell, 45, is the Youth Planning and Community Development Coordinator for the Allyn Foundation and a familiar community activist.
What are the first things she would do if elected? Listen and learn.
âWhen you start something new, you have to learn first,â she said.
As a counselor, she said, she would work to create more programs to support the city’s youth and make them want to stay here or come back here after they’ve grown up and gone.
Her son, Rasheed Baker, was killed outside the family home in The Valley in 2017. In the process, Caldwell founded a youth organization called Let Me Be Great # 44. She has spent much of her career and her spare time working with young people in the city.
“I think we have to keep betting on our young people, letting them know that we love them,” she said.
Caldwell is one of two candidates nominated for one of the seats by the Onondaga County Democratic Committee.
White, 37, is a Syracuse lawyer who was appointed to the Common Council earlier this year to fill the seat left vacant by Rudd. He previously worked for the Onondaga County Legal Department.
He said his legal background is a major asset for the board, especially when drafting new legislation.
âI think the government should work and work for the people. For that to happen, we need our best and our brightest to step up, âWhite said. âI am someone who has experience in all of government. I have the experience to influence the process.
White points to proposed legislation regulating off-road motorcycles and ATVs that would initially have made it a crime to operate the vehicles on the streets. He said he pushed back on this, arguing that vehicles should not be criminalized for a first offense. He said the council and administration had come to a compromise so that illegal use of bicycles would not be a crime until a third offense.
One of its top priorities is to bring municipal WiFi to neighborhoods to ensure affordable internet access and to establish housing standards that would make it easier to hold bad landlords accountable.
White was also nominated for a seat by the Onondaga County Democratic Committee.
Davis, 55, is a longtime community activist who operates his own insurance business and works part-time for Spectrum. He has run for mayor of Syracuse three times as a Democrat.
Davis said he was the most experienced candidate in the race, having spent 35 years as an activist. Notably, he said, he led recent efforts to stop an outpatient drug treatment center from relocating to a neighborhood just south of downtown.
âI felt the board needed strong leadership and someone who would represent the people,â Davis said. “I would say my 35 years of community activism makes me more than qualified.”
Its main priorities would be to fight poverty through employment opportunities and reform the police service. He said he believed all police officers should live in Syracuse.
He is married to City Court Judge Felicia Pitts-Davis and lives on the East Side.
Gethers, 27, is responsible for contract compliance in Onondaga County, where he ensures fair access to government jobs for minority applicants and women. He also occasionally works at his family’s funeral home, Gethers Funeral Services.
This is his first candidacy for public office. He said his experience with his family’s funeral home gave him a unique role in the community and prepared him for the service that constitutes the work of the council.
Among its top priorities are equal employment opportunities and accountability of people in positions of power, from school board members to the mayor, he said. He said he would also bring a critical eye to how the city spends the money.
âThe mural was a great ideaâ¦ but hiring someone from outside of New York City just didn’t make sense,â he said. âIf we want to talk about being a community, we have to use the local people. “
Johnson, 28, led 40 days of marches last summer with activist group Last Chance for Change. She remained active with Rebirth Syracuse, an organization that advocates for reforms within the police department.
Johnson, who lives in the Hawley-Green neighborhood, said she decided to show up last year after the protests. Her group sent a series of demands to the mayor regarding police reform and those demands were not met, she said.
âI realized that the only way to get change is to have to sit down at the table,â she said. “So here I am.”
Police reform and accountability are high on Johnson’s priority list. But she said she would also push for programs to help the city’s children, including more funding for neighborhood community centers and efforts to make sure young people have jobs.
She would also like to see more resources and accommodation spaces for homeless people.
Dixie, 66, is the executive director of Jubilee Homes, a non-profit housing and vocational training agency located in the southwest of the city.
Although he has been active in the city and politics for decades, this is his first candidacy for public office.
Dixie said he’s showing up because he’s someone who knows how to get things done. He was instrumental in setting up the PriceRite supermarket on South Avenue in 2017, and his organization has worked on housing construction on the south and west sides of Syracuse for decades.
âI’m always the person where if anyone wants to do something I’m with you,â Dixie said at an event with a group of city ministers who supported him. âThe people have spoken. They don’t need more meetings, more discussions.
He said he was working to bring a seafood restaurant into the old B&B lounge by the end of the year, and that he wants to make sure the government does its part to encourage good development. and fair in the city’s neighborhoods and commercial corridors.
âI don’t want to talk about what the good old days were like,â he said. âI mean sunny days are coming today. The only thing that stops us is ourselves.