In what was beforehand an uncontested race, Jorge DeFendini ’22 (D-Fourth Ward) now finds his place on the Widespread Council unsure following a write-in marketing campaign by Cornell Pupil Meeting President Patrick Kuehl ’24. As of 11:09 on Nov. 8, DeFendini has 28 votes and all write-in candidates have 12 votes.
Thirty-eight affidavit ballots and absentee ballots obtained after Friday, Nov. 3 have but to be counted, in line with the Tompkins County Board of Elections, which additionally knowledgeable The Solar that the votes for particular write-in candidates won’t be tabulated till Wednesday, Nov. 15.
DeFendini mentioned he discovered about Kuehl’s candidacy — which didn’t have any public on-line presence — on election evening. Kuehl additionally didn’t communicate to media organizations previous to Wednesday, Nov. 8.
Kuehl advised The Solar in an e-mail that he selected to run due to his and different Ithacans’ dissatisfaction with the Solidarity Slate, of which DeFendini is an element.
“I had no intention of working initially, however because it turned clear to me that there have been no different choices on the present time, I agreed to be the candidate understanding that my future in Ithaca is unsure; I’ve made that abundantly clear to each these concerned with the marketing campaign and the neighborhood members I’ve talked to all through this course of,” Kuehl wrote. “I consider that no particular person ought to run unopposed, concepts ought to be challenged and the individuals ought to be given a selection. If there isn’t any opposition, there isn’t any accountability to make the world a greater place.”
The Solidarity Slate is a gaggle of three democratic socialist candidates who share a platform that goals to heart racial justice, enhance entry to high quality housing and convey the neighborhood collectively to make joint selections, in line with the group’s web site. The slate’s members are DeFendini, Kayla Matos (D) — who defeated Cynthia Brock (D-First Ward) for the First Ward’s four-year seat — and Phoebe Brown (D-Second Ward), who defeated Zach Winn (R) for the First Ward’s two-year seat. Tiffany Kumar ’24 (D-Fourth Ward) was as soon as a part of the slate, however misplaced its endorsement in 2022.
DeFendini, who has the potential to lose his seat over Kuehl’s write-in marketing campaign, advised The Solar he was “shocked” upon studying of Kuehl’s marketing campaign and decried Kuehl’s lack of publicity.
“Candidates have a accountability to marketing campaign overtly, to debate concepts and interact the general public earlier than an election in order that the voters have a proper to know who and what’s on the poll,” DeFendini mentioned. “I personally was shocked to search out out about this write-in marketing campaign final evening, would have appreciated the chance to have an actual contested election, however as a substitute me and many of the Ward 4 residents had been denied even a possibility to interact.”
Kuehl’s selection to not publicize his marketing campaign additionally drew condemnation from different Widespread Council members. Ducson Nguyen (D-Second Ward) mentioned that though Kuehl didn’t hold his marketing campaign a complete secret — having gone door-to-door within the Fourth Ward in current weeks — he nonetheless believed correct type was to run a standard marketing campaign.
“I nonetheless suppose although, in case your objective was to supply a option to voters, that you just do run one thing resembling extra of a standard marketing campaign the place you’re placing your title on the market in additional conventional channels to maximise your outreach in a marketing campaign for your self,” Nguyen mentioned.
Fellow Fourth Ward Widespread Council member Kumar — who sought and received re-election to the Fourth Ward’s two-year seat on the Widespread Council — mentioned she was conscious of Kuehl’s marketing campaign, however refused to endorse one other candidate.
“I did know in regards to the write-in marketing campaign forward of Election Day. Nevertheless, I didn’t make any endorsements,” Kumar mentioned. “I did suppose that it was good to have a strong democratic course of with multiple voice within the choice. However I [have to] say, Patrick needed to have achieved an actual nice job getting his title on the market for him to have received or come shut on this method.”
Kuehl advised The Solar he was “actually shocked” that DeFendini and the Solidarity Slate didn’t discover out about his marketing campaign.
“I and people volunteering with me have been speaking to college students and canvassing for a couple of month and a half, although I didn’t discuss to the press, had no marketing campaign contributors and no web site, my marketing campaign was removed from secret,” Kuehl mentioned. “I’m actually shocked that the Slate didn’t discover out earlier at which level I’d have talked to the press.”
Kuehl additionally advised The Solar he didn’t see a purpose to publicize his marketing campaign, saying it will not have modified his method to the race in a written assertion.
“I assumed that the press would ultimately speak about the opportunity of a marketing campaign both from somebody we talked to or the numerous improve in voters registered within the ward — at which level I [would have commented],” Kuehl mentioned. “However I didn’t see any want to talk earlier than then — it wouldn’t have modified the conversations we had been having.”
Although The Ithaca Voice initially reported Wednesday that Kuehl’s marketing campaign was aided by Clyde Lederman ’26 — who at present trails Jason Houghton, an data know-how product supervisor at PNC Financial institution by 23 votes for the Fifth Ward’s two-year seat — Lederman advised The Voice that he didn’t have any involvement in Kuehl’s marketing campaign.
Kuehl additionally denied any involvement from Lederman in his marketing campaign. The 2 serve collectively on the S.A., the place Kuehl is the president and Lederman is the clerk for the Workplace of the Assemblies.
“Mr. Lederman, whereas a buddy, had nothing to do with this marketing campaign,” Kuehl mentioned. “He was simply working his race on the solely polling place in each Wards 4 and 5.”
Alice Prepare dinner Home on West Campus is the one polling station for each the Fourth and Fifth Wards.
Nevertheless, an nameless supply advised The Solar in an interview that Lederman and Kuehl — together with Kumar — had been coordinating throughout the Fall 2023 semester. The supply mentioned they had been current at some, however not all of those conferences.
The supply additionally advised The Solar that Kuehl opted to not publicize his marketing campaign as a result of he “didn’t need competitors.”
“The concept was that in the event that they did a writing marketing campaign and didn’t increase any eyebrows, they might win as a result of incumbents wouldn’t have felt challenged,” the supply mentioned. “They wouldn’t have seen it coming.”
Kuehl defended his marketing campaign, saying he needed to change his technique as he didn’t have funding and the Fourth Ward contained a nontraditional voting inhabitants of primarily college students.
“Distinctive issues require distinctive options — this clearly wasn’t a standard marketing campaign however [Ward] 4 additionally isn’t a standard ward. Our neighborhood is usually faculty college students and I didn’t have the funding or backing from a slate to run a standard marketing campaign,” Kuehl mentioned. “I made essentially the most of what I did have — loads of volunteers who had been prepared to work with me in direction of a greater neighborhood. We knocked on doorways, talked to lots of of voters, made calls and registered greater than 70 new voters and that’s the reason this race is at present too near name. Our marketing campaign’s grass roots, organizing-first nature doesn’t make it any much less legit.”
Iskander Khan ’26 contributed reporting.