The Democratic View: The Silver Lining

By Kathy Zahler

I don’t recommend it as a general rule, but there are a few good things about being the opposition rather than the ruling party.
First, I have never seen more interest in joining the Democratic Committee – even our smallest town committees are hearing from dozens of potential new members. Second, it is suddenly very, very easy to find candidates. Groton and Dryden are fielding full slates for village positions, and in Dryden, we even had a strong bench in case our first string backed out.
Candidates in Groton include Faith Tyler for mayor, and Jeff Toolan and David DeMatteo for trustees. Faith is one of the first candidates endorsed by the Southern Tier’s new Trailblazers PAC, which supports candidates who pledge a commitment to open and transparent government. She is a former non-profit administrator and has worked on village issues including road safety. Jeff recently reopened Hotel Groton. Many Groton residents remember his father, a former mayor. David runs DeMatteo Rental Properties in the village.
Dryden candidates for trustee are incumbent Mike Murphy and Binghamton University professor of public administration Tom Sinclair. They are running on a platform of improving village livability, from completing the water project to nurturing small businesses to grow revenue for the village. Mike was deeply involved in the Montgomery Park Project, and Tom is known for his work with the Dryden Beautification Brigade and the Dryden Town Historical Society.
Village elections are March 21, and polls will be open in the villages from noon until 9.
Not sure if you are registered in your village? You have until Friday, March 10 – call the Board of Elections at (607) 274-5522 and find out what you need to do. Sample ballots are already on their website at
Third, the influx of new voices leads to exciting new ideas for our organization. I wrote in February about our Listening Meeting. The abundance of suggestions we received are now consolidated into a 2017 Action Plan for the local Party. We will review our platform – which is available for viewing on our website, – to ensure that we incorporate the range of issues that our attendees raised.
We will develop an outreach program to share our strong volunteer spirit and strategies for winning with other communities and other Democratic committees outside our county. We are establishing an Action Team to coordinate volunteers, reach out to existing groups, engage in rapid response activities, and help people interact with their representatives. All of these ideas and plans emerged from the two hours of listening we did in January.
One of our first actions will be to host a workshop from 10-11:30 a.m. Saturday, March 25, at the Borg Warner Room of the Tompkins County Public Library, on the topic of Running for Local Office. After an introduction by Chairperson Irene Stein, participants will learn how candidates can connect with local committees, how petitioning and caucusing work, what kind of help to expect from the Party, and how to create a winning strategy that involves numbers and lists and shoe leather. Again, this is an event that people have requested – many local folks who never before considered running for office are thinking “Maybe I can do this!”
So, although the dark clouds over Washington scare me, what we are doing at the local level gives me courage and confidence. We are running strong candidates. We are training future candidates. We are reaching out to people who are new to the process. We are participating in protests – for free! We are educating people on the issues of the day – just last week we held a short session on the Commons about what ACA repeal would mean to real people in our community. We are growing the Party.
Being the opposition party is a huge responsibility. Our job is to hold the ruling party accountable and to resist its worst actions and ideas. We have allies in this everywhere we look – dozens of organizations in Tompkins County alone. We are energized, not discouraged, and that makes us powerful.

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Kathy Zahler is Director of Communications for the Tompkins County Democratic Committee.