Tompkins County Legislator Nate Shinagawa is the unofficial winner of Tuesday’s Primary, becoming the Democrat who faces off against incumbent Congressman Tom Reed in the new 23rd District. The 28-year-old hospital administrator appears to have handily defeated his two Democratic opponents in a primary noted for particularly light voter turn-out.
His opponent, 37-year-old Ithaca attorney and chair of the Town of Ithaca Democrats, Leslie Danks Burke, conceded at around 11 p.m. as the Associated Press declared Shinagawa the winner. Shinagawa had 55 percent of the vote, compared to 37 percent for Danks Burke and 7 percent for Oswego attorney Melissa Dobson.
The overall results were mirrored in pockets of the 596 voting areas comprising the new Congressional District. In Shinagawa’s home county of Tompkins, the Democrat ended the night with 60 percent of the vote, versus 37 percent for Danks Burke. Although registered Democrats nearly outnumber Republicans two-to-one (22,461 versus 12,528), the party primary attracted just under 4,000 voters, according to the Tompkins County Board of Elections.
Similarly, in Democrat-heavy Chautauqua County, Shinagawa led 64 percent versus 28 percent for Danks Burke. Just under 2,000 voters turned out in an area where the party has registered 27,428 voters. New York State is notorious for its low voter-turnouts. Just 57.7 percent of the state’s 8.5 million voters are registered, studies of recent U.S. Census Bureau records find. In the 2008 U.S. Presidential race, just 51.5 percent of New York’s voters turned out in what was one of the most hotly-contested campaigns. Indeed, New York State voter participation ranks fifth from the bottom. Minnesota and Maine rank highest, with 70.8 percent and 70.2 percent voter participation respectively.
In his acceptance speech to supporters, Shinagawa thanked his Democratic opponents for elevating the level of campaign discourse. Leslie Danks Burke and Melissa Dobson “ran inspiring campaigns,” he said.
“Together, we showed this district why Democratic values like fairness and opportunity matter. I look forward to working with them in the coming months in our common effort to change the direction of Congress,” Shinagawa said.
Shinagawa spoke only once of his upcoming Republican opponent Congressman Reed, using the night’s events to link the incumbent to the corporate elite and aligning Reed against the welfare of voters.
“My Republican opponent, Congressman Tom Reed, and his Tea-Party leadership in Congress think that the job creators in this country are billionaires and large, multinational corporations. They give more tax cuts and more subsidies while the rest of the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes struggles,” he said.