Anna Kelles with building trades

Anna Kelles with assorted union leaders last Friday at a press conference announcing their endorsement of her for the NYS Assembly 125th District Race. 

Tompkins County Legislator Anna Kelles’ bid for the New York State Assembly’s 125th District seat got a boost last week when the local trades unions chose to endorse her over the large field of other Democratic candidates. 

The announcement was made at a press conference held in Ithaca. Kelles also secured the endorsement of the Working Families Party of New York last week. 

Several members of local union leadership joined Kelles at the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union Hall in Ithaca to make the endorsement, led by Ithaca-Cortland Building Trades Council Secretary-Treasurer Dave Marsh. Jerry Morley of the local United Plumbers and Steamfitters joined him in speaking in favor of Kelles, who he called “responsive to our ideals.”

“We are excited about this race,” Marsh said, noting that the last time a similar situation played out, of the union choosing from a crowded endorsement field, was almost 20 years ago. In that race, the Trades Council endorsed Lifton, the eventual winner. 

“We are grateful to have had 18 years working with Barbara Lifton, and we see a lot of those same qualities in Anna,” Marsh said. “We think we needed to make this endorsement now, with just over 100 days before the primary [...] We’re looking forward to many years working with Anna as well.”

Marsh continued that over the years Kelles has shown herself to be cognizant of the need for organized labor to be prioritized as a means to provide well-paying jobs to those involved in the various trades. She touted her work with the Sustainable Development Council, which stretches back almost a decade. 

“That was one of the things that came forward,” Kelles said at the presser. “If we are going to help get local jobs back here, and if we want to bring manufacturing back here, let’s look into the market of renewables and sustainability, because that is a place where there is actually a growth in manufacturing. There are companies that are working to build renewable infrastructure and there’s a hope that we can work collaboratively on that effort.”

Kelles also touched upon a popular topic locally of requiring local union labor be given the first chance to bid and receive contracts on local construction projects; this idea has been proposed in a variety of forms, including making local labor usage a criteria that would help decide if a project should receive a tax abatement or not. 

“If there are jobs that the people here in the union do, then they should have that first option to get those jobs, to bid for those jobs and if the local labor exists, to get those jobs,” Kelles said. “As was said earlier, the unions have prevailing wages, they have benefits, these are good jobs. To see the unions expand here and provide those jobs for people in areas that we very much need growth, that should be supported, that should be celebrated.”

Kelles is currently campaigning against several other Democratic candidates who are vying to fill the State Assembly spot that Lifton is retiring from. She’s running against Ithaca Common Council member Seph Murtagh, Lifton’s General Counsel Jordan Lesser, local attorney Sujata Gibson, Dryden Town Supervisor Jason Leifer, Family and Children’s Services CEO Lisa Hoeschele and Cortland County Legislator Beau Harbin for the Democratic nomination. Murtagh has scored the other high-profile endorsement in the race when Mayor Svante Myrick announced his support earlier this month. 

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