Clarification: Neither the Tompkins County Democratic Committee nor the Tompkins County Legislature had any control over when the judge position was created. That decision was up to New York State after several years of lobbying efforts by the legislature.
The two known Democratic contenders for the newly created Tompkins County Court judge seat have come to an agreement Monday night, issuing a joint statement that one would step aside.
Maura Kennedy-Smith, the current Lansing town justice, announced that she would drop out of the running for the Democratic nomination for the third judge seat, meaning Ithaca City Court Judge Scott Miller is now the presumptive favorite to receive the nomination. The Tompkins County Democratic Committee will have the final say after a vote at its meeting on July 22. If he is selected as the nominee and wins the general election contest in November, Miller will vacate his spot on the Ithaca City Court bench.
It is not yet known if there are Republican or third party contenders for the position.
The process to fill the position has met some criticism, as the late creation of the position by New York State left no time for a full primary process, which would have to be conducted by Tompkins County. That meant the public wouldn't be able to vote on their preferred candidate; that decision would be made solely during the aforementioned TCDC meeting at the end of this month. The joint statement says the two met on Monday to determine the best way to move forward, alluding to the public frustration. In the interest of party unity, they then came to the decision that only having one candidate was more beneficial than a competition.
"Given the timing of this race, and in order to preserve the integrity of the judiciary, we have decided the following: Judge Kennedy-Smith will not be seeking the position of Tompkins County Judge for this election cycle and will not oppose Judge Scott Miller for the Democratic nomination," the statement reads. "While we came to this race with different backgrounds, interests, and strengths, we believe both of us would do an excellent job and are highly qualified to sit on the bench. We discussed this decision at length and we both agree this is the best way, given the circumstances, to move forward. In the end we are both judges. When the law reflects the values of our community, everyone wins. We are writing this, unified, so everyone will win, now and in the future."