Update - October 15: The original post of this story stated Common Council Alderperson Ducson Nguyen had not yet rescinded his endorsement. He has now officially rescinded his endorsement. Additionally, Tompkins County legislator Anne Koreman has decided she too is rescinding her endorsement of Kirchgessner.
In the wake of domestic violence allegations against her last week, Democratic New York State Senate candidate Amanda Kirchgessner has seen a varying mix of reactions among those supporting and endorsing her, now including the Tompkins County Democratic Committee finally weighing in.
With just under a month left until the general election, the Ithaca Times published a story last week containing corroborated accusations by Kirchgessner’s ex-wife of physical and verbal abuse. Kirchgessner has denied the allegations in the time since.
Kirchgessner had emerged as a popular progressive candidate locally, having gone from local waitress to mounting her own grassroots campaign, poised to take on incumbent Republican Tom O’Mara in the November general election for the New York State Senate seat representing the state’s 58th district. She easily dispatched Working Families Party candidate Michael Lausell in the Democratic primary in mid-September.
Despite the revelations, Kirchgessner, who has claimed she was the victim of emotional and mental abuse in the relationship, vowed to remain in the race in her initial response to the Ithaca Times story. In the last week, she has continued to campaign while seeing a stark divergence in reaction from potential constituents: some, including a few who had previously endorsed her, have called on her to either withdraw from the race or have formally withdrawn their endorsement. Others have doubled down, encouraging her to continue in the race against O’Mara.
Perhaps the most critical endorsement locally is that of the Tompkins County Democratic Committee [TCDC], who had been mulling their options for several days. On Monday, TCDC Chair Irene Stein provided the following statement in response to questions about the status of the committee’s endorsement.
“The Tompkins County Democratic Committee takes domestic violence charges very seriously,” Stein wrote in the statement. “We did not know about this situation when the committee endorsed Amanda Kirchgessner. In light of the proximity to Election Day and the advance notice required for a meeting of the committee, it is not practical to hold a formal meeting to vote on rescinding the endorsement.”
Stein stated that since she cannot be actually removed from the ballot, the decision rests with Kirchgessner to exit, something she has shown no interest in doing. Stein lamented that the situation is drawing focus away from what she said are the most salient issues in the upcoming election.
“Amanda cannot be removed from the ballot,” Stein continued. “It is up to her to withdraw from the campaign. She has decided not to do so. The situation is a sad distraction from the major issues facing the people of this district such as health care, education, the environment, and so on.”
As for local officials, a few from Ithaca and Tompkins County have told Kirchgessner they must withdraw their support, announced by Kirchgessner herself on her campaign page; those include Ithaca Common Council Alderperson Seph Murtagh and Tompkins County legislator Shawna Black. In an email, fellow Common Council Alderperson Ducson Nguyen said he wanted a chance to talk to Kirchgessner face-to-face before making any decision on continuing or ending his support. [Update: Nguyen has announced he has rescinded his endorsement.] The New York State Young Democrats have announced recently that they are pulling their support for Kirchgessner as well.
Meanwhile, some prominent progressive groups have decided to stay the course with Kirchgessner. Since the allegations came to light, Kirchgessner has announced that she received the endorsement of the Working Families Party [WFP] of New York, while endorsements from the New York Progressive Action Network, the Tompkins County Progressives, the NYPAN of the Southern Finger Lakes, the Ithaca Democratic Socialists of America and Tompkins County legislator Anne Koreman are all still listed on Kirchgessner’s up-to-date website. [Update: Koreman has emailed the Ithaca Times that she is rescinding her endorsement.]
Add Ithaca Common Council Alderperson George McGonigal to that list as well, as he stated he thought the turn of events was “very unfortunate” and said he felt the timing of the ex coming forward was a “low blow.”
“I am not going to rescind my endorsement,” McGonigal said. “I will encourage her to stop spinning her wheels in this crap and return to focusing on the issues and people in the 58th District.”
While there was at least some talk of a write-in campaign, much of which surrounded the previously-defeated candidate Michael Lausell, he quieted any talk of that in an email to the Ithaca Times.
“I have taken the necessary steps to decline the WFP nomination so Amanda can be substituted on their line,” Lausell wrote. “I discontinued my senate campaign the day after the primary and am discouraging any interest in a write-in campaign.”