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Seph Murtagh, Svante MyrickSeph Murtagh (left), Svante Myrick

On a snowy morning Thursday, Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick held a press conference to endorse City of Ithaca Common Councilman Seph Murtagh (D) for the 125th New York Assembly District seat.  Myrick noted he has worked with Murtagh for over a decade in the city government.  Myrick said Murtagh is smart and engaged with a strong work ethic who would take up many of the same issues as Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, who announced last month that she would not be running for another term, has advocated for.

"The district's been represented extremely well by Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton for the better part of two decades," Myrick said. "She's been a leader on education and the environment especially, it's been a true friend to our city delivering on infrastructure projects and cultural projects supporting the arts, and the quality of life here in the Ithaca.  So the race to replace her is very important to us. It matters very much who represents our interests in Albany. We need somebody who's progressive, somebody who's going to champion the environment, somebody who's going to fight for more affordable housing and lower taxes. Somebody who works hard, who has a work ethic that just radiates off of them. Who takes every constituent email seriously. Somebody who's looked up to by their peers, respected by their colleagues. We need city Councilman Seph Murtagh to represent us in 125th Assembly District."

Murtagh is a former journalist who is now the City of Ithaca 2nd Ward Common Councilman as well as Lifton's Communications Coordinator.  He thanked Myrick and said he is impressed by Myrick's leadership, but said local governments can only do so much without help from Albany.

"We have a lot of challenges across the 125th Assembly district. We have crumbling roads and bridges," he said. "We have people who are looking for good paying jobs, for affordable childcare, for affordable housing. We have a growing climate threat that's already having huge ramifications both globally and locally. Cities and local governments are at the front lines of trying to solve these problems. And as you all know, the Mayor has done an amazing job of that. But the truth is that cities and local governments can't do this on their own. They need the help with the State of New York. And that's why I think it's so important that the next person who represents us in the assembly be somebody who has the skills, local government experience, and who can lift up those local voices so that they're heard in the halls of power."

When asked about the new 'bail reform' law Murtagh said he supports it.  The 'criminal justice reform' law eliminated bail for most misdemeanors and E Felonies.  Instead, court appearance tickets are issued and defendants are expected to appear in court on their own recognizance.  The law has caused much concern among law enforcement officers, district attorneys and some lawmakers, including Lansing's State Senator Pam Helming.  Murtagh said that any changes to the new law should be thoughtful and free of bias.

"I believe that the bail reform is a transformation for the state. I believe it's doing a lot of good," Murtagh said. "There's a history of people who have been held pretrial, um, and are held in jail. Jail is this incredibly disruptive and traumatic experience for people's lives. There's a history of people who just plead guilty to get out of jail. The bail reform has really helped to allow people to leave and go and not be held pretrial and come back to their court date, and they're more prepared for their defense. I know that there's some concern about it right now in the Legislature. There's some talk about amending the bill. I think that if there are any changes, it has to be done very thoughtfully and considerately. And if there are any changes, particularly to detaining people because of a threat to public safety, I think it should be done in a manner that is objective, that takes into account bias, and is transparent."

So far seven Democrats and one Libertarian have announced they are running for Lifton's seat including Murtagh, Attorney and Town of Dryden Supervisor Jason Leifer (D), Attorney Jordan Lesser (D), Attorney Sujata Gibson (D), Tompkins County Legislator Anna Kelles (D), Cortland County Legislator Beau Harbin (D), Family & Children's Counseling Services Executive Director Lisa Hoeschele (D) and Matthew McIntyre (Libertarian) have also announced they are running for Lifton's seat.

The 125th Assembly district encompasses Tompkins County and a portion of Cortland County.  The primary election is on June 23rd.

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