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January 25, 2022
Ithaca, NY | 21°F

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Ithaca College Republicans meet with senator Tom O’Mara

Brought on campus by the club Ithaca College Republicans, New York state senator Tom O’Mara discussed political issues that affect the Ithaca area on Nov. 18 in the Dorothy D. and Roy H. Park Center for Business and Sustainable Enterprise. 

About 12 students showed up to see O’Mara speak. O’Mara was elected to the state senate in 2010, during a Republican red wave. Since then, O’Mara represented the 53rd district until 2012 and the 58th district from 2013 until now. The 58th district has parts of Tompkins County, including the City of Ithaca. O’Mara has been a stronghold, winning his recent election in 2020 by nearly 13 percent, according to Ballotpedia. 

At the event, O’Mara described himself as a more moderate Republican who tries to respect both sides of the political aisle. O’Mara said he is not as conservative as many of the Republicans that he represents, but in the New York senate, he is part of the Republican minority. 

Most of O’Mara’s district votes Republican, with former president Donald Trump winning some areas by 56% in the 2020 election, according to “The New York Times.” O’Mara said that while he works for the people who voted for him, he tries to respect all of his constituents in the Ithaca area, even some areas of the city where President Joe Biden won by 88%. Ithaca has historically been considered very liberal, with the city donating to Democrats at higher rates than cities like Seattle and San Francisco, according to Crowdpac.

“Ithaca has always been a bit of a bubble of liberal progressiveness, even in a state as liberal as New York,” O’Mara said. “Ithaca has its own little environment here.”

During his talk, O’Mara took questions and discussed multiple issues important to the Ithaca community. Recently, the city approved a plan to become 100% decarbonized by 2030, the first city in the country to do so. O’Mara said that while climate change is a threat, he believes Ithaca’s plan is too expensive and unrealistic.

“It kind of caught me off guard when I read that they had actually passed that a couple weeks ago,” O’Mara said. “I’m still looking into that to see what the ultimate costs and benefits are going to be from that … It seems a little pie in the sky to me with the timeframes that they’ve put on that.”

Freshman Paloma La Valley attended the event and said she took issue with some of O’Mara’s answers to the audience’s questions, but overall found him to be a respectable politician.

“Some of his responses I found a bit concerning and some of them were amusing because he diverted from the questions,” La Valley said.

La Valley also asked O’Mara about his 2011 vote against the Marriage Equality Act, which made same-sex marriage legal in New York State. O’Mara defended his vote. 

“I thought we should take marriage out of the law,” O’Mara said. “[We should] allow for civil unions, regardless of what genders … that was really my philosophy on it.”

Sophomore Jack Cicio is an officer of IC Republicans and asked O’Mara about the Ithaca Common Council’s recently approved plan to replace the Ithaca Police Department with a new public safety department. O’Mara said he does not support defunding the police, but said police brutality against Black Americans is real and thinks that it can be best solved by increasing diversity in police forces.

“I think it’s [defunding the police] absolutely the wrong direction to go,” O’Mara said. “I think we’ve seen from the elections this month that the general public feels the same way. We certainly in areas need to improve race relations, but I certainly do not believe that defunding the police helps with that.”

Senior Michael Post, president of IC Republicans said having an elected official come in and answer questions from students is valuable.

“I think it went well — better than I expected,” Post said. “I’m pleased with everyone who attended. I think there were a lot of good questions and I think the senator was great at answering the questions. I think he gave a lot of insight into Albany and how politics works.”

When discussing election integrity, O’Mara said blowing the whistle on voter fraud is irresponsible and the country has a lot of work to do in building public confidence in the election process. O’Mara said he does not believe there was widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election, a conspiracy theory that began when Trump refused to accept the results of the 2020 election. However, O’Mara said he had uncertainties about if there were any levels of fraud, despite numerous institutions like the bipartisan Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency finding that there was no voter fraud in the 2020 election and that it was the most secure election in American history.

“I think we’ve got a lot of work to do building public confidence in our election process,” O’Mara said. “What we went through with Trump on January 6 is something that our country is not about and we need to have people have confidence in the elections so we don’t get into those issues of if there was fraud or if people were submitting paper ballots for other people. I don’t think there’s widespread fraud … maybe there’s some, but I don’t know.”

Post said IC Republicans hope to host more elected officials like O’Mara in the future on campus. Post was able to bring O’Mara in because of a connection he had made while working on U.S. Representative Tom Reed’s 2020 reelection campaign. 

“I reached out to former campaign staff that I knew and she set me up with the senator’s office and we took a few weeks, but we found a date and that’s how it worked out,” Post said.