GENEVA — Voters today will chose the city’s first new mayor in eight years.
Mark Pitifer and Steve Valentino, longtime friends, are vying for the job. Pitifer is running on the Republican line, while Valentino is a Democrat.
They are vying to succeed Republican Ron Alcock, who elected not to seek a third term.
The Valentino-Pitifer matchup is one of the region’s most notable races. Other big contests include the Seneca Falls supervisor and the Seneca County District Attorney races.
In Seneca Falls, current Town Board member Doug Avery, a Democrat, is running against Republican Mike Ferrara, who is making his first try at elected office.
Also in Seneca County: There is a three-way race for district attorney between Assistant Public Defender John Nabinger, Christopher Folk and Mark Sinkiewicz, the current acting DA.
Sinkiewicz is running on the Democratic line, Nabinger is on the Republican line after defeating Folk in the GOP primary. Folk is still in the race, running on lines that including Libertarian and the Working Families Party.
‘We never took the bait’
The Geneva mayoral race has played out as both candidates intended: virtually free of the partisan rancor that can come even with local races.
“I feel extremely proud that Steve and I were able to conduct a campaign that was the epitome of how all political campaigns in this country should be run,” Pitifer said. “Although there were some factions who tried to make it turn ugly, we never took the bait. We conducted ourselves with class, dignity, mutual respect and unwavering love throughout the entire campaign. Our friendship after this process is as strong now as it has ever been.”
“Mark has been a great opponent,” he said. “One that I am thankful for having a positive relationship with throughout the process. We have shown that positive campaigns can and should exist, as it allows the voters the opportunity to focus on issues, not propaganda.”
For Valentino, a veteran of multiple political campaigns, the citywide mayoral contest has proven to be a challenge.
“It has been very interesting and insightful for me,” he related. “From the initial decision to run again, then being selected as the mayoral candidate, up to a few days before the election has carried many emotional shifts. I realized quickly the magnitude of running city-wide as opposed to ward-focused. The connection one can establish in a ward takes more time and effort city-wide.”
In fact, said Valentino, “I don’t think it can be done in months by walking, talking, attending various forums and using social media. There is more to developing those connections on the larger scale, which is a learning curve for me.”
Pitifer said he loved the experience.
“Another beautiful part of the campaign process, although very tiring, truly getting a flavor for what the next four years has in store for me as mayor,” he said. “I especially loved all of the wonderful Facebook posts and letters wishing me well.”
However, there were things, said Pitifer, that weren’t so pleasant about his first run for elected office.
“The outright lies and unwarranted insults by a small, angry few taught me how to be merciful even to people who are trying to hurt me,” he said.
Both expressed optimism for the next Council, which has the potential — based on today’s election results — to be the most racially diverse in city history.
“The diversity of candidates on both slates could indicate a shift from what I have experienced over the last 17 years,” Valentino said. “It is what we have been working towards and are starting to see the results. … I look forward to leading such a diverse group, because with my experience, I can bring everyone up to speed on process. That will allow us to be more effective at addressing issues, coming to consensus as a team and working with staff for resolution. We all want Geneva to continually improve for everyone’s benefit, otherwise we would not offering our services to the community.”
Said Pitifer: “I give the Republican Party a lot of credit for trying to build a diverse slate; one that doesn’t merely rely on what political party you belong to, and although I have grown close to most of the candidates on the Republican slate, I feel like I can work with anyone. … In the future, I would like to see more people of color running for leadership positions in our community. I truly hope that our City Council will someday soon reflect the cultural complexion of our city. As your mayor, I think I will inspire people of all races, creeds and colors to become politically active. I think they will like to work with someone like me.”