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Barbara Lifton endorses Jordan Lesser for Assembly


ITHACA, N.Y. — Jordan Lesser, long time counsel to Barbara Lifton and one of seven candidates vying for the seat she will be vacating, picked up his former boss' endorsement on Thursday.

Lifton, who has two former staffers in the race in Lesser and Seph Murtagh, said it had become clear to her — as people asked for her opinion — that she should make an endorsement. The 9-term assemblymember had declined to make an early endorsement, opting instead to give all the candidates time to campaign and make their case.

"With a crowded field, who most people seem to be caring and competent people and they are, I keep having more and more people ask me to weight in and let them know who I think would be most able to pick up the baton and continue the work that I've been doing," said Lifton. "With so many asking me, I feel a responsibility to answer that question: the person I think is most prepared and best qualified to continue this work is Joardn Lesser."

Lesser had served as Lifton's counsel for a decade before he made the ballot for this primary and stepped down. Lifton describes Lesser and "bright, very hardworking and committed to our progressive values."

"I say hard-working, I remember the fracking battle, Jordan was writing amicus briefs for all three levels of that court case...he'd be working on the weekend and long hours into the night. He showed tremendous dedication and hard work, through that battle and at many other times," added Lifton.

"It's a great honor to be endorsed by Assemblywoman Lifton, having been there with her for the last 10 years at the forefront of every major legislative battle with New York and the 125th district, I will fight to uphold our progressive values. I'll work every day to combat climate change, to eliminate structural inequalities in our society and fully fund our schools."

Asked if the decision was difficult, with such a wide field that also included two of her former staffers, Lifton left no doubt.

"It wasn't a difficult decision. My heart has been with Jordan all along because we've worked so long and closely, and I know he cares about many issues particularly now, and knowledgeable about the environmental issues," Lifton told reporters. "Jordan grew up here, went to high school, went to Cornell, but he has spent more of his time in Albany, and I thought it was important that he get out here. Instead of my putting my thumb on the scale early, it wasn't really a matter of hesitancy around Jordan, it was a matter of the whole situation. I wanted to see, and I've seen it, especially growing in the past weeks, increased community understanding of who Jordan is and support for him, and so I'm happy to join other members of our community in this."

The endorsement should serve as a boost for Lesser, who was lagging behind Anna Kelles, Seph Murtagh and Cortland County Legislator Beau Harbin in fundraising, reported by the Ithaca Times in late May.

Lesser faces six other candidates in his bid for NY-125. Tompkins County Legislator Anna Kelles. Lisa Hoeschele of Cortland, City of Ithaca Alderperson Seph Murtagh, Dryden Town Supervisor Jason Leifer, Cortland County Legislator Beau Harbin and local attorney Sujata Gibson.

The primary will be held on June 23. Due to COVID-19, all voters are able to request absentee ballots and in-person early voting begins on June 13.