When Voters Show Up, But There’s No One on the Ballot


As citizens across the country exercised their right to vote on November 7, some New York voters faced a blank ballot, with important local government positions to be left vacant after Election Day, absent other intervention. In one unsettling example, Steuben County featured fourteen positions with no candidates on the ballot, found Trailblazers PAC, the nonpartisan clean government organization.

“We recently pointed out how often candidates stroll through Election Day uncontested, leaving voters with no voice. This is worse. Not only are voters shut out of the conversation, there’s no one to fill the position. This happens when government is divorced from citizens. At Trailblazers PAC, we focus on reconnecting voters to democracy by moving politics out of the back room, onto the front porch,” said Trailblazers PAC founder and President Leslie Danks Burke.

The Steuben County Towns of Troupsburg and Lindley both had numerous vacancies for important seats. In Lindley, the town justice seat, two council seats, and two assessor seats were left empty on the ballot.

In addition to seats with no one to fill them, voters in Steuben County found nearly every countywide seat unopposed, including the eight county legislature seats, Coroner, and the Supreme Court JD Delegate for the 7th District. The Surrogate Court Judge was the only county position with a contested race, but one of those candidates dropped out in October. As a result of uncontested races at the county level, plus empty local races, citizens in the Town of Troupsburg did not have a single contested election to vote on.

“Honest government starts at the ballot box when voters get a real choice of candidates to represent their values. Uncontested races and empty races push voters out of the decision. Voters are closest to local politics, and Trailblazers PAC builds from the ground up to help citizens take back their democracy,” said Danks Burke.

This is the latest in voting-related research done by Trailblazers PAC. In September, the organization produced a report showing that where a primary essentially determines the outcome of the general election, just 3% of voters end up choosing the representation for everyone else. Earlier this month, Trailblazers PAC released statistics showing that over two-thirds of races in upstate New York counties like Schuyler, Schoharie, Tompkins, and Steuben were uncontested, leaving voters with no real vote on Election Day.

58% of Trailblazers PAC Candidates Win in Local Elections across New York and Pennsylvania


Fourteen candidates for local office across New York State and Pennsylvania won a different style of campaign this year. With much attention focused on political party wins and losses, candidates supported by the nonpartisan honest government advocacy group Trailblazers PAC followed higher campaign finance standards than law requires — and won.

With a goal of reconnecting voters to democracy, Trailblazers PAC endorses only in contested races, despite that fully two-thirds of the thousands of local contests on Tuesday had only one candidate.

Candidates seeking Trailblazers PAC endorsement must adhere to 100% campaign finance disclosure, must establish an independent campaign finance committee that is separate from political party organizations, and must raise a set portion of donations from inside their district, instead of relying on outside money.

“Our Trailblazers are moving politics out of the back room, onto the front porch, and that makes voters the real winners,” said Leslie Danks Burke, founder and President of Trailblazers PAC.

With yesterday’s results, the organization saw a 58% win rate for endorsed candidates, a remarkable result for a first-year PAC.

The 24 candidates who earned Trailblazers PAC’s 2017 endorsement came from a pool of 57 candidates in the organization’s one-on-one mentorship and funding pipeline. Over 600 people have attended Trailblazers PAC’s candidate and supporter workshops and information sessions since the organization launched last January.

“We are thrilled with the results and so proud of our candidates who challenged themselves to follow clean government standards.. Their success proves that taking action for honest government gets voters back into the conversation. Now, it’s time to see that action continue to clean up government from the local level up,” said Leslie Danks Burke, founder and President of Trailblazers PAC.

The following 14 Trailblazers PAC candidates were victorious in 2017:

Trailblazers PAC Endorses Beth Rowland for Westfield, PA Mayor


Trailblazers PAC, the non-partisan pro-transparency organization founded by former State Senate candidate Leslie Danks Burke, today announced the endorsement of Beth Rowland, continuing their work to make voters the most important voices at the table by supporting pro-transparency, grassroots candidates.

Trailblazers PAC endorsed candidates: are running at the County level or lower; are 100% transparent in disclosing their campaign finances (far beyond what state law requires); have received a portion of their contributions from voting households in the district or municipality they want to represent; and are committed continued transparency in office once elected.

“Now more than ever we’re seeing regular citizens step up to better their communities through local politics. Real change begins at the local level and we are excited to support Beth Rowland as a candidate who is committed to clean government, and moving politics out of the back room and onto the front porch.” said Leslie Danks Burke, founder and president of Trailblazers PAC.

22 Candidates for Local Office Endorsed by Trailblazers PAC in Tuesday, November 7 General Election Races


Across New York State and Pennsylvania, 22 candidates running for office at the county level or below have earned the endorsement of the nonpartisan Trailblazers PAC, by meeting campaign finance standards that are higher than state law requires.

“Change starts at the local level. We’re proud to endorse and invest in these Trailblazers who are standing up to move politics out of the back room, onto the front porch,” said Leslie Danks Burke, founder and President of Trailblazers PAC, which has gained national attention for its innovative model since launching earlier this year.

Trailblazers PAC released research in September that showed as few as 3% of a district’s residents choose representation for the other 97%.

“Voters have power to fix the disconnect between citizens and democracy,” said Danks Burke. “Elected officials know who votes and who doesn’t, which is why voting is the most important single action any citizen can do to make government listen. Trailblazers PAC reconnects voters with the officials who serve them by investing in candidates who step up for clean government during their campaigns, and after they’re elected.”

The following 24 candidates have earned Trailblazers PAC’s endorsement in 2017 by fully disclosing their campaign finances, raising in-district support, and pledging to work toward cleaner government once elected:

  • Doug Avery (Seneca Falls, NY Town Board)
  • Kevin Beckford (Pittsford, NY Town Board)
  • Leslie Berliant (Otsego County Legislature, Cooperstown, NY)
  • Bill Braine (Cornwall, NY Town Board)
  • Valerie Brechko (Yates County Legislature, Milo, NY)
  • Amanda Champion (Tompkins County Legislature, Ithaca, NY)
  • Terrance Cuddy (Auburn, NY City Council)
  • Nicole Dillingham (Otsego County Legislature, Springfield, NY)
  • Michele Farwell (Otsego County Legislature, Pittsfield, NY)
  • Helen Grosso (Dutchess County Legislature, Beekman, NY)
  • Anne Koreman (Tompkins County Legislature, Ithaca, NY)
  • Michael Koplinka-Loehr (Tompkins County Legislature, Lansing, NY)
  • Howard Maffucci (Monroe County Legislature, Pittsford, NY)
  • Adrienne Martini (Otsego County Legislature, Oneonta, NY)
  • Hal McCabe (Homer, NY Mayor – Elected in March 2017)
  • Debby McCormick (Auburn, NY City Council)
  • Marjorie Miller (Orange County Board of Supervisors, Middletown, NY)
  • Kristofer Munn (Dutchess County Legislature, Red Hook, NY)
  • Jimmy Pearson (Dutchess County Legislature, Pleasant Valley, NY)
  • Molly Reilly (Sackets Harbor, NY Mayor)
  • Beth Rowland (Westfield, PA Mayor)
  • Stephanie Townsend (Pittsford, NY Town Board)
  • Faith Tyler (Groton, NY Mayor – Ran in March 2017)
  • Rachel Weil (Seneca County Board of Supervisors, Seneca Falls, NY)

In 2017, over 600 people have attended Trailblazers PAC workshops and information sessions for candidates and supporters across New York State and Pennsylvania. Trailblazers PAC’s motto is “Front Porch Politics.”

Upstate New York Has Staggering Rate of Uncontested Races this Tuesday, Finds Trailblazers PAC


A stunningly high number of the thousands of local officials across New York State who will be elected into office on Tuesday are in uncontested races, reports Trailblazers PAC, the nonpartisan organization educating and investing in candidates who take action for honest government.

Trailblazers PAC found that over two-thirds of races in upstate New York counties like Schuyler, Schoharie, Tompkins, and Steuben are already a foregone conclusion, with no choice presented for voters who show up this Tuesday.

“Too many barriers stand in the way of voters joining the conversation. We see low voter turnout, increasing political polarization, and huge swaths of uncontested elections.  When there’s only one name on the ballot, it denies voters a choice,” said Trailblazers PAC Founder and President Leslie Danks Burke. “At Trailblazers PAC, we’re working to change this by building more contested races, helping candidates connect with actual voters in their districts, and asking incumbents to prove themselves to voters every time they’re up for election.”

Two counties – one dominantly Democratic and the other strongly Republican – illustrate the staggeringly high rates of uncontested races across upstate New York.

The highest rate of uncontested elections is in Tompkins County, where Democrats are 51% of the electorate and Republicans 21%. Fully 73% of Tompkins County races are uncontested, or 44 of 60 seats. There are no contested races at all in the Tompkins County municipalities of Caroline, Danby, Enfield, Town of Ithaca, and Newfield.

Rates are similar in nearby Steuben County, even though the electorate is reversed, with Republicans comprising 50% percent of the population and 25% registered Democratic. In Steuben County, 67% of races are uncontested (or 118 out of 175 total races). Within Steuben County, the municipalities of Cameron, Avoca, Addison, Canisteo, Fremont, Greenwood, Howard, Wheeler, West Union, and Woodhull have no contested races at all.

With “Front Porch Politics” as a motto, Trailblazers PAC has provided workshops and information sessions across New York State for over 600 attendees since the organization launched earlier this year. Trailblazers PAC also donates directly to candidates who meet campaign finance standards that are higher than law currently requires, with two dozen endorsed candidates running in 2017. A full list of Trailblazers PAC candidates is available on our Endorsements Page.

Ithaca.com: The General Election is Coming: Will Tompkins County Residents Show Up To Vote?


At first glance, Tompkins County seems fired up. The election of Donald Trump galvanized a new political verve here. Every day, our social media news feeds are crowded with political articles. Tompkins folk are volunteering for local government committees, attending party meetings and registering to run for local office.

And yet, the local primary election in September, in which numerous races were contested, saw an average voter turnout, countywide, of 4 percent.

Click here to read the full article.

Trailblazers PAC Endorses Anne Koreman for Tompkins County Legislature District 5


Trailblazers PAC, the non-partisan pro-transparency organization founded by former State Senate candidate Leslie Danks Burke, today announced the endorsement of Anne Koreman, continuing their work to make voters the most important voices at the table by supporting pro-transparency, grassroots candidates.

Trailblazers PAC endorsed candidates: are running at the County level or lower; are 100% transparent in disclosing their campaign finances (far beyond what state law requires); have received a portion of their contributions from voting households in the district or municipality they want to represent; and are committed continued transparency in office once elected.

“Now more than ever we’re seeing regular citizens step up to better their communities through local politics. Real change begins at the local level and we are excited to support Anne Koreman as a candidate who is committed to clean government, and moving politics out of the back room and onto the front porch.” said Leslie Danks Burke, founder and president of Trailblazers PAC.

“I am honored to have Trailblazers PAC’s endorsement.  As my first time running for office, I found their non-partisan trainings, advice, and 1:1 support invaluable,” said Anne Koreman, candidate for Tompkins County legislature. “I am running a grassroots campaign focused on the issues, my qualifications, and my commitment to increasing government transparency.   With Trailblazers PAC’s matching my many small in district donations, I have been able to maintain my focus on engaging local voters and helping their voices be heard.”​

Trailblazers PAC Founder and President Leslie Danks Burke Participates on Panel at New Founders Conference in Chicago


Trailblazers PAC Founder and President Leslie Danks Burke spoke at the national New Founders Conference in Chicago on Wednesday, where over 700 attendees from tech, venture capital, and politics gathered for a hard-hitting and innovative series of conversations on the future of political action.
Danks Burke represented a voice among the conference speakers for action at the local officeholder level. “The New Founders Conference message of reconnecting voters to politics dovetails with Trailblazers PAC’s ‘front porch politics’ motto. National political thought leaders see that local officeholders affect most Americans’ day-to-day lives. It’s an honor that the conference provided a platform for Trailblazers PAC to highlight our work electing local candidates across New York State and Pennsylvania who act for clean government,” said Danks Burke.
Since launching in early 2017, Trailblazers PAC has educated over 600 candidates and supporters in a dozen workshops across New York and Pennsylvania. The PAC also gives money directly to candidates at the county and local level who choose to meet higher campaign finance standards than the law currently requires. So far in 2017, Trailblazers PAC has endorsed 23 candidates, with a pipeline of over 100 candidates striving to meet the PAC’s criteria for endorsement and support before Election Day on November 7, 2017.
Trailblazers PAC President and founder Leslie Danks Burke (on screen) spoke on the Candidate Sourcing + Training Panel at the New Founders Conference in Chicago

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, Former Congressman Richard Hanna Join “Front Porch Politics” Conversation with Trailblazers PAC


Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D – Rochester) and former Congressman Richard Hanna (R – Utica) Saturday tonight joined Trailblazers PAC for a “Front Porch Politics” conversation about the importance of reconnecting voters with democracy from the local level up.
The bipartisan conversation between the two Congressmembers was moderated by Leslie Danks Burke, founder and president of the nonpartisan Trailblazers PAC, as part of a reception at Rochester’s Strathallan Ballroom to support 2017 candidates for local office who take action for honest government.
“It’s a gift to the community that these accomplished leaders on two sides of the aisle came together to talk about the importance of local office elections. Trailblazers PAC aims to bring politics out of the back room and onto the front porch, so that voters’ voices get heard,” said Danks Burke.
“I got my start in politics by running for the Monroe County Legislature, and I won on my third try. Local officeholders have the closest connection to our communities, and Trailblazers PAC helps reconnect voters with democracy by supporting candidates who stand up for honest government,”said Congressmember Slaughter.
“In my business and in Congress, I always worked hard to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. I commend Trailblazers PAC for supporting candidates who strive for the same, no matter what party they come from,” said former Congressmember Hanna.
Left to right: Former Congressman Richard Hanna (R – Utica), Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D – Rochester), and Trailblazers PAC founder and President Leslie Danks Burke engaged in a “Front Porch Politics” conversation Saturday night.
Photo credit: Maxwell Harvey-Sampson

Trailblazers PAC Endorses Debby McCormick for Auburn City Council


Trailblazers PAC, the non-partisan pro-transparency organization founded by former State Senate candidate Leslie Danks Burke, today announced the endorsement of Debby McCormick, continuing their work to make voters the most important voices at the table by supporting pro-transparency, grassroots candidates.

Trailblazers PAC endorsed candidates: are running at the County level or lower; are 100% transparent in disclosing their campaign finances (far beyond what state law requires); have received a portion of their contributions from voting households in the district or municipality they want to represent; and are committed continued transparency in office once elected.

“Now more than ever we’re seeing regular citizens step up to better their communities through local politics. Real change begins at the local level and we are excited to support Debby McCormick as a candidate who is committed to clean government, and moving politics out of the back room and onto the front porch.” said Leslie Danks Burke, founder and president of Trailblazers PAC.

“Trailblazers PAC’s endorsement and support are a blessing to me. When they say support, they mean it,” said Debby McCormick, candidate for Auburn City Council. “The requirement to raise small-dollar funds reinforces the benefits of grassroots campaigning and helped my campaign raise much-needed funds.”

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