(From the Ithaca Times: see full article)
By: Josh Durso
October 1, 2019
The Trailblazers PAC wants to see politics done differently.
The organization was founded by Leslie Danks Burke following her own election bid for state senate in which she came up short against Republican Tom O’Mara. Several election cycles later, the organization she founded is having a bigger impact than anyone likely would have imagined.
“We’ve gone national,” she explained this past week in a conversation. “Not only is that exciting, but it’s a testament to people’s desire to see good, clean government across the spectrum.”
Until this year, Trailblazers only endorsed candidates in New York and Pennsylvania. It wasn’t due to a lack of desire, though. Last year, Trailblazers began the search for an executive director—someone who could oversee a budding and growing national operation, one that as of present day has endorsed candidates in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Texas.
Trailblazer’s mantra is “Front Porch Politics.” It’s a callback to the roots of local politics. Where neighbors gather with neighbors, discuss important issues, and make meaningful change in their own community.
To earn Trailblazers PAC’s endorsement, candidates for county or municipal level office must disclose every penny in and out of their campaign, make themselves accountable to their own voters by raising funds from households within their district instead of just from outside interests, and stand up for honest government through election day and beyond.
Locally, Trailblazers has thrown their endorsement behind several Seneca County candidates. Most recently, though, the organization endorsed Lodi Town Supervisor candidate Kyle Barnhart. He currently serves as Lodi Village Mayor.
“Kyle Barnhart is making voters—not outside interests—the centerpiece of his campaign for Town Supervisor. Voters in Lodi can see exactly where Kyle’s campaign money comes from, and that’s why Trailblazers PAC is proud to endorse Kyle,” said Danks Burke of the endorsement.
“I’m honored to accept the endorsement of Trailblazers PAC as I seek to win the seat for Lodi Town Supervisor. Honesty in the finances of our local and county governments is the paramount issue in Seneca County right now, and I plan to bring the power back to the voters and residents of Lodi by holding my fellow elected officials accountable,” said Barnhart.
Trailblazers is in its third year of operation and has successfully invested in candidates across the spectrum. They have already endorsed two other candidates for position in Seneca County.
Workshops offered by the organization have energized voters and political hopefuls across the country in states such as Georgia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and beyond.
As that growth continues, Trailblazers is ready to make an organized impact on local elections across the U.S. “We’ve seen incredible response from the local communities we’ve entered, and we continue to see response as we enter new ones,” said Alexandria ‘Alli’ Woodard, who serves as executive director of its expanding national operation.
Woodard, who received her M.A. in Political Communication from American University in Washington, D.C., and her B.A. in Political Science from Elmira College, shared her excitement to take on this new effort in places like Seneca Falls, Lodi and other communities around the U.S. “It’s exciting, and not that often, that a person finds the opportunity to combine academic and professional expertise to have an impact in local politics,” she said. “We’re advocating for lasting change that makes government better for the people who are represented in these communities.”
Barnhart is part of an active two-candidate race for Town Supervisor in Lodi. He will run against Republican Mark Benjamin. Incumbent Lee Davidson, who was defeated by Benjamin in June’s Republican Primary, indicated in late August that he would not seek another term, despite being on the ballot in November.