Updated: 6/23/20 – 10:32 A.M.
TOMPKINS COUNTY, NY (WSKG) – State Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (NY-125) is criticizing one of candidates vying to take her seat. Lifton is retiring at the end of the year.
The issue stems from candidate Anna Kelles return of $4,500 in campaign donations from real estate developers with ties to a project in Ithaca.
According to the Ithaca Times, Kelles sent a letter earlier this month to the New York Department of Transportation. It urged DOT officials to clear obstacles relating to the project.
Shortly after Kelles sent the letter to the D.O.T., her campaign received the three donations. The county attorney has said the letter does not create a conflict of interest. Kelles sent the letter in her role as a Tompkins County legislator.
In a statement to the Ithaca Times, Kelles said similar actions were taken by other state officials including Lifton.
Lifton said that’s false. She has not written to D.O.T. about the project or issued any opinion about it to Kelles or publicly.
“She’s running for public office. She’s in a bit of a bind and instead of dealing with it openly and honestly and just talking about her own behavior she’s pulling other people into it,” Lifton said of Kelles’ actions. “That’s not a responsible way to handle a problem. It’s not a mature way to handle a problem. It’s not a fair way to handle a problem.”
Lifton called for Kelles to issue a public retraction. On Tuesday morning, the Kelles campaign issued an apology. “I had been led to believe that Barbara Lifton had made her support public,” Kelles said. “As she has said that that is not the case. I sincerely apologize to her.”*
Lifton has only made one other statement about the race, when she endorsed her former staffer Jordan Lesser.
The Primary election is Tuesday. Lifton represents a district that includes Tompkins and part of Cortland County. There are seven people running to be the Democratic candidate to replace her.
* This article has been updated to include Kelles statement.