Building future political leaders within the Central New York community

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The CNY Political Leadership Institute administered by Leadership Greater Syracuse is the perfect first step for anyone looking to get involved in politics. Whether you want to run for a position on your local school board or if you want to work on a larger campaign, the CNY Political Leadership Institute is the perfect starting point.

Once the elections are over and the new year begins, Leadership Greater Syracuse will be focused on building the next political leaders of Central New York through the CNY Political Leadership Institute.

“You can go to your local Democratic committee, or you can go to your local Republican Committee, but this program is bi-partisan and just teaches the nuts and bolts of [the political] process,” Joe Rossi (D), CNY Political Leadership Institute co-chair, said.

The CNY Political Institute is designed to get more people, no matter their party affiliation, actively involved in politics. The course will teach you everything you need to know whether you want to run for office or help out with a local campaign.

Dave Knapp (R), CNY Political Leadership Institute co-chair, said, “So, everything from the absolute basics of building a team around you or fundraising, which is obviously very important, messaging, getting out the vote, and probably the most basic, and yet one of the more complicated, is getting on the ballot.”

The program usually begins in February and runs until late March or early April with class meetings once a week. 

It’s not a program for political banter. It’s all for learning about the political process.

“So, we have to address the party structure, but we do not get into the areas of disagreement,” Rossi said. “At one of our first classes, we say, ‘We can’t talk about who likes Trump and who doesn’t like Trump,’ it’s just not why we are here.”

To ensure there is no bias in the course, the program hosts speakers from both sides of the isle.

“This is not a partisan training program for either party,” Knapp said. “We go to extraordinary lengths to make sure we have really, really, high-quality people from both sides of the political spectrum, and we actually keep the discussion during class as high level as possible.”

It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat, Republican or an Independent, Knapp and Rossi just want as many people as people involved that understand what they are doing.

Rossi said, “There’s a continual problem with uncontested races, and so for the sake of our community, it’s important that we have a challenge, that we have options. This program has, over its lifetime, created candidates or people that worked on campaigns that made our elections more competitive.”

“The more voices the better. The more ideas the better,” Knapp said. “No one has the magic bullet for every problem, and so getting folks involved is key, and having those voices.”

Even if you only want to get involved at the local level, like running for your school board, you can make a huge difference.

“The local offices are where a lot of things that affect people’s day to day lives are made at the local level,” Knapp said. “So, everything from the town level, zoning and obviously property taxes and on up through. So, it’s very, very, important.”

Because 2020 is an election year, both Rossi and Knapp think the 2021 program will be one of their busiest yet.

“I think 2021 will definitely be a bigger year,” Rossi said. “Again, people will either be happy with the results of this presidential election, or they will be very upset with the results of this presidential election. They’ll want to get engaged, and that’s exactly why this program is there.”

Registration for the program doesn’t begin until January of 2021. For more information, visit

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