The results of the nominating convention, held at City Hall on May 31 are unofficial; the party line will go to the winner of September’s primary. But the wide (31-16) margin of Clement’s victory shows that the freshman alderman has lined up significant support among Democratic Party leaders.
“I think it’s a big vote of confidence in me,” said Clement, a former media executive who is wrapping up his first term as Ward 9 alderman. “Especially as someone who does not have a long political history.”
Nominating speeches for the mayoral candidates focused on familiar themes that have come to define the race between a business-savvy newcomer and a Kingston native (whose brother served as mayor) with long experience in municipal government and a political pedigree.
Speaking for Gallo, Democratic Committee member Brian Woltman stressed his experience negotiating contracts as a municipal labor attorney and his pledge to tackle meat-and-potatoes issues like code enforcement and quality-of-life problems.
“Shayne Gallo will not require on the job training and he knows that we do not have the money to pay for lawyers and consultants to do work that he could do himself,” said Woltman, who punctuated his remarks with the refrain “Shayne gets it.” “He’s prepared to take the reins of city government on day one.”
In nominating Clement, Ken Brett said that the number one priority in Kingston was attracting new business and new jobs, an area where Clement had a clear advantage over his opponent.
“As a businessman, he can work with business,” said Brett. “He’s the only candidate in either party who has managed a sizable budget and a sizable staff and he can bring that experience to City Hall.”
In a seconding speech, Common Council Majority Leader Bill Reynolds (D-Ward 7) sought to defuse criticism of Clement’s thin resume on municipal matters by touting the freshman lawmaker as a quick study and “numbers man” with a progressive point of view.
“New people are moving in who have new ideas, and we have to move in a different direction,” said the nine-term alderman who announced at the convention that he would not seek another stint in office.
A disconnect, Gallo says
Gallo said that the views of the committee did not necessarily reflect those of rank-and-file Kingston Democrats and vowed to run a strong primary campaign for the party line. Gallo has also secured party lines from the Working Families and Independence parties and refused to rule out a third party run if he fails to win the Democratic line in September. “I’m focusing on the primary,” said Gallo.
A three-way primary may be in the works for Kingston’s newly drawn 5th Legislative District. Two Democratic incumbents, Former Ulster County Legislature chairman Dave Donaldson and Michael Madsen found themselves in the same district following the finalization of the county’s new single-member reapportionment plan. Both men say they will run. Former Ward 3 alderman Lenny Walker has also announced that he will contend for the new district. Using weighted voting, which assigns votes based on the number of votes in each election district, Donaldson handily edged out Madsen by a vote of 1,212 to 290.5. Walker, who nominated himself and made it into contention only through an apparent sympathy second from Madsen, received no votes for the endorsement.
Madsen downplayed the significance of the vote, noting that he had won election to the legislature without party backing in 2009 when he edged out veteran lawmaker and party-endorsed candidate Frank Dart.
“The question is, does the electorate want another two years of Dave or do they want to continue to re-elect a fresh face in the legislature,” said Madsen. “You can’t be someplace for 18 or 20 years and then suddenly start advocating for change.”
Committee members endorsed legislative veterans Jeanette Provenzano for District 7 and Peter Loughran for District 6. Neither candidate faced opposition.
No contest for most
There were also uncontested nominations in seven of the city’s nine wards and for the post of alderman-at-large. Incumbent Council President Jim Noble, as well as incumbent aldermen Shirley Whitlock (D-Ward 4) Bob Senor (D-Ward 8) Charlie Landi (D-Ward 3) and Tom Hoffay (D-Ward 2) walked to the nomination without opposition. Elisa Ball, who ran against incumbent Alderman and mayoral candidate Ron Polacco in 2009, received uncontested party approval to take another run for the Ward 6 seat. In Ward 9, Mark Halwick, who ran an unsuccessful primary campaign against Clement in 2009, won the party endorsement to seek the Ward 9 seat left vacant by Clement’s mayoral run. He is likely to face a primary challenge from John Simek, a member of the city’s zoning board of appeals. Madsen nominated Simek but could not get another member of the Ward 9 Democratic Committee to second the nomination.
In Ward 5, AnnMarie DiBella nominated political neophyte Diane Keyser to run in place of outgoing councilmember Jennifer Fuentes, who will not seek a second term. The six-member Ward 5 Democratic Committee froze out former Town of Ulster Supervisor Nick Woerner, who announced in April that he would seek the seat. Woerner showed up at the convention accompanied by ally and former Town of Ulster attorney Andrew Zweben, but could not get a nomination from the Ward 5 committee members. The shunning led to a testy exchange between Woerner, who accused the committee of bowing to pressure from developer Steve Aaron to keep him out of the race, and Donaldson who said that Woerner had not followed proper protocol by seeking the committee’s approval prior to the convention.
“He’s a lying sack of shit,” said Donaldson, adding “he’s going to do to Kingston what he did to the Town of Ulster, run it into the ground.”
Woerner replied that he would leave it to the party rank and file to decide who would hold the Democratic line in the ward race.
“Do you think I’m going to let six people decide who 1,500 people are going to be represented by?” retorted Woerner.
Democrats are still seeking candidates to run for the Ward 1 seat currently held by Republican mayoral hopeful Andi Turco-Levin and the Ward 7 seat being vacated by Reynolds.