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Albany Mayoral Race Heats Up

Mayor Kathy Sheehan is all but assured of a second term after winning the Democratic primary Tuesday.
Sheehan For Mayor

This November, residents of the City of Albany will go the polls to elect a new mayor. The Democratic Party has dominated the Albany political scene for decades. There is one hat "officially" in the ring as a few potential candidates calculate their chances of making a run for office.

The future of New York's capital city has, for decades, been entrusted to the mayor - and for the most part, those who served were long-tenured: Erastus Corning 42 years, Tom Whalen for 10, and incumbent Jerry Jennings, who has been in office since 1994.

Some citizens believe it's time for a change - over the weekend,  the only formally-announced Democatic candidate, city treasurer Kathy Sheehan, opened her Madison Avenue campaign headquarters.  Jerry Jennings is currently in his fifth term- a sometime political rival, former Assemblyman Jack McEneny, who challenged Jennings in the 1997 Democratic primary, has endorsed Sheehan's campaign.

McEneny, whose political career began during "the Corning era," added that he believes Jennings has served long enough - former write-in candidate for Albany mayor, community activist Marlon Anderson, agrees with McEneny, as he moves toward launching his own campaign for the city's highest office.

Also pondering a primary challenge: 2009 candidate Corey Ellis, who lost that year's primary with 44 percent of the vote to Jenning’s 56 percent. He told local media at the time that he was "already seriously considering another run for mayor four years from now." Ellis says the last race showed Jennings can be defeate.

Kathy Sheehan shares a note from her campaign playbook, explaining she'll advocate for women and minorities and the perspective they bring to the political arena. She has some backing from women with clout, namely Gloria Steinem and Marlo Thomas.  Sheehan may be in a superior position when it comes to fundraising, but Corey Ellis doesn't think a candidate's war chest will determine the outcome of the election.

Albany restaurant owner Alex Portelli has announced he is running for mayor - telling WAMC he expects to be endorsed in May by the Libertarian Party. His platform is based on "easing restrictions on the people of Albany."

No word from Mayor Jennings as to his intentions - his office has not returned calls seeking comment. One person close to the race says Jennings is awaiting results of a poll and other research before making any public announcement.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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