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Political Picnic On The Ropes

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An annual Albany County political event once noted for high attendance and media attention has come and gone, barely noticed this year, even with a primary just days away.

For decades, the Albany County Democratic Committee's annual picnic was heralded as one of the region's showcase events, on par with "Hat Day" at the Saratoga Race Course. Thousands of party faithful attended the gatherings; the biggest names in politics were always on hand - but the dynamic has somehow changed. Fewer than 200 people turned out this year.

Albany County Comptroller Mike Conners blames "societal changes." Former Albany County Legislator Brian Scavo, who did not attend, believes fellow Democrats who  shunned Saturday’s picnic at the Polish Community Center are disillusioned by the party's direction in recent years.

Conservative Albany Mayoral candidate Joe Sullivan interprets the sparse picnic attendance as an indicator of lack of voter enthusiasm amidst dwindling party enrollment and dissatisfaction with federal policy.

Front-running Democratic Mayoral candidate Kathy Sheehan, the city treasurer, adds that the economy may have impacted the picnic. Comptroller Conners hopes the low turnout at the picnic will not be repeated in the voting booth starting September 10th.

I asked Kathy Sheehan, facing former city councilor Corey Ellis, if the primary is the true election in the heavily Democratic city. She says her campaign is taking nothing for granted.  One prominent Albany County Democrat who attended the picnic tells WAMC he only found out about it the night before when making a routine visit to the party's Facebook page.

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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