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Albany Mayor, Dems Support Walsh Delegates

WAMC composite photo by Dave Lucas

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan today endorsed judicial delegates supporting Family Court Judge Margaret “Peggy” Walsh for state Supreme Court over the party-backed candidate, county legislator Justin Corcoran.

There is much at stake in the judicial delegates race in Tuesday’s primary: a 14-year term on the Supreme Court in the 3rd Judicial District, covering Albany, Rensselaer, Columbia, Greene, Ulster, Sullivan and Schoharie counties.

"Only two of the 19 people elected to the supreme court this century have been women. All seven of the current trial bench judges are white men. No blacks, or Hispanics, or Asians, or gays, ever... ever!"   For Mayor Sheehan, it's more than an endorsement of Peggy Walsh: it's a condemnation of what she calls backroom deals and old-style machine politics. In a city long controlled by Democrats, the judicial race represents an intra-party schism. "I just finished reading a book about Dan O'Connell. It was written in 1973, published in 1973. And there is really no difference between what I was reading in that book about how the machine selected judges and what happened here in the city of Albany and in this county when it came time to fill the seat of long serving Judge Teresi, and when that seat opened, when I learned Judge Teresi was retiring, I thought, 'Great, it's time to get more diversity on the bench.'  We've had such positive movement of late in getting the city of Albany and the county of Albany and this area to better reflect the people we represent, and so I was truly excited by the opportunity to bring some changes and some diversity to the bench."

In the crosshairs: a political stalwart, Albany County Democratic Chairman Matt Clyne.  Sheehan and other Walsh supporters condemned the practice in New York where Supreme Court judges are picked by delegates at a judicial convention. The judge-nominee is selected by party bosses, in this case Clyne and company,  who then assemble a slate of “delegates” to present to the people to rubber-stamp. Many years ago, former Assemblyman Jack McEneny took on the machine and won. He added his voice in support of Walsh.    "So what Peggy Walsh has done with her followers, she's taken a different approach. She's going straight to the people. She's going to the Democrats who vote in the primary and saying, look, it's gonna be complicated, but these are the individuals that are pledged to vote, for the openness and for my candidacy that we want to see here."

Town of Bethlehem Supervisor John Clarkson took a swipe at Clyne, saying the chair “seems to idolize” Dan O’Connell, who ran the party in the city for much of the 20th century:   "That is not the model for today, for Albany County today."

Albany County Legislator Chris Higgins was one of the attorneys who assisted in litigation to put the delegates back on the ballot after Clyne had them removed.    "Essentially what Mr. Clyne and his party hacks tried to do, is disenfranchise voters in this county, Democrats who wanted a real choice next week. That to me, is unconscionable."

Altamont Mayor Jim Gaughan :    "I am here to the end. I know it will be a success. It will be a victory for Margaret, for sure, but it will be a victory for all of us."

Those gathered in Academy Park are already talking about replacing Clyne as County Democratic Chairman. Messages left at Clyne’s office and with the Democratic Committee were not returned before broadcast.

See Also: Walsh Delegates website

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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