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Albany Mayoral Primary Poll: Incumbent Sheehan Has Strong Lead

WAMC composite image by Dave Lucas

Democrats in Albany appear to favor incumbent Mayor Kathy Sheehan for another term as mayor. Figures are in from a new Spectrum News/Siena College poll.

Is Albany headed on the right track? A majority of Democratic voters polled think it is, 59 to 32 percent.

The poll released Monday shows first-term Mayor Kathy Sheehan with support from 50 percent of likely Democratic voters. Common Council member Frank Commisso Jr. trails with support from 20 percent, and Common Council President Carolyn McLaughlin has the support of 13 percent. Director of the Siena College Research Institute Don Levy:    "So the mayor has a very substantial lead of 30 points and is sitting right at the 50 percent fulcrum mark, so she has a very large lead. It will be very demanding for either of the challengers to supplant her, given that a majority feel as though the city is on the right track."

But the poll reveals the Sheehan administration may have an achilles heel:   "We asked voters 'how responsive do you think local government is to the needs of citizens?' A majority of Sheehan's voters rated the city 'excellent' or 'good' there. But overall, a majority, 54 percent of voters, say that the city is doing no better than a fair or poor job of being responsive to the needs of citizens. So there's an area where nearly three-quarters of both Commisso voters and McLaughlin voters see the city coming up lacking. I think we're gonna hear a lot about that."

The three Democrats will debate at WAMC’s The Linda Thursday at 8 p.m., in advance of a September 12 primary. The debate will be simulcast on WAMC and NewsChannel 13.  Sheehan and Commisso say they're ready:   "I really look forward to that opportunity. It's, you know, difficult when you're going door-to-door to address every issue and every question, " said Sheehan.  Commisso stated "The debate offers our campaign a great chance to talk to voters that we have not yet engaged with, and talk to a large number of them in a one-hour sitting."

The poll was conducted August 2nd-7th. 600 likely Democratic primary voters were contacted via landlines and cellphones. A plurality of respondents think Albany is on the right track for giving young people an opportunity to be successful. A plurality thinks the city is headed in the wrong direction when it comes to addressing the needs of all communities fairly. Democrats are evenly divided on addressing vacant properties.

Pollster Levy says the poll’s gender gap reflects the electorate.  "56 percent of those surveyed are women, 44 percent are men, and in fact, that mirrors the quality of the electorate the last time we had a vote for mayor, so it's not outside of the norm to see that size of a majority of women voters as opposed to male voters in the city of Albany."

McLaughlin could not be reached for comment Monday. Other candidates running for mayor include Dan Plaat and Bryan Jimenez, who will face off in a Green Party primary; Margaret Trowe, a member of the Socialist Workers Party, community activist Marlon Anderson and Conservative Joe Sullivan.

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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