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Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse: Still Standing

Composite photo by Dave Lucas / WAMC

Less than a month before he is scheduled to stand trial on felony fraud charges and five weeks after pleading not guilty at the federal courthouse, embattled Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse says he's staying in the mayoral race. 

After more than a year and a half of controversial headlines and calls to step down, Morse is still standing, at least for now. His former campaign manager has already pleaded guilty to wire fraud and will cooperate in the case against Morse. And then there’s his reelection bid — he’s facing a crowded primary field of candidates pledging to rehab the city’s image.

In his latest press release, Morse touts the city he says he loves, noting Cohoes garnering "many honorable mentions" in the release of the Times Union's "Best of the Capital Region." The first-term Democrat says the greatest honor is being ranked one of the Top 5 best cities.    "There's so many things happening from historically having three straight years of zero tax increases, zero water and sewer fee increases, millions and millions of dollars of developments. Everywhere you go, every part of the city you see a shovel in the ground and work taking place."

Morse says he couldn't be prouder of the Cohoes Music Hall. He pointed out that the Community Center, recently shuttered, is coming back to life. He noted work crews are out beginning the long-awaited transitioning of the stretch of 787 known as Cohoes Boulevard into a true traffic calm boulevard. He's tried to settle back down to a more "normal" existence. "I got custody of my daughter. She lives with me. We are doing fantastic. We endured all of the nonsense that people wanted to say about us. You know what I find funny is that, you know, every day these politicians are talking about opioids and addiction and how they wanna be the most helpful people in the world, yet every one of them kicked me in the teeth while I was trying to deal with one of the most horrible crises in my life."

Morse has denied multiple domestic violence accusations and blamed what he characterized as his wife’s drug addiction.

Morse acknowledges his life was turned into what he calls "a public spectacle" as story after story appeared about his family problems, his temper, calls from other public officials to step down, and most recently, the FBI investigation.

Nevertheless, Morse is ready for the coming elections.   "I'm out there campaigning and the response is great. I don't believe for one second anybody could run on my record.  I don't believe for one second anybody could remotely do what I've done."

Morse says he has a unique way of being an agent for change. He believes his three primary opponents are trying to advantage of his self-described "sad situation."   "I think the people will see that, understand that, and they’ll vote based on what we’ve achieved and what we’ve accomplished for them.  'Cause this election is not about Shawn Morse. This election is about the people of Cohoes and who sits in that seat who can do the best for them, give them the best quality of life, keep the most of their money in their pockets, and build a place they can be proud of. And I think I’ve done that and I think they’ll support me.”

Morse is confident he'll weather the current crisis.   “I’ve been mayor since I’ve been elected and I’ve dealt with all these crises, and our city is better now than it’s ever been if my lifetime, and I’ve lived here 50 years. My dad always said when the going gets tough, the tough get going. And I go to work every day, I put my nose to the grindstone, I get up 4 o’clock in the morning trying to figure out what can I do today to make Cohoes better, and I go to bed at midnight every night asking myself, did I do the best I could. And if you do that every day and if you stick to your beliefs, you can be successful even in the most difficult times. If you judge me based on the difficult times and all of our success, can you only imagine when this is all over and I have nothing other than to focus on the city, how great we’ll be. So I’m excited about the future, I’m excited about the opportunities, and you know, I’d like to think I’m a man of my word, and I do what I say I’m going to do, and Cohoes is proof of that.”

The full interview with Mayor Shawn Morse.

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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