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Early Voting Begins In Albany Democratic Primary

Valerie Faust, Mayor Kathy Sheehan
Composite photo by Dave Lucas
Valerie Faust, Mayor Kathy Sheehan

With the Democratic primary under way, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan cast her early ballot on Monday as she bids for a third term.

Sheehan voted at the Albany County Board of Elections on South Pearl Street. The two-term incumbent faces primary challenger Valerie Faust. Sheehan is optimistic about her odds:

"You know, I think that we have done a lot of listening to our residents, a lot of knocking on doors and doing all that we can to ensure that we're getting the word out about what's happening, what we're looking to accomplish. One of the things that I've really been stressing is that, more than anything else, I want people to participate in our recovery taskforce, we have a poll that is, a survey that's out. And we're really asking our residents to participate. We want to know, what are their unmet needs? What were the biggest challenges that they faced during COVID? And how can we ensure that as we move forward, we're investing funding in a way that we're going to look back on 10 years from now and say we really made a difference for the city of Albany."

Faust says she has posted words of encouragement on social media imploring those who are eligible to get out and vote:

"... and explain to them that they should not wait for November because a lot of people don't understand the process. And they feel like OK, I'll vote in November , but not understanding that the primary is what will carry me to the November ballot, if I win it, so I encourage them to vote, to help others get to the polls."

Sheehan reiterated her stance against gun crime in the city in the wake of record numbers of shootings. She echoed earlier calls for gun manufacturers  to be held accountable, while touting the latest incarnation of a city Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.

"We are adjusting and adapting for the pandemic to ensure that we are, you know, intervening with people who are at risk of either using a gun or becoming a victim of gun violence. So, you know, we've had stretches of time in the city where there's been no gun violence, and we need to make sure that we are stressing, that's the norm, the norm is to not have gun violence, we need to get back to that norm. And I'm confident that by hiring additional police officers working on what works and focusing on what works that we'll be able to do that."

Faust contends the key to curbing gun violence is getting youth, families, community leaders and officials to sit down and talk. On Facebook, Faust, pastor of Living Word Taberncale, says she is the change Albany needs.

"God has made it so easy. It's the present mayor, or it's me. And you already know the history of the present mayor. You may not know much about me. But guess what? You didn't know much about her either when she first became mayor, but we voted her in, and so don't let your head go off the track about what you think about me. Think about what I can bring to the table. Think about how all of us have a story to tell. That just like I say, I'm not perfect and I definitely don't have a perfect family. Guess what? I bet most of you that are listening or will listen will say 'amen' to that."

Faust, who failed in two previous runs for mayor, doesn't have a second line ballot to fall back on for the general election.

"Once I finish the primary, if by chance, I don't win it, then I'm done. Because I'm not going to do a write-in. And at this late date, there's no other alternative except a write-in."

Early voting began June 12th and continues through June 20th, followed by the primary June 22nd. Sheehan notes that Albany has embraced the concept.

"Albany won the 'Votingest City Challenge' last year, that was a challenge that was put out to cities across the state to see which cities would have the highest voter turnout. We have the highest voter turnout in 2020. And I think that's in part because of early voting because we made it easy. And because this is a city where people really care. We do see a falloff oftentimes in primaries and an off year elections. I want people to go out, I want them to vote. I want them to make their voices heard. I've said it over and over again. You know, to me, it's about voter turnout."

Independent challenger Greg Aidala and Republican candidate Alicia Purdy await the Democratic primary winner in November. Albany has had a Democratic mayor for 100 straight years.

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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