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After bitter race, Rensselaer Mayor Mike Stammel declares victory

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Rensselaer County Legislature
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Rensselaer Mayor Mike Stammel

The mayor of Rensselaer is declaring victory after a bitter campaign, but his Democratic opponent says many questions remain.

A special election in 2019 pit Republican Rensselaer County Legislature chair Mike Stammel against Democrat Rich Mooney. Mooney had been acting mayor after Dan Dwyer died in office in 2018. Stammel won by 164 votes and last month’s rematch was even closer.

Results were up in the air until Saturday, when Stammel told WAMC Mooney withdrew allegations of fraud, and that a judge has ruled in his favor after both candidates sought intervention in the close race.

“I'm thrilled to see after 30 some days now, that the election is finally been decided," Stammel said. "I'm sorry that had to be dealt with through a court system, but my opponent would not concede any other way.”

For a time Stammel wore two hats. A Rensselaer County legislator for 20 years, Stammel left the panel, saying he had decided to focus on the Hudson River city of about 10,000 residents. The Democratic-led city council had moved to restrict the arrangement.

The election was rife with accusations of ballot fraud and voter suppression

“There has been no fraud allegations that have been known and those allegations have been withdrawn by my opponent," Stammel said. "So therefore, you know how long it's been a clean election on my side.”

Prior to the election, Mooney touted his ability to work with city councilors

"The council is all Democrat, and my short time as mayor, the council and I got along great," Mooney said. "We had projects in the works, but unfortunately the current mayor describes this council as ‘a bunch of radical Democrats’ and refuses to work with them.”

Common Council President John DeFrancesco responded to a request for comment by email, stating "The Common Council remains willing to work with Mike Stammel as we have done with all previous Mayor's. We also recognize that there is still an active State Police investigation which leaves a cloud over this administration. That process needs to play out."

Stammel's ability to get along with the council in his new term remains to be seen.

“I'm happy to see that for the people of the city of Rensselaer that I'm going to represent them again," said Stammel. "I want to encourage the people that I will be out there every day working in their best interest, and I can always be found at City Hall if they have a question or concern.”

Asked for comment, the Mooney campaign declined, referring WAMC to a lengthy but vague statement issued Saturday afternoon, which says in part:

"What this election and the subsequent deliberations made in the Court have strongly indicated that our city remains divided, no matter the victor. Despite the insidious efforts made by those to sully and disenfranchise residents who voted properly and validly, the results are not what we had hoped for. Elections should be either be won and lost based upon each valid vote being counted properly. We may never know the true result."

Mooney added, "I've spent the majority of my adult life in public service and I intend to continue to be an advocate, a resource, and a friend to those who know Rensselaer's best days are still ahead."

Republican Rensselaer County Board of Elections Commissioner Jason Schofield confirmed to the Troy Record Saturday that Stammel had won re-election. Schofield did not immediately return a call for comment from WAMC.

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.