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Progressive PAC Expands Into Saratoga County


 UPDATE 3/7/18: The kickoff event for CapitalWomen Saratoga has been postponed to March 21st due to weather. The original story is posted below.

Familiar faces in Saratoga Springs are expanding a Capital Region political organization that advocates for women in politics.

The political action committee CapitalWomen was started after the November 2016 elections.

In a time of Women’s Marches and the #MeToo movement, women have a loud political voice in the Trump era.

Speaking at the state capitol Thursday, CapitalWomen co-founder Libby Post, a regular contributor to WAMC’s Roundtable panel, says the PAC will endorse and financially support women and men throughout Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer, and Saratoga Counties.

“But they have to be pro-choice, pro-LGB rights, they have to really good on a whole host of progressive issues in order to get our endorsement,” said Post.

Refusing to bow out of politics, former two-term Democratic Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen — who did not seek reelection — will be leading the CapitalWomen group in Saratoga County.

“I’m going to continue to work on the issues that I care about from a policy perspective, but also pay it forward and try to encourage more good women to run for office and to really get involved in the political process,” said Yepsen.

PACs are not entirely new to Saratoga Springs politics. In 2015, the so-called Saratoga PAC raised $50,000 to support both Republican and Democratic candidates, including Yepsen’s Republican challenger in the mayoral race, John Safford.

The group said it would support candidates that sought “a balance between expanding economic opportunity and protecting our environment while enhancing the economic well-being and quality of life in Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County.”

The group endorsed candidates based on the results of a questionnaire. It did not give directly to campaigns, but did send promotional materials to potential voters.

But the group’s efforts came up short. Democratic Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan won re-election after rejecting the Saratoga PAC’s endorsement. Democratic Commissioner of Accounts John Franck was also endorsed by the group, but was unopposed. Two other candidates, one Republican and one Democrat, also lost their races for city office.

At the time, Yepsen criticized the group.

Here she is after winning re-election in 2015.

“The fear at every door that I went to, it was either about land use issues, the High Rock Park, the golf course, or the PAC. And no one likes the idea of an organization raising a lot of money and buying somebody’s vote from them,” said Yepsen.

Yepsen contrasted her work today with Saratoga PAC.

“When they were endorsing my opponent, I said ‘there are good PACs.’ Think about Kirsten Gillibrand’s PAC, ‘Off the Sidelines,’ that is a wonderful opportunity to raise money for other potential women candidates on the federal level. We’re just taking that same concept and doing it on the local level,” said Yepsen.

Democratic U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Off The Sidelines PAC promotes issues such as raising the minimum wage, paid family and medical leave, ending campus sexual assault, and other progressive issues.

Saratoga Springs Democratic County Supervisor Tara Gaston is also joining up with CapitalWomen Saratoga.

The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors itself has just three women among its 23 members. Gaston is the only Democratic woman on the board.

“I have some fantastic colleagues on the Board of Supervisors. But I would like to see more women there, more people of color, more diverse identities and personalities represented on the board. I think it should be more reflective of our citizenship,” said Gaston.

On Tuesday, the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors approved its legislative agenda for the year, which included an item to advocate against Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget amendment to bring 12-day early voting across the state.

Under the legislation, each county would set up one polling place for every 50,000 residents.

Gaston and Republican Saratoga Springs Supervisor Matthew Veitch were the only to vote against the including the item.

Clifton Park Supervisor Phil Barrett, a Republican, does not support the governor’s early voting bill. He called one polling place for 50,000 residents “restrictive.”

“I guess the stance by some is that current system is restrictive. But the solution is incredibly more restrictive. So I don’t see how spending the extra money for something that’s more restrictive is a good solution.”

The CapitalWomen PAC is set to host a kickoff event in Saratoga Springs on the eve of International Women’s Day on March 7th

CapitalWomen Saratoga kickoff:

March 21, 2018
6:30 p.m.
Longellows Restaurant
500 Union Avenue, Saratoga Springs, NY

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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