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Saratoga Candidates Vie In Volatile Public Safety Race

The Saratoga Springs City Council will look different after Election Day. WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports on the race for Public Safety Commissioner.

Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner Peter Martin, a Democrat, is not seeking a second term. Two candidates have stepped up to vie for his seat on the city council: Republican Robin Dalton and Democrat Kendall Hicks.

Dalton, known for her Saratoga Social blog, says she first got interested in city politics after a rape in her neighborhood in 2012. Her biggest concern is what she claims is understaffing at the city police department in the growing community.

“Because we’ve grown in such leaps and bounds but our police department has not. And it’s just left us with a critical vulnerability as a community, that I don’t think the public is aware of,” said Dalton.

Hicks, running after a 30-year career in the military, says his interest in public office comes from a family with a history of public service. Hicks says he wants to act as a liaison between the community and city police.

“They do a wonderful job with the limited staff that they have. What I’d like to do is use my background and my skills to be an asset to the police department and the city, so that I could move us forward in a positive way,” said Hicks.

The race between Dalton and Hicks has been contentious. This week, Hicks posted to social media a screen-captured message attributed to Dalton. The Republican candidate accused Hicks of victimizing women, saying “multiple victims” contacted her campaign to ‘tell the same story of prostitution, drug abuse & being beaten over and over again.’

Hicks denies any wrongdoing, calling the allegations lies and calling Dalton a bully.

“Unfortunately, they chose to – Robin and her supporters – chose to take this campaign in a different direction. And supporters of mine and some Republicans have stepped forward and said, ‘That’s not true.’”

In an interview with WAMC, Dalton acknowledged that she had sent the message.

“Yes, I sent it as a private Facebook message to someone that I had been conversing with about Kendall, who had been supporting Kendall.”

She didn’t say who recounted the allegations to her, though said she takes the issues of domestic violence or abuse “incredibly seriously.”

She also hit back at Hicks.

“My response to that is that when you’re a Democrat who goes to your own party twice for an endorsement, and both times you’re denied an endorsement, and then the second time around not only are you denied an endorsement, but the Democratic party decides to pass a #MeToo resolution, and then publicly all the leading Democrats in our area start withdrawing their support of your candidacy, that to me speaks volumes,” said Dalton.

The Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee underwent a shakeup this summer after Patty Morrison defeated incumbent Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan in the June primary. Committee leaders walked out to support Madigan as a third-party candidate.

Hicks said he did not receive the endorsement of the new committee because he did not ask for it.

“And so it wasn’t a question of whether they should endorse me or not,” said Hicks.

Hicks said he did not approach the party, which he labeled “in turmoil” after its executive committee members left.

“And I felt like I needed to focus on the campaign with my message going to the people, directly from me.”

City Democratic Committee Chair Sarah Burger said the party adopted a #MeToo resolution in response to the “tone and tenor of the broader spirit of our state.”

Burger said she expects similar attacks against Hicks to continue.

“Unfortunately I think it may grow louder. It’s something that, as a party, we are staying out of it. We made our decision. We decided not to endorse anyone. And…it’s tough to follow all these things,” said Burger.

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