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Newcomers Endorsed In Schenectady City Council Races

Schenectady City Hall
Lucas Willard
Schenectady City Hall (file photo)

Three newcomer candidates have been endorsed by major parties in contests for Schenectady’s city council, where five seats will be chosen this Election Day.

Schenectady’s Democratic committee formally endorsed two candidates Tuesday, Hailaeb Samuel and Carl Williams, to run for seats recently vacated on the city council. Both are political newcomers with experience serving on municipal committees in the city.

Samuel is on the board of the Schenectady Municipal Housing Authority and the city’s Housing Review Board. He’s also an entrepreneur, serving as CEO of a tech services company.

“I have 25 employees and every night, every decision that we make is so that those families can continue to have the lives that they deserve. So I believe that everyone in Schenectady deserves to have the life that they want,” said Samuel.

Samuel said he first got interested in city politics about eight years ago, but this is his first run for public office.

“This race isn’t so much about me, but it’s about the future of my children, and their children, and making sure that they can have the quality of life that they deserve. So that all starts with making sure everyone has quality education. That’s my number one issue,” said Samuel.

Samuel said he’s also focusing on quality-of-life and neighborhood revitalization.

Williams, an Air Force vet who continues to work as an administrator, says his interest in city government started about four years ago. He said was approached by city councilor Marion Porterfield after attending public meetings.

“Councilwoman Porterfield walked up to me and was like, ‘Are you here for an internship? Is this a school requirement?’ And I was like, nope, just a homeowner looking to see where I can do more at, and that spiraled into me just being involved in certain committees…”

Williams, a member of the Schenectady chapter of the NAACP, is promoting himself as someone who wants to learn from the people of Schenectady. He also touts his experience as a member of the city’s Civilian Police Review Board and the city’s steering committee on “reimagining” policing under a state mandate.

“Above all, I’ve been developing experience meeting these people and having discussions with the chief, having discussions with the mayor, having discussions with various city council members, and that’s given me a certain awareness to how I need to structure policies coming forward,” said Williams.

If elected, both candidates would serve out the remaining two years of the four-year terms of former councilors Leesa Perazzo and Ed Kosiur.

While the council is held entirely Democrats, Williams and Samuel say their party affiliation would not determine how they vote. Here’s Samuel.

“I would look at everything objectively. I’m a data-driven person. Look at the data, and then make my decisions based on that, not based on what everyone else is doing,” said Samuel.

The city Democratic committee has also endorsed three sitting councilors up for re-election. Thearse McCalmon and William Rivas are also in the running, presenting a primary threat to Samuel and Williams.

Republicans are hoping to make inroads on the city council, with local party officials pledging to run five candidates in November’s contests.

One has already received the endorsement from the county GOP committee – Kevin Hammer.

“This isn’t about party affiliation for me. This is about the people. This is about the concerns, the needs, the voices of the people,” said Hammer.

Hammer says his main motivation for seeking office is to help make Schenectady a safer place to raise a family. Hammer, who is openly gay and looking to start a family with his husband, is a warehouse worker and also a political newcomer.

But Hammer does tout his past activism work for LGBTQ causes.

“I was at one point an activist, very much so. I also did go to events where we spoke about the issues that were important to us in the community. I spoke with representatives, political representatives, regarding issues that I cared about,” said Hammer.

Without mentioning names, Hammer says he’s observed a lack of passion from city councilors – citing their reaction to a recent meeting that featured a pitch for a re-branding of the city.   

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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