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Albany’s longer-shot mayoral candidates debate, minus Democratic incumbent

Albany Mayoral Candidates Valerie Faust, Ved Dookhun, discussion moderator Marc Gronich and Candidate Alicia Purdy, October 7, 2021.
Albany Student Television
Albany Mayoral Candidates Valerie Faust, Ved Dookhun, discussion moderator Marc Gronich and Candidate Alicia Purdy, October 7, 2021.

Less than a month before election day, challengers to Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan are looking to gain traction as the Democrat seeks a third term.

There is one mayoral debate scheduled that will include Mayor Kathy Sheehan, where she will discuss issues with her three major challengers.

Alicia Purdy is the Republican candidate. Purdy says she would like that debate to be held in-person.

"I recently wrote a letter to the League of Women Voters of Albany County, the NAACP Albany branch, and the Council of Albany Neighborhood Associations, insisting that the upcoming debate we have for the mayor's race scheduled for October 20th be an in-person debate face-to-face. Right now as things stand, it is scheduled to be virtual."

Purdy contends that Sheehan appears in public "sometimes with her mask on, sometimes with her mask off" and says there is no reason to keep the debate virtual, though she is not opposed to a “hybrid” meet-up. She says she has not received a response to her letter from any of the three organizations.

Independent candidate Greg Aidala:

"I am ok to have an in-person debate, and here's my message to you: I've been ready to debate Sheehan, whenever, wherever, since the beginning, and I feel that voters are best served when the candidates debate face to face, and their ideas are able to be put to the test."

There have been two "in-person" debates hosted by Albany Student Television. The discussions aired on social media, with Purdy and Democratic write-in candidate Reverend Valerie Faust of Living Word Tabernacle participating. Faust would like to be the city’s first Black mayor. 2021 marks her third run. In June's Democratic primary she was bested by Sheehan, who took about 61 percent of the vote to Faust’s 35 percent. Sheehan did debate Faust and Purdy in a pair of virtual forums before the June 22nd primary. At the time, she defended her decision to run for a third term.

"I'm on record as supporting term limits. I'm on record as supporting two-term term limits. And I will say that, you know, I think going into 2020, you know, we expected a very different year."

During an in-person livestreamed debate September 14th, participants were given the opportunity to ask each other one question. Purdy went first.

"Valerie, how can we work together in the city of Albany?" Faust replied“ That's a great question. Seeing that you and I are not very different, and wanting to bring about real change here in the city. I am all for working together."

Then, it was Faust's turn to question Purdy. "If you become mayor, I wanna be lieutenant, I mean what's the other thing? Deputy mayor. If I become mayor will you be my deputy mayor?"

Another write-in candidate, Ved Dookhun with the Socialist Workers Party, attended the second debate, October 7th, and had appeared with Aidala and Faust at a September United Tenants town hall on housing, sans Purdy and Sheehan.

Aidala now feels it is pointless to hold such discussions.

"Without the incumbent being present, the voters aren't served by a spirited debate. And what they're left with is essentially, an echo chamber."

The Sheehan campaign responded to a request for comment regarding the October 20th debate: "The sponsors of the forum have already determined, due to the ongoing pandemic, that a virtual format is the best for health and safety. If the sponsors decide to move to in-person, it would be best for all participants and guests to be fully vaccinated."

Requests for comments from the League of Women Voters of Albany County, the NAACP and the Council of Albany Neighborhood Associations were not returned in time for broadcast.

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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