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Albany mayoral candidates to debate tonight as election nears

Albany NY 2021 Mayoral Candidates
WAMC Composite Photo by Dave Lucas
Albany NY 2021 Mayoral Candidates

Republican Alicia Purdy and independent Greg Aidala will face off with incumbent Democrat Kathy Sheehan in a virtual debate between candidates for mayor of Albany tonight.

“The 2021 Albany Mayoral Forum” is the latest in a string of discussions among candidates and the first to include Mayor Sheehan, seeking a third term, as a participant.

Purdy sent forum a co-sponsor a letter outright demanding an “in-person” debate.

"I've been deeply disappointed in how the League of Women Voters has structured the mayoral debate. I've called everybody, I've cried out, I've spoken to the national office of the League of Women Voters. I've spoken to the press. One of the things I'm most concerned about is that municipalities around the Capital Region are conducting in person or hybrid model debates between a sitting incumbent leadership and the challengers. And I have insisted and demanded on the same thing here in the capital city of the state of New York. I do believe personally that this is a completely partisan movement to protect the incumbent ,” Purdy said.

The League responded to a request for comment via email, saying in part that the "candidate forum for those running to be the next mayor of the city of Albany was planned a number of months ago. The three original co-sponsors - the League of Women Voters of Albany County (LWVAC), the Council of Albany Neighborhood Associations (CANA) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Albany Branch (NAACP), decided due to the pandemic that it was best for the forum to be held virtually... This is a decision based on health and public safety concerns. A fourth co-sponsor, Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy has joined and agrees as do the candidates."

Aidala sides with Purdy.

“I am ready for the debate," Aidala said. "I wish it was in person, I wish that people could attend it. If people don't know it's being held on Zoom, we won't even be in the same room. The questions are being sent in from the neighborhoods ahead of time, and we will not be privy to those.”

Sheehan campaign spokesperson Joe Bonilla says the mayor is ready to participate.

"Mayor Sheehan is looking forward to discussing the progress the capital city has made under her leadership and her vision to continue making transformative investments in every neighborhood," said Bonilla.

None of the forums to date have included all five declared candidates, and tonight's is no exception.

Missing are Democrat Valerie Faust, running as a write-in, along with Socialist Workers' pick Ved Dookhun, also a write-in. For her part, Faust has been actively promoting her campaign on social media while calling for neighbors to come together to stop crime and gun violence in Albany.

"The chances of people come into follow what I call, because I'm running for mayor and there's a lot of hostility towards me, and there's a lot of negativity coming my way. But that doesn't deter me from speaking my mind and doing what is in my heart to do. I'm not going away. I'm running. I'm a write-in candidate,“ Faust said.

The candidates participating in the forum are expected to tackle topics ranging from blight to landlord-tenant relations to gun violence to police-community interactions. Many of the questions were submitted by the public via a website set up by forum sponsors.

The discussion will be streamed live beginning at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday on the Albany NAACP's Facebook page, ahead of early voting, which begins Saturday.

Flyer promoting the 2021 Albany Mayoral Forum
Flyer promoting the 2021 Albany Mayoral Forum

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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