In Tuesday’s Democratic primary, the mayor of Cohoes faces three primary opponents — and a federal trial.
For months, first-term Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse has defied calls to resign from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and many Albany County Democrats, including the Cohoes Common Council, after a number of scathing articles alleging domestic abuse appeared in the Albany Times Union.
In February, Morse pleaded not guilty to wire fraud and misuse of political funds to pay for home repairs and vacations. Currently free on federal pretrial probation, Morse’s trial is set to begin in July. He could face up to 25 years in prison and fines that could run as high as $500,000.
Still standing, still campaigning, Morse faces three challengers in Tuesday's Democratic primary. In a May debate he defended his record. "I am the guy who should be the face of this city. I am the guy that is bringing it back to life. I am the guy who is making it 'Cohoes Proud.'"
The first challenge to Morse's reign came in late January: lifelong Cohoes resident and retired New York State Police troop commander Major Bill Keeler jumped into the race. "We've been working very hard, going door-to-door, talking to a lot of people. We've been doing mailings, and the reception at the door has been very good."
Keeler entered the race accusing Morse of taking credit for initiatives begun and mostly done through the efforts of previous mayors. "I feel confident, I'm not over-confident. There's no scientific polling that's been going on around the city. I think it's gonna be a tight race. We're not gonna know until probably 10 o'clock Tuesday night."
Keeler promises to get the Cohoes Community Center re-opened, remove politics from the police department and put the city on a steadier financial path.
Councilor Steve Napier threw his hat in the ring a few days after Keeler, offering a vision for Cohoes that entails an overhaul of long-time City Hall policies. “I never imagined that I would be standing in front of you as an openly gay young man and a first-generation college student from a family that wasn’t rich or powerful, it seemed impossible, but here I stand before, the great-great-great grandson of immigrant mill-workers who couldn’t read or write, but they worked long hours in the Harmony Mills for little pay, and they lived right here, in this house.”
Napier is nearing the end of his first four-year term representing the 5th ward. His campaign has slowly built momentum propelled in part by his campaign pamphlet "The Napier Plan" detailing his platform, and by the connection he made with attendees during the candidates' debate and public forum.
By the end of January, self-described "entrepreneur" and former city treasurer Peter Frangie became the third candidate to challenge Morse. "I think our outlook is very very promising. we've had a very well-received uptick after the debate. The response has been, has been really just dynamic. People are interested in our vision, people appreciate our tone during campaign."
Frangie says he is proud to call Cohoes "home," and his plan if elected includes sustaining the city's future. Mayor Morse says he alone holds the key to the Spindle City's future: "My first priority is the same priority I started when I ran in 2015, that is to make Cohoes New York become an All-American City once again.”
Whatever happens Tuesday, a general election matchup could still loom in November.