Albany's first-term Democratic Common Council President Corey Ellis is facing a Republican challenger this election year.
Jesse Calhoun, city chair of the Republican Party, is no stranger to Albany politics, having run unsuccessfully for mayor in 2013 and twice losing races for the 109th district Assembly seat. He says he decided to run for Council president to contribute "new ideas."
“I just feel like the current leadership, it doesn't really have principles or any, any new ideas, it just seems like the same regurgitated ideas as far as you know, the punitive system isn't quite working right. And basic, basically, it all comes down to not every answer is a government answer. And sometimes things have to rise up from the grassroots level, to see any real kind of change or solutions.”
Calhoun says he has a lot of respect for Ellis, but the system is bogging things down.
“It's not a criticism of him so much. It's just that the Democrats have been in power for 100 years, and they need some different ideas. And then that's kind of where I'm at with things.”
Calhoun cites the city's marathon struggle to provide broadband as a candidate for a new approach.
“Nobody's gonna object to broadband internet, where we all would love that. I'm sure that'd be great. But at the same time, there are certain pitfalls that come from having government be the distributor of internet service, and may not be as good as we want, you know, so what I'd like to see is more competition and more other businesses, and you have to wonder why we have so few providers and why there isn't a more robust competition to provide internet to the city.”
What has really caught Calhoun's attention is growing crime and increased shooting incidents across the city in recent years.
“I think they really missed the disconnect that it's like they've had this huge rise in violence in the city. And we, you know, we put people out of work, we've done so much in this kind of one size fits all response to COVID that, of course, people are feeling disempowered, and so, you know there's violence on the streets. It just seems like a natural consequence to me, but I you know, that's how I view it.”
Calhoun, who is also running on the Conservative line, thinks he'd have no problem working effectively with overwhelmingly Democratic council. But he does believe councilors should think outside the box.
“Because we need to try different ideas. Because it's not working, the city’s, no one wants to come here. No one wants to come here. And people want to leave. And it doesn't, people don't feel safe. And they're they've got ideas, like, let's build a skyway or let's build something where we can watch people get shot from way up high. Or let's put a sign that says, hey, don't shoot people, or, you know, like, they just don't have any real solutions. They just take pretty much the laziest approach you can take. They haven't really got anything done. They don't have any good track record. So please, yes, do something different.”
The 40-year old Calhoun is a former schoolteacher and a veteran of Albany's Occupy movement. He is General Manager of School of Rock in Latham.