There are three Democrats running for mayor in northern New York’s largest city including the incumbent. While one challenger doubts he will win today’s primary, the other two are expected to contend the race all the way through Plattsburgh’s general election.
Plattsburgh Mayor Colin Read is seeking his second term. He is an economist by trade and has used that skill to hone the city’s budget and implement a five-year budget process. He has come under fire for cutting or consolidating four city departments early in his tenure and filing lawsuits against the town for a 1992 renegotiated Payment in Lieu Of Taxes agreement with the town of Plattsburgh. His and the city council’s support of the Durkee Street a downtown redevelopment project has also been controversial.
When he announced in May 2019 that he would seek a second term, Read said he had not completed all the work he had hoped to during his first term. “I don't think the city's in firm enough financial foundation to be able to sustain itself. I think we've got another few years of, of work and I've always maintained that I'll continue to do this until I'm very confident the city's not going to fall into the traps of the past, that it's got a good strong structural fiscal balance. All I care about is the success of the city.”
A year later, Read is facing further fiscal challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. During the only debate between the three Democrats, which aired on Mountain Lake PBS, he outlined some of the challenges he is working to solve. “These are very difficult decisions, gut wrenching decisions we're going to have to make right now. We need economic opportunity. We need sharing of services and sharing of costs with the county and other towns. We need greater efficiencies. We need sound and experienced management and leadership. This is what I have to offer.”
Primary challenger Chris Rosenquest ran for mayor in a three-way contest in 2013, coming in second to Republican James Calnon. He then won a seat on the county legislature representing part of the city. Rosenquest notes that regardless of the outcome of the primary he will be on the November ballot on the Working Families Party line. “I feel confident that we've done the work. We provided a clear plan for people to help them decide. I think people want to see change in City Hall. But at the end of the day this is a campaign to November. And this this primary is an opportunity for the Democratic voters in the city to indicate who they would prefer representing them.”
A third contender in the Democratic mayoral primary is downtown restaurant owner Tenzin Dorjee. Originally from Bhutan, he has been in Plattsburgh since 2008 and became a U.S. citizen in 2011. He says he is the candidate with the least public exposure and due to the pandemic he has had to campaign via social media. “Right now personally I think everybody is completely overwhelmed by the pandemic and politics might be the last thing on their mind. So I personally do not think there'll be a huge turnout for the primary.”
People could use early voting in this primary and Clinton County Board of Elections Democratic Elections Commissioner Mary Dyer calls turnout prior to primary day “poor” based on the number of ballots issued for the mayoral race. “We issued 1329. We've only gotten 927 back. But they still have through they can be postmarked as late as today and we're going to start absentees on the first.”
Dyer says a number of factors, especially the pandemic, may be impacting turnout. “The COVID has a lot to do with it. I think the primary the way it was, it was on and then it was off and now it's on again. The participation level is very poor.”
Scott Beebie is the only Republican candidate running for mayor of Plattsburgh.