Schenectady City Council Will Be All-Democratic As Independent Councilor Loses Seat | WAMC

Schenectady City Council Will Be All-Democratic As Independent Councilor Loses Seat

Nov 7, 2019

Election Day brought changes to the city of Schenectady , which is now under single-party rule.

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy
Credit Lucas Willard / WAMC

Running unopposed, Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy won a third four-year term.

Democratic Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo was elected to a third term on Tuesday — and now the city council and the mayor are all Democrats.   "We had a lot of uncontested races, within the county Legislature, the mayoral race, turnout was down, but I also think that with the early voting more people came out than maybe would have."

The municipality where Democrats outnumber Republicans three to one ousted Independent Vince Riggi from the city council. He finished fifth in a race for four seats.   "The people spoke, you know. I didn't get enough votes and I got beat. It's as simple as that."

Riggi doesn't think voters thought about losing a dissenting council member enough.

Vince Riggi
Credit City of Schenectady

"They think maybe all one-party rule is a good thing. Most people say it's not and I don't think it's not, but I can't change it either, so you know, it basically goes down to — there was more people that thought they would like to see a one-party system, completely one-party system, and that's what they have now in the city of Schenectady," said Riggi.

Schenectady County Republican Committee Chairman Chris Koetzle told Spectrum News he feels that one-party rule is not good government for Schenectady, or Albany for that matter.

Perazzo suggests voter confusion may have played a role in Riggi's defeat.   "So the ballot was very unique this year in the fact that due to his endorsements, Mr. Riggi ended up all the way over on the right hand side. And I think you know, it had an effect on his vote, to be honest with you. I mean last time we ran he was the top vote getter and this time, you know, he didn't get reelected, and I was actually quite surprised by that to be honest. There would seem to be some confusion with the ballots, that many people were voting for five candidates instead of four, so their ballots were being rejected and they were having to be voided and done over."

Leesa Perazzo
Credit City of Schenectady

When it comes to single-party rule, Perazzo says good debate is an important part of the governmental process.    "Some of the council members currently, I believe, skew towards serving at the pleasure of the mayor, and that's not why we're there. We're there to be the checks and balances for the taxpayer. We're they are to be stewards of the taxpayer money, and we're there to be, again, because the mayor doesn't technically have a boss other than the voter, like I said we're the checks and balances.  And so I'm hoping that that good healthy debate continues. Although I'm a proud Democrat, and certainly aligned with the Democratic Values, I often don't vote along party lines."

Riggi says he hasn't made any decisions regarding his future in local politics.

McCarthy did not return a call for comment. He told Spectrum News that when Republicans had single-party control of Schenectady all they did was "manage the decline" of the city.