Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan made the case for her re-election on Saturday saying she has done the “unsexy” work of repairing the city’s finances, instituting an equity agenda, employing traffic calming measures to make the city more walkable and getting nonprofits to pitch in to help the city’s financial situation.
The event held Saturday at the Ancient Order of Hibernians in Albany’s Pine Hills neighborhood appeared designed to hoist Sheehan on the shoulders of popular local Democrats like former Assemblyman Jack McEneny, Rep. Paul Tonko (pictured below) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand–elevating her above what is shaping up to be a nasty campaign with Councilman Frank Commisso Jr.–son of the Albany County Legislature Majority Leader Frank Commisso Sr.
Commisso and his allies have vociferously opposed Sheehan at every turn and criticized her decisions to employ red light speed cameras, the implementation of a garbage fee and even the city’s snow removal efforts. Commisso has tried to characterize Sheehan as out of touch and autocratic.
Sheehan’s supporters who spoke at the event, like Albany County Executive Dan McCoy spoke of coming smears and nastiness and urged supporters to stay positive. McCoy suggested that Sheehan’s opponents were not willing to work with the Mayor and had not presented solutions or compromises.
Commisso posted about Sheehan’s announcement on his Facebook page, saying: “Today Mayor Sheehan announced her bid for reelection. I welcome her into what I hope will be a contest of ideas about the future of our city. There have been, are, and will be disagreements between myself and the incumbent over matters of public policy. That is healthy and good for Albany and the future of the Democratic Party.”
In a video, Gillibrand sold Sheehan as a necessary ally in the fight against President Donald Trump.
“When it comes to standing up to Donald Trump and fighting his proposed cuts, I need partners like Mayor Kathy Sheehan,” Gillibrand said in a video recorded only the night before. “Cities like Albany will bear the brunt of Trump’s devastating cuts — cuts to affordable housing, seniors, mentoring and afterschool programs, protections for the LGBT community and job training.”
It was no secret that Sheehan is seeking a second term but the event served two purposes–to allow Sheehan to trumpet the $12.5 million in funds she won for Albany after intensely lobbying the state and to debut her alliance with former Councilman Corey Ellis, the man she defeated in the 2013 mayoral contest.
Ellis, the surprise guest, was introduced by former County Legislator Noelle Kinsch who endorsed Ellis’ bid for Common Council President on behalf of her husband Albany Treasurer Darius Shahinfar, Ellis quickly announced his support for Sheehan.
Sheehan later endorsed Ellis.
Albany County Legislator Chris Higgins is expected to announce his candidacy for Common Council President in the coming days.
Sheehan faces at least two Democratic opponents–Commisso and current Common Council President Carolyn McLaughlin.
Many Albany politicos have theorized that McLaughlin’s candidacy will split progressives away from Sheehan. Ellis’ alliance with Sheehan appears to some degree to be a counter measure.
Commisso enjoys support from more conservative Democrats who back his father but his campaign seems to be making inroads with younger voters.
Sheehan sat down for an interview with The Alt in her headquarters on Madison Ave. a few hours before the event.
Asked if there is a way for the city to avoid future drama while awaiting funding from the state Sheehan said she has been working purposefully to address state funding since her time as city treasurer.
“I think it is a two-fold approach and I’ve been very consistent in how I talked about it. We need to where we can be more effective and efficient. We also need to do all we can to get our fair share from the state,” Sheehan said. “We’ve gone about this methodically to make our case. We’ve engaged large not for profits make sure they understood what our challenges were and have them help with those challenges. We knew if we could demonstrate other non-profits were kicking in we could then go to the state and show them that we are doing the work and push for our fair share.”