Albany is a different city than the one former Albany Mayor Jennings ruled for two decades. The Democratic machine that Jennings ran against and then took over is fractured and feuding. Under Mayor Kathy Sheehan, former city treasurer and former vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary of Intermagnetics General Corp., the City of Albany has started to look less like a Rust Belt carcass and more like a forward-thinking, modern metropolis. From CDPHP Cycle, to traffic-calming projects that have made major thoroughfares more bikeable and walkable, to a police force that appears to now better understand the communities it is tasked with protecting—Albany feels more like the progressive city its political representatives always claimed it was.
And yet the city remains trapped in a cycle of begging the state for money every year to patch holes in its budget. Its crumbling infrastructure has become for many residents a familiar nuisance—sinkholes and water main breaks have popped up in yards and major roads across the city. Abandoned buildings dot the cityscape. And the makeup of the fire department still fails to reflect the city’s diverse populous.
Sheehan ran in 2013 on a message of fiscal responsibility. Now in her reelection bid she faces two credible challengers in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary.
Councilman Frank Commisso Jr. is the son of longtime Albany County Legislature boss Frank Commisso Sr., a Democrat who has regularly clashed with the progressive wing of his party. Commisso is running against Sheehan’s fiscal stewardship—insisting she has failed to make the hard choices that will boost the city’s financial standing and lower property taxes.
Common Council President Carolyn McLaughlin was first elected to the Common Council in 1997. In the first public debate at WAMC’s The Linda earlier this month, she seemed to avoid criticizing Mayor Sheehan directly, but in an interview with The Alt, she highlighted several areas where the two haven’t seen eye-to-eye.
The Democratic primary is less than two weeks away. As we went to press, the three candidates faced off in a second public debate at the Times Union’s new Hearst Media Center on Tuesday night. We recently spent some time with each of the three to find out where they stand on key issues.