A former aide to U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton is the second Democrat to announce as a candidate for the 21st Congressional District seat.
U.S. Rep. Michael R. McNulty, D-Green Island, announced in October he would retire in 2009 after 20 years in the House.
Tracey Brooks, 37, launched her campaign Thursday, two days after helping Clinton win New York state in the Super Tuesday primary. Brooks coordinated Clinton’s campaign in the Capital Region. Prior to that, she was Clinton’s regional director for 15 upstate counties for the last three years.
Schenectady Mayor Brian U. Stratton and former assemblyman Paul Tonko, both Democrats, may also enter the race.
Brooks said she left Clinton’s employment “because I am going to run to Congress. I want to continue to work with the people of the 21st and I know their priorities and issues.” She listed those as the need for a strong economy, affordable and accessible health care and an end to U.S. involvement in Iraq.
“What we truly saw [on Super Tuesday] was people voting for change and we want to be part of that,” Brooks said. “I also want to be the first woman to represent the 21st District.”
Brooks is using a creative approach to promote her campaign; it features a YouTube video release and sites on ActBlue, MySpace and Facebook. She also plans online fundraising and volunteer programs and has made automatic phone calls to hundreds of active Democrats and community leaders.
“We launched our technology campaign today. They can keep track of what is going on with our campaign online,” Brooks said.
Brooks was born in Albany, grew up in Clifton Park and attended public schools. She worked from 1993-94 as a perinatal outreach worker for Schenectady Family Health Services, now Hometown Health. She worked with pregnant women, helping them obtain services for a healthy pregnancy.
She graduated from Albany Law School and currently works as an attorney with the Albany law firm of Brown & Weinraub.
Brooks first ran for office in 2002 against Republican incumbent Pat Casale. She lost by 2,700 votes. “I ran against a 10-year incumbent in a Republican district,” she said.
Brooks was asked to run against Casale in 2004, but declined because her mother was ill. In 2006, she was working for Clinton.
Phil Steck, Colonie Democratic committee chairman, was the first Democrat to announce his bid for McNulty’s seat. He is currently a partner in the Albany law firm of Cooper Erving & Savage.
Steck attended Harvard University and obtained his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania. While a student at Harvard, he served as Lyndon B. Johnson Intern for Queens Rep. Benjamin S. Rosenthal.
Steck worked as an assistant district attorney in Rensselaer County and as an assistant district attorney in New York County. He favors the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq, a single-payer system to assure access to quality, affordable health care and protecting Social Security and Medicare.
He also has an economic platform to create more jobs and bring more federal dollars to the Capital Region.
Stratton said he will make an announcement next week as to whether he will run for McNulty’s seat. Stratton’s father, Sam, represented the district for 30 years prior to McNulty’s tenure. Local Democrats said Stratton would be a strong candidate for the seat.
They cite his showing as an alternate delegate for Clinton in the Super Tuesday primary.
Stratton came in second overall to Albany County Executive Mike Breslin in the delegate race. He collected 31,900 votes to Breslin’s 32,674. Albany Major Jennings was third with 30,116 votes.
“With or without a candidacy for another office, the numbers show support for the work we have done here. They show a positive name recognition on a number of levels,” Stratton said.
Breslin is not a candidate for McNulty’s seat but will attend the Democratic National Convention this summer in August. Stratton will attend if one of the main delegates is unable to, he said.
Brian Quail, chairman of the Schenectady County Democratic Committee, said Stratton’s numbers were “very impressive. He was in the seventh position, the worst position, on the ballot. People had to pay attention to him and find him on ballot.”
Kyle Kotary, spokesman for Brooks’ campaign, played down Stratton’s delegate numbers, saying the way the ballot was structured it was two different races, one between the main delegates and one involving the alternates. He said Stratton’s name was the only choice for alternate.
Tonko, a Democrat from Amsterdam and current CEO for the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority, is considering a run for the congressional seat, according to party leaders, who said his candidacy would prove formidable.
On the Republican side, Warren Redlich, a Guilderland Town Board member who lost races to McNulty in 2004 and 2006, said he is not a candidate for the seat.
J. Christopher Callaghan, a former Saratoga County treasurer who ran unsuccessfully for state comptroller two years ago, said he will decide within two weeks whether he will mount a campaign.
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