Schenectady County

Democrats wary of Working Families candidate for Assembly

Members of both the Schenectady County Democratic Committee and the Capital District Working Familie
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Joe Salamone says he simply wants to run for a higher office.

The two-term Mohonasen Board of Education member — the youngest person elected to a school board in New York — now has his eye on the state Assembly’s 105th District seat. And he’s not concerned about facing a veteran Democrat from the Schenectady City Council in the Working Families Party primary, or the seat’s Republican incumbent in the general election.

“Any progress made is a victory,” he said Friday, the day after submitting his petition for the nomination. “I’m a young person and any experience I can take … I’ll take it as a positive.”

But some of his opponents don’t share his sentiment. Critics from both the Schenectady County Democratic Committee and the Capital District Working Families Party claim Salamone is a shadow candidate for Republicans, aiming to knock Mark Blanchfield’s name from one column on the ballot.

So far, Blanchfield has received endorsements from the Democrats, as well as the Independence and Working Families parties. Incumbent Republican George Amedore has endorsements from the GOP and the Conservative Party.

If his name is taken from the Working Families’ ballot line, Blanchfield said Republicans will gain a slim advantage for Amedore. At the very least, he said the GOP is trying to blur the issues by offering Salamone as a Working Families candidate.

“It has every indication that the Republican Party and Mr. Amedore are behind it,” he said of Salamone’s primary challenge.

On the outside, Salamone’s candidacy does have ties to ranking GOP officials. Michael Cuevas, the former Republican candidate for city mayor and counsel for Assembly Republicans is listed as a contact on Salamone’s campaign, and Stephanie Tommasone, the daughter of Republican town Supervisor Steve Tommasone, helped Salamone collect signatures.

Salamone, 21, insists these are simply coincidences that opponents are trying to use to eliminate him from the ballot. He is dating Tommasone’s daughter and said Cuevas is a good friend who helped him win his first office three years ago.

Salamone also points to his adult enrollment in the Working Families Party as evidence of his sincerity, even if it’s only been for three years. He said he’s even tried to organize the party at the county level, but found it difficult due to the low number of members.

“There’s no doubt about it,” he said. “I have an interest in public service.”

In total, there are 1,102 voters enrolled in the Working Families Party in the 105th District, which has 163,784 registered voters. Salamone collected 39 signatures from Working Families voters, according to a petition filed with the Schenectady County Board of Elections last week.

Both local and state Republicans deny Salamone’s involvement in their party. Josh Fitzpatrick, spokesman for the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee, scoffed at the idea of Salamone running as a shadow candidate and instead asked why Blanchfield seemed determined to limit choices in the race.

“The Republican Party is not involved with Mr. Salamone’s decision to run,” he said. “It’s his decision to run as a duly registered Working Families Party voter.”

Likewise, Steve Tommasone credited Salamone for deciding to run as a Working Families candidate on his own accord. He characterized the attacks on Salmone’s candidacy as a “grudge match” waged by entrenched politicians fearing a new face in the mix.

“If they want to win elections, they have to fight hard and do a little work,” he said of Salamone’s opposition.

Yet Brian Quail, chairman of the Schenectady County Democratic Committee, said Republicans have often hijacked the small party for their own means. He pointed to Fitzpatrick, who he said was once enrolled in the party but is now stumping for Assembly Republicans.

“The fact of the matter is there has been an effort by the Schenectady County GOP to control the Working Families Party,” he said.

Salamone hasn’t won over the trust of the Capital Region branch of his party, either. Karen Scharff, co-chair of the Capital District Working Families Party, regards Salamone’s challenge to Blanchfield as dubious.

“We strongly suspect him,” she said. “He didn’t even notify us he was interested.”

Scharff also pointed to the Republican ties riddled throughout Salamone’s petition. She views his candidacy as a distraction that could confuse voters in an important race.

“We’re going to obviously stop this from happening,” she said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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