Christopher Consuello is a Working Families Party candidate for state Senate, but Dan Levitan, spokesman for the statewide party, is not a fan.
“This is a typical sort of Bob Mirch trick to steal the Working Families Party ballot line,” Levitan said Tuesday about Consuello’s candidacy. The purpose, he said, is to deny the line to the Democratic Senate candidate and thus benefit the Republican. The Democratic candidate is Michael Russo and the Republican is Roy McDonald.
Consuello did not actually steal anything. In fact, he won the Working Families nomination by defeating Democrat Brian Premo in the Sept. 9 primary election. He also has had the party line in prior races, including for mayor of Troy last year. He’s never been elected.
According to Levitan, Consuello has never been a real candidate, just a way for Mirch to keep Democrats from winning elections. Mirch is Troy public works commissioner and majority leader of the Republican-controlled Rensselaer County Legislature — although Rensselaer County Republican Chairman Jack Casey said he believes Mirch is a member of the Conservative Party.
“He’s worked for us and against us,” Casey said about Mirch. “He marches to the beat of his own drummer.”
Consuello is a laborer in the Troy Public Works Department, which Mirch heads.
Whether or not Consuello is a legitimate candidate, he is hard to get hold of. He didn’t return Gazette phone calls this week or last. Nor did Mirch on Monday and Tuesday.
Barbara Thomas, president of the Saratoga League of Women Voters, had the same trouble when she tried to invite Consuello to a debate the league was putting on in Saratoga Springs. She did get him on the phone, but then she couldn’t anymore.
Thomas said in an e-mail about Consuello: “He says he still lives at the address that the [state] board of elections has: 599 Fifth Ave., Apt. 2, Troy, NY 12182. But I have had two letters returned from the [post office] marked ‘Moved, no forwarding address.’ ”
Consuello didn’t show up for the League’s debate.
Casey and McDonald said the Consuello candidacy has nothing to do with them.
“I’m not involved in any of this stuff,” said McDonald. “I really don’t care.” He noted that Consuello might take votes away from him as well as from Russo.
However, the Working Families Party typically stakes out liberal positions and is more closely aligned with the Democratic Party than with the Republicans.
McDonald has the Conservative and Independence party lines, and said he assumes he has Mirch’s support.
Russo, who won the Democratic primary against Premo, said he does not know Consuello but “I’ve heard that he’s a person that the Republican Party in Rensselaer County puts up to control that party line. … He’s kind of a ghost candidate.”
Although the Saratoga County part of the district has more people than Rensselaer County, the Working Families vote on primary day was much higher in Rensselaer County. Premo actually beat Consuello in Saratoga County by nine votes to seven but was defeated in Rensselaer County by 100 votes to 72.
The 43rd District encompasses all of Rensselaer County and eastern Saratoga County, including most of Saratoga Springs.
State Board of Elections spokesman Robert Brehm said Consuello has been a regular voter in primary and general elections, and confirmed the address listing cited by Thomas. Consuello will turn 23 on Nov. 11.
The Troy Record reported last year that Consuello’s mother Toni alleged that Mirch had pressured her son into running for mayor. She could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The county Legislature Web site biography of Mirch says: “In recognition of his vast constituent experience, members of the Republican caucus selected the enrolled Conservative as majority leader in 2002. Mirch also assists the office of State Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno on constituent issues.”
Bruno, a Republican, stepped down as majority leader and resigned his Senate seat this summer. McDonald, Russo and Consuello are the three candidates on the ballot to succeed him as senator for the 43rd District.
Levitan said the Capital Region chapter of the Working Families Party may discuss the Consuello issue at an upcoming meeting.
It has not been unusual in the Capital Region for public-sector labor unions to seek and win control of minor parties and their ballot lines.