McCarthy announces Schenectady mayoral run, takes quick aim at opponent

Finally, Schenectady has two candidates running for mayor.

Finally, Schenectady has two candidates running for mayor.

Acting Mayor Gary McCarthy formally entered the mayor’s race Tuesday, facing off against Alliance Party founder Roger Hull, who has been campaigning since December.

McCarthy, a Democrat, immediately targeted his opponent.

“I’m not an academic. I find solutions to problems,” McCarthy said, suggesting that Hull could not do the same because of his academic resume. Hull is the former president of Union College.

Hull laughed when he heard the statement later. He said professors who criticized his leadership at Union had often attacked him by saying he was not an academic.

“I guess I’ve come full circle,” Hull said.

Hull defined himself as an administrator, saying he ran businesses for 24 years.

“That’s what a college is, a business,” he said. “I’m a lawyer. I’m a leader. I’m a person who has already found solutions to problems in Schenectady.”

In 1993, Hull and Neil Golub founded Schenectady 2000, which is generally acknowledged as the catalyst for the creation of the successful Metroplex Development Authority.

McCarthy became acting mayor April 4 to replace Brian Stratton, who resigned to become director of the state Canal Corp. McCarthy said he wants to apply Metroplex’s economic development techniques to the city’s neighborhoods, a plan he has mentioned briefly for years. He has not yet offered any details.

He began his campaign Tuesday by crafting his image, emphasizing his blue-collar roots and his decades of service to the city.

“I know Schenectady. I love it for its people, its history, and I love its potential,” he said.

He works as chief investigator for the District Attorney’s Office, a job he began nearly 30 years ago. As such, he said, he knows all about the city’s crime — and the city’s police officers, some of whom he has investigated himself.

“I know the problems facing the Schenectady Police Department, internally and externally,” he said.

He told the audience gathered at City Hall for his announcement that he graduated from Linton High School in Schenectady. He did not mention that he went on to the University at Albany, majoring in economics.

Instead, he stressed his ability to do hands-on work.

“Running a city, it’s reality,” he said. “You’ve got to fill potholes. You’ve got to make sure the police are answering calls.”

It’s not academic work, he said.

“People want answers. And I intend to give them answers,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, who opened the morning’s event, balanced McCarthy’s blue-collar description by assuring the audience that the Democrat can handle analytical work, too.

“I always found Gary as a working partner,” he said. “He’s a very sound administrator who does the calculus on job growth in a very analytical and thoughtful way.”

McCarthy is no stranger to fiscal problems. As he described his resume Tuesday, he ran the board of the Schenectady Municipal Housing Authority and the city’s Industrial Development Agency when both agencies were facing financial ruin. Both are in good standing now.

He also touted Metroplex’s successes. He serves on the Metroplex board, where Chairman Ray Gillen said a year ago that McCarthy gave the agency “a hard time” by openly discussing problems, insisting on more detailed information on public documents and urging better measurement of results.

Such actions should dispel a reputation that has dogged McCarthy since his early years of running the Schenectady Democratic Committee, said county Legislator Karen B. Johnson, D-Schenectady.

As she introduced McCarthy Tuesday, she took a stab at the “party boss” reputation that McCarthy says has damaged his political chances for more than a decade.

Critics have said McCarthy is the quintessential party boss who crafts deals behind closed doors. But since McCarthy became council president, the council has had more open debates than it had under the previous three presidents. His work with public access television has led to real-time broadcasts of city meetings and press conferences, beyond the twice-monthly council meeting that was already broadcast live.

Johnson said McCarthy doesn’t act secretly — he just doesn’t look for publicity. “Gary doesn’t seek the limelight,” she said. “He usually works very quietly.”

In the council chambers, he often listens to other council members debate without injecting much of his own opinion and then writes up a compromise, which he offers for a public vote.

Johnson also fought back at Hull, who has demanded that McCarthy either resign from City Council or from the mayoralship that he took on when previous Mayor Brian U. Stratton left office mid-term.

Hull compared McCarthy to a dictator for leading the council — the legislative branch — and running the executive branch. He also described the Democrats as having a “Democratic machine.”

Johnson said Democrats expected a better campaign.

“How far does name-calling go in solving problems?” she said.

McCarthy added that many towns elect a supervisor who also serves on the town board.

But Hull said the city’s charter, which allows McCarthy’s dual role, is wrong. At the federal and state level, he said, the executive and legislative leaders must be separate to maintain a separation of powers. It should be the same in Schenectady, he said.

As for name-calling, he said he was simply telling the truth, particularly in saying the Democrats run a “machine.”

“I do not think referring to a party that has been in control of everything for the past decade and most of it beyond that is name-calling,” he said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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