Schenectady County

Schenectady mayoral candidates unleash critical ads as election nears

The Schenectady mayoral race has taken a muddy turn in the final stretch to the election, with actin

The Schenectady mayoral race has taken a muddy turn in the final stretch to the election, with acting Mayor Gary McCarthy sending out a series of attack ads and Alliance Party founder Roger Hull responding with a TV commercial asking voters to give McCarthy “more time to golf” by not choosing him for mayor.

McCarthy’s ads have described Hull as rich, shown him skiing and sailing, suggested that running for mayor is Hull’s newest “hobby” and repeatedly emphasized Hull’s connection to Union College.

Hull, who started his campaign against McCarthy by comparing him to dictators and later called him a puppet master, said he wouldn’t stoop to personal attacks.

“But I don’t view that as a personal attack. I’m commenting on policy,” he said.

He objected to some of McCarthy’s campaign literature because it got too personal, although he acknowledged that it was “clever” and well produced.

“But they are two things. They are lies in many respects, and they are distractions in all respects,” Hull said, saying the literature shifts the focus from city issues.

He said his campaign wouldn’t have time to respond with similarly produced direct-mail ads, but he did unveil a new television ad.

He also just sent out a mailer quoting a Daily Gazette editorial that said McCarthy should “act more like a mature leader than a petty dictator.”

In the television ad, McCarthy is depicted as a golfer swinging through piles of cash.

“Gary’s been on a spending binge with taxpayer dollars,” the narrator says.

The only source for the accusation in the ad is a correctly attributed newspaper story regarding a proposal to spend $3 million on the city’s golf course. But that money would come from the golf fund, which is not supported by taxes. Revenue there comes from the golf course and can only be spent on the course.

Hull said he also meant McCarthy’s vote to spend $20.4 million on the new Bureau of Service complex on Foster Avenue. That is not mentioned in the ad.

The ad also says that under McCarthy, city taxes went up 107 percent. Hull said that was a calculation from 1996 onward — but McCarthy was not on the City Council for part of that period, and was not mayor until this year.

“I definitely think it’s fair to say,” Hull said. “It can all be laid at the City Council’s feet because the City Council is the one responsible for the budget. … It’s also fair to say because he’s controlled the people, whether he’s been on the council or not.”

McCarthy has not complained publicly about any of Hull’s ads and said he hasn’t seen the television commercials.

McCarthy’s ads, meanwhile, have had some questionable statements of their own. In one, he cites a Daily Gazette story as saying that Hull wanted a “regressive” sales tax to fund the Metroplex Development Authority.

But the story cited on that date did not quote Hull and did not discuss the 1 percent sales tax that Hull had previously advocated. The story covered a county Legislature discussion about a 0.5 percent sales tax, which Hull supported.

When asked why he had described the story the way he had, McCarthy said, “editorial latitude.”

But he noted that Hull had proposed a higher sales tax at first, and that many Democrats describe sales taxes as regressive because they disproportionately affect the poor, who spend nearly all their wages on items subject to the tax.

Hull didn’t object to the news summaries on the ad, but complained that the ad attacked him personally by calling him “a rich man” and “mild.”

“I said I would not engage in personal attacks, and I will not,” Hull said. “If that’s what you need to do to win, I won’t win.”

McCarthy said he didn’t think his ads were overly mean. The descriptions were printed on a photo of an old-style jukebox, with fake song titles such as “Born to Be Mild” and “Surfin’ G.O.P.” Each song is described as being sung by Hull.

“It’s done with a little bit of humor. It gets the message out,” McCarthy said.

He added that he didn’t think he was the first to go personal, saying the campaign started with “a lot of name-calling” from Hull.

But he also very much wanted to send out the fliers. He wanted to start his mailers with a flier about former Mayor Al Jurczynski’s connection to Hull, he said, but was advised by campaign workers to hold that until the end.

The mailer shows Hull driving with Jurczynski in his rearview mirror, and says that if Hull is elected, Jurczynski and others are hoping to return to city government.

Jurczynski’s corporation counsel, Michael Brockbank, is working closely with Hull’s campaign, Hull confirmed. But he said another Jurczynski supporter mentioned in the flier, Jay Sherman, stopped working for the campaign in June. Jurczynski is also helping Hull.

The flier also says Hull was one of Jurczynski’s “closest economic advisers,” linking him to failed economic efforts during Jurczynski’s administration.

Hull objected to that, saying that Jurczynski left him alone to develop Schenectady 2000, which led to the creation of Metroplex. Jurczynski supported the proposal for Metroplex, but Brockbank said that until then, City Hall had essentially no involvement.

Hull said the only time he advised Jurczynski in any way was when the mayor came to him to ask for help with the city budget. Hull, who was president of Union College at the time, put together a four-member team that offered suggestions.

“I don’t view that as being an adviser,” Hull said.

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