Schenectady mayor race proves even closer than thought

The election commissioners hope to start counting absentee ballots on Monday.

The mayor’s race is even tighter than Democrats thought Tuesday night.

Of the 529 absentee ballots yet to be counted in the Schenectady race, the Democrats thought 400 were from registered Democrats.

But Board of Elections Commissioner Brian Quail said just 218 of the absentee ballots are from Democrats.

Republicans sent in 206 ballots. Voters who are not registered with any party sent in 72 ballots.

There are also 12 absentee ballots from Conservatives, one from a voter registered with the Working Families Party and 20 from Independence members.

The election commissioners hope to start counting on Monday. This week, they must first complete ballot security checks and then make sure none of the absentee voters also voted at the polls.

Quail predicted that the mayor’s race will be decided by late November but warned that it could drag on into the beginning of December. The commissioners could count the ballots far more quickly, but they expect both sides to object to many of them. Objections slow down the process considerably.

Currently, Democrat and Acting Mayor Gary McCarthy is 77 votes ahead of Alliance Party founder Roger Hull, out of nearly 9,000 votes cast.

As everyone waits for a final result, politicians on both sides are wondering what led to such a close election.

One factor is that turnout was unexpectedly low. In the last seriously contested mayoral race eight years ago, more than 14,000 ballots were cast.

Democratic city committee Chairman Richard Naylor said he couldn’t understand it.

“We really, really worked,” he said.

The candidates hit every neighborhood in the city at least twice, going door-to-door every evening, he said. They sent out far more mailers than before as well.

Even on Election Day, they kept working. Volunteers hung reminders on doors throughout the city.

“I don’t believe there was anything we missed,” Naylor said. “We pulled out all the stops.”

And yet, thousands of regular voters didn’t come to the polls.

Hull’s campaign manager, Brian Young, said his team worked just as hard. Volunteers made more than 3,300 calls on Election Day to get out the vote.

“The low turnout definitely surprised us. We were expecting a much higher turnout,” he said.

In exit polling, many voters said they had a hard time choosing between Hull and McCarthy.

The two men have very different plans for the city, but they agree that the city must deal with vacant housing and revitalize the neighborhoods. They simply differ on how to accomplish those tasks.

Both men also have flaws, which some voters said made it difficult to decide which candidate was the better choice.

One voter, who asked to remain anonymous, summed up the two candidates by saying, “I thought McCarthy was an excellent choice. He made a lot of sense. But I like what Hull did near the [Union College] campus. It was a difficult choice.”

Another voter said he was friends with McCarthy but eventually decided Hull was more offended by quality-of-life crimes.

“That’s a big deal for him. I think he’s really willing to take on these issues,” resident Dick Vale said.

Voters who chose McCarthy repeatedly cited some of McCarthy’s attack ads against Hull, in which he accused Hull of hurting the city when he redeveloped houses near the college but took them off the tax roll.

“I didn’t like what Mr. Hull did when he was at Union College,” said resident Anne Mare. “The city suffered from all the property he took off the tax roll.”

Naylor, the Democrats’ chairman, said he suspected Hull benefited from an anti-incumbents wave throughout the country.

He also implied that some Democrats might have voted for Hull because they personally didn’t like McCarthy.

“Oftentimes when you have a new face and new ideas, people who are on the border will flock to that, just because of a little gripe,” Naylor said.

McCarthy had previously said that his biggest weakness was that people who knew him either loved him or hated him.

Hull said on Election Night that he thought the deciding factor was McCarthy’s attack ads. He said he might have won the race if it hadn’t been for those mailers.

But his campaign manager said he thinks Hull can still eke out a win.

“We need to take the absentee and [affadavit] ballots 3 to 2, which is definitely possible,” Young said.

He said party workers are beginning to realize that even if Hull loses, their campaign has won.

“It’s brought us within 77 votes of defeating that machine,” he said, referring to the Democrats. “To come from a handful of people sitting in a living room to where we are now, it’s an accomplishment.”

Naylor said there probably aren’t enough absentees for Hull to win.

“I think we have an advantage. And the minor parties’ [absentees] will go our way,” he said. “I’m cautiously optimistic. I think it will come out OK.”

The final count will also determine whether Councilwoman Margaret King is re-elected or has been defeated by her fellow Democrat, newcomer John Mootooveren. Mootooveren leads by just seven votes for the last of four seats on the City Council.

Categories: Schenectady County

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