Schenectady County

Schenectady City Council to fill vacant seat

As the last Democrat standing in a dispute that went on for five months, Marion Porterfield will get

As the last Democrat standing in a dispute that went on for five months, Marion Porterfield will get the vacant seat on the City Council, Democrats decided Thursday.

Porterfield, who is running for the seat in this year’s election, is expected to be formally appointed April 9. The council will discuss her appointment in committee Monday.

But they’ve already decided. Democrats confirmed Thursday they’ve agreed on Porterfield.

Originally, the council split 3-3 on whether to appoint her or John Mootooveren, who lost last year’s election by just 39 votes. But Mootooveren announced Mar. 21 that he would not try again to win the seat. The move surprised many Democrats who had strongly supported him, including the council president.

It left them with just one choice, Porterfield, and they quickly came to support her.

Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo, who had supported Mootooveren, said Porterfield would now get her vote.

“From Day One I said both of them were good candidates,” Perazzo said. “Marion has strong community ties and she’s always worked very hard for the at-need population, and I think that’s very important.”

Porterfield said Thursday she was stunned by the sudden shift. She had expected, two weeks ago, to run a primary election campaign against Mootooveren. Now she’s about to be a voting council member.

“I’m still in shock, sort of,” she said.

She added that she’s ready for the job. She has been working on neighborhood projects as the Weed and Seed coordinator, a position that is no longer paid because the grant was not renewed.

“I love community work. This is just being a public servant in a greater way,” she said. “There is no person [on the council] whose focus is wholly on community work.”

She plans to push for more employment.

“My biggest passion is jobs for people, so they can live well,” she said.

Mootooveren had been lukewarm on running against her. After he lost last year’s election, he said he probably would not seek the vacant seat by appointment or another election.

Then, when his successful running mates championed him for the appointment, and his fellow Guyanese came to council meetings to argue on his behalf, he said he wanted the seat.

But the campaign to be appointed to the seat turned acrimonious.

Much of the focus turned to the ethnicity of each candidate: Porterfield is black; Mootooveren is a naturalized U.S. citizen from Guyana.

Both sides argued that their candidate had the more appropriate ethnicity for the council seat.

Supporters also cast the appointment as a choice between two neighborhoods: Porterfield lives in Hamilton Hill, Mootooveren in Mont Pleasant.

Democratic leaders said the fight was too polarizing, setting neighbors against each other. They told the two to hold a primary election that would decide which one would earn the Democratic endorsement.

That’s when Mootooveren dropped out, saying he wanted unity.

The vacant seat on the council was Gary McCarthy’s. He resigned to become mayor Jan. 1.

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