Categories: Schenectady County
The political action committee formed this year by some of the city’s most prominent business leaders will remain active even though most of its endorsed candidates failed in Tuesday’s elections.
“Our mission from Day 1 was the same as it is today: to advocate for residents who want to try to push Saratoga forward in a good way,” Saratoga PAC Chairman Robert Manz said Wednesday.
He said the advocacy will continue even though three of the five candidates it endorsed for City Council seats lost, despite thousands of dollars spent.
“We’re not going anywhere, and we will make sure the media and public are aware of the issues, and that we will continue to address them,” said Manz, chief operating officer of D.A. Collins Construction.
Voters on Tuesday re-elected Mayor Joanne Yepsen over Republican John Safford, who had Saratoga PAC’s support. The committee ran advertising supporting Safford and attacking Yepsen, a Democrat.
Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen and Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco were also handily re-elected despite the PAC endorsing their opponents. The council will continue to have a 4-1 Democratic majority.
The PAC, which raised nearly $50,000, came under criticism for the amount of money it was putting into a local election.
“Everyone has the right to be part of the political system, but to pull together a large pot of money and use it to [promote] the will of a few people is concerning,” said Charles Brown, the city’s Democratic Committee chairman.
He said some voter support for Democrats might have been a reaction to the perceived negativity of PAC ads. Yepsen specifically alluded to the PAC’s spending on election night.
“How many of you feared big money would influence this election?” she asked supporters during a victory speech. “I’m standing before you to say the office of the mayor is still in the hands of the people.”
Supporters of the PAC include the Dake family, which owns Stewart’s Shops, as well as prominent local builder Sonny Bonacio, development attorney Michael Toohey and others who have been prominent in the Republican Party.
Manz, however, said the PAC is bipartisan; three of the candidates it endorsed were Democrats.
While a lot of attention focused on PAC members’ support for allowing a resort-conference center to be build at Saratoga National Golf Club, Manz said that isn’t the group’s top issue.
Based on a resident survey the PAC did this summer, Manz said the top issues are the condition of the city’s water and sewer infrastructure, and the need to redevelop the South Broadway entrance to the city, along with a growing vagrancy problem.
“We will continue to fight for the things we think will bring Saratoga Springs forward,” Manz said.
He acknowledged that he and other PAC members favor the Saratoga National project, which can’t proceed without City Council approval. Council members are split.
Manz said the city needs to approve projects like the resort to keep visitors coming, even after Schenectady’s Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor and the Albany Convention Center give them new options.
“If you sit on your laurels and you start to lose that revenue, it goes extremely quickly, and turning it around is an uphill battle,” Manz said.
Many residents fear the Saratoga National resort project could open the city’s outer “greenbelt” to development. Brown said he has no problem with PAC members advocating for such projects, as long as they don’t try to hide their intentions.
“If they tell us what they want and then work for it, I have significantly less problem with that,” Brown said.
Manz said the PAC could get involved in future city elections, despite the poor showing of those it endorsed.
Of its endorsements, the only winners were Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan, whose opponent was unfunded, and Accounts Commissioner John Franck, who was unopposed.