Schenectady County

Schenectady GOP leader says 2021 slate is party’s most-diverse

Kevin Hammer Schenectady City Council candidate, 2021. Photo supplied.

Kevin Hammer Schenectady City Council candidate, 2021. Photo supplied.

The Schenectady County Republican party is offering its most diverse slate ever, including the party’s first openly gay candidate for Schenectady City Council, Republican Committee Chairman Chris Koetzle said.

The committee met Saturday and recommended Kevin Hammer as a candidate for the City Council.

Hammer, 35, a warehouse worker who lives in downtown with his husband, said he is entering the race to win, and explained that he has become more conservative as he has gained life experience, and decided that many issues are made worse by government.

 “I may be a registered Republican, but if I am elected, the true focus for me is about serving the people, regardless of political affiliation,” he said.

Hammer is the first Republican to announce a run for the council, which could potentially see major shifts of membership this year. Five of the seven seats on the council are in play, with three Democratic incumbents running for re-election and numerous Democrats interested in two vacancies.

All seven council seats are now held by Democrats, and it has been many years since a Republican last served on the City Council. Voter enrollment in the city strongly favors Democrats.

Hammer group up in Schoharie and Montgomery counties, and has lived in Schenectady since 2012. He said be became more interested in running for office because he and his husband are considering starting a family in the city.

“As my husband and I began to think about starting a family, I realized the importance of getting more involved and invested in the local community. So, with my family and the community in mind, I decided to run for city council,” he said.

“I was once a registered Democrat, an activist in the LGTB community, and the first step for me was taking a step back, and when I looked at issues I cared about that had nothing to do with sexual orientation, I realized how often issues were caused by government,” he said in a Sunday interview.

“I’m not saying government shouldn’t exist, absolutely not,” he said. “I’m saying before we do something, we should take a step back and say how it will impact people’s lives, and what could go wrong?”

Koetzle said he and Hammer got along well when they talked about a candidacy. “Neither agree with identity politics. It’s about the person, and being willing to stand up and fight for what they believe,” he said.

While Hammer is the only current candidate for a council seat, Koetzle said GOP leaders are talking to some other people who might run.

But beyond Hammer bringing diversity by being gay, Koetzle said the candidates endorsed for local offices by the county Republicans represent the most diverse group in his memory.

“I am very proud that this is probably the most diverse slate we have put forward at any time since I’ve been involved, and that’s 20 years,” Koetzle said. “We have more women than ever before, more people of color, and when I speak of diversity, I mean age diversity. We have a lot of younger people getting involved now.”

Saturday’s endorsements indicate whom party leaders will support at the circulation of nominating petitions begins, but don’t guarantee other candidates won’t emerge or that a candidate not endorsed by leaders could emerge and launch a primary bid.

Here are the slates endorsed so far in some other communities:

— ROTTERDAM: For supervisor, Mollie Collins; for Town Board, Joe Mastroianni and Jack Dodson; for town justice, Kenneth Litz; for town clerk, Anna Maria Guida; receiver of taxes, Denise Lagasse; and highway superintendent, Larry LaMora.

Correction 2/8 10:07 a.m.: Kenneth Litz is running for re-election as Rotterdam town justice. An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the candidate’s first name as Kevin.

— NISKAYUNA: Incumbent Town Supervisor Yasmine Syed and Joey Fasiey, whose family Koetzle said came from Afghanistan as refugees. There are two seats on the Town Board up for election this year, both now held by Democrats.

— DUANESBURG: Town Councilman Bill Wenzel was nominated for town supervisor. Incumbent supervisor Roger Tidball is retiring.

— SCHENECTADY COUNTY LEGISLATURE: In Dist. 3 (Glenville and Niskayuna), Juliano Febo, who is 23 years old, and Tony Simone. In Dist. 4 (Rotterdam Princetown, Duanesburg) Josh Cuomo and Eric Hess. All those seats are now held by either Democrats or Conservatives, who, operating in a coalition, control the County Legislature.

— GLENVILLE: Koetzle, who is town supervisor, for re-election; Sid Ramotar and Kate Cook for Town Board; and Thomas Coppola for highway superintendent.

Correction 2/8 10:07 a.m.: Kenneth Litz is running for re-election as Rotterdam town justice. An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the candidate’s first name as Kevin.

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