SCHENECTADY – Having endorsed Omar McGill for Schenectady County Legislature in the June primary, members of the Working Families Party have taken aim at McGill’s opponent, Brendan Savage, for changing his voter registration to the WFP.
The shift was to subvert the WFP’s control of its ballot line and member-driven endorsement process, Capital District Working Families Party secretary Anita Thayer alleged in a letter to Savage.
Savage shared the letter with the Daily Gazette and denied the claim.
The Siena College student said some of the WFP members’ views about local policing are so extreme, he felt voters should have a choice on the ballot line.
Thayer wrote that Savage changed his Board of Election voter registration to the WFP as soon as he realized he was not going to be endorsed by the party.
Thayer said Savage did this in contradiction to his answer on a WFP questionnaire and endorsement application, where she said he agreed that if he were not awarded the WFP ballot line, he would not seek the ballot line by opportunity to ballot petition or other means.
Savage is the son of former Schenectady County Legislature chairwoman Susan Savage. He originally sought a seat on the Schenectady City Council but pulled out of that crowded field of candidates to run for the county seat in Legislative District 1, from which Democratic Legislator Peggy King is not seeking re-election.
Savage grew up in Niskayuna and now lives in the city’s Northside, in a home he owns with his brothers.
McGill is making his second bid to become the first Black person elected to the county legislature, according to Chad Putnam, a member of the Working Families Party state committee.
McGill grew up in Schenectady and works as a staffer in the state Senate.
Putnam touted McGill as an independent voice who’s highly qualified and has deep roots in the city.
Putnam accused Savage of changing his party registration to WFP to “get around rule changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” a claim Savage countered as patently false.
Savage said that when the WFP interviewed him, a portion of the panel was from the local group All of Us, and one of its members told him she was in favor of abolishing the Schenectady Police Department.
“Shortly after I heard that,” Savage said, “I decided that it would be a disservice for there not to be a choice in the Working Families Party primary.”
“People who want to abolish the police shouldn’t get the absolute power to decide for all 165 Working Families Party members in the district,” he continued. “I think it should be left up to the voters. I don’t think it should be left up to a room of six people. Some of them have very extreme views that I think would be out of line with most Working Families Party voters.”
Savage went on to say that Putnam’s accusation about COVID rule changes was completely false.
“Those rules were changed in 2019, after the New York State Senate Democrats became the majority, that you would have until a certain deadline in February to change your party registration,” Savage said.
“I was following rules that were passed in 2019, before anybody knew what coronavirus was,” Savage said.
Meanwhile, Savage countered that the WFP wants a different standard for themselves than for other groups.
“They’re backing a candidate who’s not endorsed by the Democratic party, who’s competing in the Democratic primary, and there shouldn’t be any problem with that,” he said.
“But then, on the other hand, they don’t want a primary for the Working Families Party line. They don’t want the voters to decide on that line because they want their group of activists who want to abolish the police to decide who the Working Families nominee is, without giving the voters a choice.”
Putnam spoke of the 22-year-old Savage’s political savviness.
“When we had conducted his first interview, his mom actually reached out to me, encouraging us to endorse him,” Putnam said, adding he suspected Savage’s mother’s relationship with county Democrats had a large impact on their endorsement of him.