The bad blood will linger.
It’s easy to dismiss the infighting tearing the Schenectady City Council apart as the noisy byproduct of an unusually competitive election cycle.
Indeed, I did it myself, initially rolling my eyes at the acrimony that exploded into public view earlier this month.
With the Democratic primary fast approaching, it seemed only natural that tensions would be running high, that things would get heated and nasty.
Politics is a battlefield – we shouldn’t be surprised when open warfare breaks out.
What has surprised me is the level of acrimony on display, and the divisions and rifts that have emerged.
This is fighting that will leave a mark – and that will reverberate long after the city’s registered Democrats have chosen who will represent them in the general election.
The results of the Democratic primary could reshape city politics, and the ugly political jockeying we’re witnessing has more to do with the future than the present.
It’s about who will emerge from the Democratic pack to distinguish themselves as key political players in the years to come – as future council presidents or mayors, should Mayor Gary McCarthy decide against running for a fourth term in 2023.
The turmoil roiling the City Council might seem dumb and petty.
But the stakes are actually quite high.
On Monday, Schenectady City Council President John Mootooveren narrowly survived a no-confidence vote that would have stripped him of his leadership – the latest, and perhaps strangest, chapter in a power struggle pitting lawmakers John Polimeni, Carmel Patrick and Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas against Mootooveren and City Council member Marion Porterfield.
It’s a small victory, as the push to oust Mootooveren from the council presidency suggests his days in that position are numbered, though a lot will hinge on the upcoming council elections.
Zalewski-Wildzunas, Mootooveren and Porterfield are all seeking re-election; community activist Damonni Farley is also running for a four-year term.
A second race to fill the two vacant seats created by the early departures of Ed Kosiur and Leesa Perazzo is also underway.
Doreen DiToro, Haileab Samuel and Carl Williams are the Democrats vying for those seats.
DiToro interviewed with the city Democrats’ executive committee in February and did not receive their endorsement, but she has the backing of Patrick, Zalewski-Wildzunas and Polimeni, and would likely be a critical ally to those three, boosting the group’s profile and grip on power.
These are the most unruly City Council races I’ve seen, and I have no idea how they’ll play out.
It’s ultimately up to voters to decide what kind of leadership they want – and whether they wish to shake things up or stick with the status quo.
If we’re seeing a lot of fighting among council members, it’s because they know what’s at stake.
Reach Sara Foss at [email protected] Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.