A new political action committee in Schenectady County is aiming to help residents through the electoral process by showcasing diverse candidates seeking seats, identifying possible candidates for the future and urging people to vote.
The Schenectady Black Political Action Committee held its first event Friday night where eight people of color running for seats on the county Legislature, city council and Schenectady school board discussed their ideas on various topics such as housing and small business development.
“I think it went very well,” said Damonni Farley, who is running for a four-year seat on the city council.
Candidate Carl Williams said he was happy to participate in the forum Friday evening and see all eight candidates of color show why they would be viable representatives.
“This was a triumphant accomplishment for our whole city because when one community succeeds, we all prosper,” said Williams, who is running for a two-year city council seat.
A Political Action Committee (PAC) is defined as a “committee which makes no expenditures to aid or take part in the election or defeat of a candidate or to promote the success or defeat of a ballot proposal, other than in the form of contributions, including in-kind contributions to candidates,” states the Board of Election website.
The website also states that the committee must register with the state Board of Elections.
“We have not filed anything yet because we just started coming together a few weeks ago,” said Cynthia Farmer, a spokesperson for the committee.
Schenectady City Democratic Chairman Tom Bellick said he has not spoken to anyone from the PAC.
“I know very little about them,” he said.
However, he also said he’s not against the PAC.
Schenectady County Democratic Chairman Joe Landry could not be reached for comment.
The committee was formed by a group of residents who were interested in providing support and resources for candidates, both currently and in the future, after being frustrated with the electoral structure in the county for minority candidates, according to a flyer the organization handed out Friday evening.
“It is important for organizations like the Schenectady Black Political Action Committee to shine [a] light on local politics, encourage voter participation, and give candidates of color who have been marginalized for so long a platform for their voices to be heard,” said Omar Sterling McGill, who is running for county Legislature.
Farley said data shows a lack of representation of minorities in the political field.
This year’s group of candidates is the most diverse yet, said Marion Porterfield, who is also running for a four-year seat on city council.
“It’s quite historic,” she said.
Porterfield said there have been attempts over the years to get more people of color to run for political seats, with no success. She and many other candidates are hoping this will push more people of color to not only run for office, but also get out and vote.
“When people see themselves in leadership roles it encourages them to get involved and pay attention to their community,” McGill said.