SCHENECTADY – Suggesting low turnout in June’s Democratic primary didn’t reflect the will of the majority of city voters, and that some of her opponents of color “quietly and actively support demonizing police,” Councilwoman Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas has mounted what she said is a longshot re-election bid.
Flanked by supporters who held blue and yellow campaign signs, the five-year member of the council took to the steps of City Hall Tuesday to announce she’s running on the Conservative Party line in November’s election.
“I’m committed to seeing this through,” Zalewski-Wildzunas told about three dozen attendees and press, “not only for my passion for the city but also to fulfill my obligation to the Conservative Party, whose members, along with the city Democratic Committee endorsed me.”
She went on to say voter turnout on June 22 didn’t reflect the entire community.
On that day, Zalewski-Wildzunas found herself on the outside looking in concerning primary results of a four-person race for three seats.
Fellow incumbent Marion Porterfield was the top vote-getter, tallying 1,496 votes, followed by newcomer Damonni Farley’s 1,293 votes, and Council President John Mootooveren’s 1,203 votes.
Porterfield and Farley are Black and Mootooveren is Guyanese.
Zalewski-Wildzunas, who’s white, garnered 1,054.
Told about Zalewski-Wildzunas’ remarks, Farley said in a text message:
“The people of Schenectady sent a message that they seek leadership that makes decisions with them and not for them. We look forward to engaging all voters and building an agenda that reflects their priorities.”
Zalewski-Wildzunas introduced race and polarized views on law enforcement into her demonstration by citing recently elected school board member Jamaica Miles’ support for defunding the police. Also, Zalewski-Wildzunas said she suspects her opponents demonized local law enforcement.
“We need to stop them now,” she said. “We have seen what happens when concerted efforts to hamstring police allow criminal activities like shooting homicides and the use of illegal guns to flourish. Our police officers have a tough job, and we need to be sure that they have the support from all of their elected officials to do that job safely.”
“Some will react to my comments today with calls of racism,” Zalewski-Wildzunas said, adding that those people would be wrong.
“Instead, I want to make sure that Schenectady residents all feel safe in their homes, streets and neighborhoods,” she said.
The council member vouched for supporting “good officers” while holding the small percentage of those who tarnish their badges accountable.
“Let’s support the recommendations of the Schenectady police reform and reinvention process that called for increased community policing, additional mental health training, assistance on calls, recruitment of qualified and diverse officers and training on alternative responses to resistance,” she said.
Council Majority Leader John Polimeni introduced Zalewski-Wildzunas.
“We’ve seen in the last year, two, several years, that what happens when people devote themselves solely to a party, without considering the quality or the content of an individual’s qualifications or who they are as a person,” he said. “And I can speak from knowing Karen very well. She has the content, the character, the ethics, and the morals that we need in the city, to represent us going forward.”
One person of color, Hamilton Hill Neighborhood Association President Marva Isaacs, held a sign in support of Zalewski-Wildzunas.
Isaacs said she’s a backer of Zalewski-Wildzunas’ pro-police stance, and she said Zalewski-Wildzunas has been a regular presence in the neighborhood.
Zalewski-Wildzunas said she’ll remain true to her principles, values and focus on law and order, neighborhood revitalization, affordable housing, and what she said were her proven efforts to lower taxes.