Election 2021: For first time, Schenectady City Council will have 4 lawmakers of color

From left, clockwise: Carl Williams, John Mootooveren, Damonni Farley, Doreen Ditoro, and Marion Porterfield.

From left, clockwise: Carl Williams, John Mootooveren, Damonni Farley, Doreen Ditoro, and Marion Porterfield.

SCHENECTADY — A slate of Democratic candidates is poised for victory after Tuesday’s election, paving the way for the most diverse City Council in history to take office. 

Tuesday’s outcome marked the end of a contentious election cycle that saw one incumbent losing in the June primary and dissension within the Democratic Party.

Incumbents John Mootooveren and Marion Porterfield, who were among the six candidates seeking three four-year seats on the council, were the two highest vote getters this election. Mootooveren, the current council president who also appeared on the Conservative party line, secured 3,226 votes. Porterfield, who also appeared on the Working Families Party line, gained 3,117 votes — the equivalent to 21% and 20% of the total votes cast, respectively. 

Neither candidate returned multiple requests seeking comment Tuesday night. 

A total of 15,378 voters cast a ballot in the race. 

Damonni Farley, who successfully secured the Democratic party line in June, knocking off incumbent Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas, secured the third-most votes in the race with 2,959 or 19% of the votes cast.  

Farley could not be reached for comment. 

Elsewhere, Carl Williams and Doreen Ditoro secured their spot on the council, winning the most votes in the race for two unexpired terms in a crowded field of five. Williams received 31%, or 3,077 of the total votes. Ditoro, meanwhile, gained 2,764, or 28%. 

A total of 9,914 votes were cast in the race.  

Republican Vivian Parsons received the third-most votes in the race with 2,106 or 21% of the total vote. 

Ditoro said she ran on a platform to address long-standing quality-of-life issues in the city, which is why her campaign was successful. 

“I’m just happy that the residents and voters of Schenectady listened to my quality-of-life issues and voted for me,” she said. 

Williams said he was grateful for the opportunity to guide the city moving forward. 

“I am appreciative that the city has selected me to be an advocate for guiding our future,” he said. “A lot of emotions are going through my head … but I’ve always just held true to the fact that my message just resonates with the community and I’m just excited to have this opportunity.”

Tuesday’s results mean the City Council will have the most diverse makeup in its history, with four of the seven elected officials being persons of color. The council remains controlled by Democrats. 

But Williams said the makeup of the board extends beyond race, pointing to the varying age and income levels on the council.

He believes the diversity will allow the city to better address issues facing residents throughout the city.

“I’m very, very excited that the council will reflect our community,” Williams said. 

Meanwhile, Zalewski-Wildzunas, who mounted a pro-police campaign on the Conservative ballot line after failing to secure the Democratic ballot line, picked up 13% of the vote, or 2,057 — the fewest of any candidate seeking a four-year seat.  

Republicans Kevin Hammer and Brendan Nally, who were seeking four-year seats, received 2,186 and 1,773 votes, respectively. 

Therese McCalmon, a Working Families Party candidate who narrowly lost a Democratic primary bid to Mayor Gary McCarthy two years ago, received 939 votes. 

Absentee ballots are still outstanding, though they are unlikely to change the results. 

This year’s election comes at a pivotal time for the city, as it seeks to recover from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and address issues of violence seen throughout cities across the country over the past 18 months. 

Several activists, including those belonging to the Black Lives Matter movement, have raised concerns about policing and contend the city’s Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative plan, approved by the City Council earlier this year, doesn’t do enough to address underlying issues within the department. 

Several have suggested reallocating a portion of police funding to address other needs within the community, setting off a highly contested debate about the future of policing within the Electric City.  

Issues surrounding quality of life and aging infrastructure have also come to the forefront in recent months as the city seeks to decide how best to spend the $53 million in funds received under the American Rescue Plan Act, the $1.9 trillion COVID-relief package approved by Congress earlier this year. 

Voters throughout the city on Tuesday said they would like to see greater neighborhood investment to repair crumbling roads, upgrade dilapidated sidewalks and address issues of violence within their community.

Some criticized the recent development of the downtown area, saying the investments made have done little to improve their quality of life and those that live in places like Hamilton Hill and the Mont Pleasant neighborhoods. 

“It’s nice to have a pretty downtown, does it help me? Not in the least. I drive past it,” said Ray Delmoor, a registered Democrat who voted down the party’s ballot line.  

A Mont Pleasant resident, Delmoor said he’s particularly concerned about repairing the city’s aging infrastructure and addressing quality of life issues such as noise and litter. He would like the city to bolster code enforcement and extend outreach to neighborhoods in order to address dilapidated properties.

Delmoor believes the investment will help grow the city.  

“That’s the key for any city,” he said. “Invest in the community and then that should spread out.”

Elsewhere, Roop DePaul said she would like to see the city utilize American Rescue Plan funds to repave streets and hire additional police officers in order to address issues of violence.

She said bullets have hit the side of her Lincoln Street home and added there are residents in her neighborhood living in fear because of violence.   

DePaul, who is not affiliated with any political party, voted down the Democratic ballot line.

“Let’s get this place safe and livable, so you don’t have to watch over your shoulder. I’ve had bullets graze my house. … I mean come on. And the taxes are so high and you still have to live there. It’s not a liability, it’s an asset buying property,” she said.  

Ron Belli, meanwhile, said he voted for those on the Conservative ballot line simply because he believes the all-Democrat City Council needs to have balance.

“I think we should have a more well-rounded council,” he said after voting at Schenectady High School.

Oriana Miles also voted at Schenectady High School.

She said the city needs to do a better job of investing in local communities and addressing the needs of all residents, instead of just “the nicest places.”

“We’re getting money in COVID relief, so how that is spent and where it is spent is really important to me,” she said. “I think in Schenectady we neglect some of the most spaces that need the most help. So, having people on the City Council that are dedicating themselves to helping all people of Schenectady and not just some of the quote-unquote nicest places.”

Categories: News, Schenectady County

One Comment


Just a friendly reminder to the winners and losers, please pick up your signs asap. I know it’s a necessary evil of running for office but now that the campaign is over, getting them removed is a sign of responsibility, which is the best sign.

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