SARATOGA COUNTY – Asserting that “facts matter” and “truth matters,” Ron Kim, an attorney and former Saratoga Springs public safety commissioner who said one of his first lines of business at the helm of the Spa City would be to launch an investigation into the death of Darryl Mount, declared victory in a three-person race for mayor late Tuesday.
“So, we won,” Kim said to the triumphant roar of dozens of supporters at the Embassy Suites, where he was joined by city Democrats.
Kim carried nearly 48% of the vote and held a 262 vote lead, to Heidi Owen West’s 44.8%, with 415 absentee ballots to be counted, according to tallies released by the Saratoga County Board of Elections.
West, an independent candidate endorsed by city Republicans, conceded.
At the city Republican’s campaign gathering at the Holiday Inn of Saratoga Springs, Chris Obstarczyk, chairman of city Republicans, said it was a Democratic city.
“It really takes a village to do this,” Kim said.
Independent mayor candidate Robin Dalton, the city’s departing public safety commissioner, finished a distant third. She was a self-proclaimed underdog who showed up at the Democrat’s party by night’s end.
Mayor Meg Kelly, a two-term Democrat, chose not to seek re-election.
Kim told a reporter he would be the state’s first Asian-American mayor.
“It’s good to have people who look like me in that position,” he said. “Also, we’ve gone through this difficult time about race relations in our city. So it says something that our city would step up, and that’s a positive.”
In another key city race, James Montagnino of the Democratic line declared victory over Tracey LaBelle of the GOP line in the race for public safety commissioner. LaBelle conceded.
In the mayor’s race, Kim voted at the City Center in the morning, saying he had knocked on up to 7,000 doors during the campaign, and expressed a level of optimism.
“We’ve done all the work. We had a plan. We executed it. And now you just trust the voters.”
Kim said his top three priorities would be to launch a city investigation into the 2013 death of Mount, a biracial man who was in a coma for nine months following a police chase that ended in a construction zone.
“We need to resolve that,” Kim said while also expressing a desire for infrastructure repairs and to preserve the city’s premium.
In regards to inroads with Black Lives Matter activists, who celebrated alongside Kim at the campaign party, Kim said, “We’ve already met with them. We’ve got a relationship at least. I think really just taking those steps of doing an investigation finally is going to do a lot,” he said.
Spotted at the Caroline Street Elementary School polling site, West said, “I feel great about the campaign I ran.”
She noted door-knocking, meet and greet events, and a significant amount of individual meetings with would-be voters. “I don’t think I could do one more thing to get into that seat,” West said.
Her top priority would be to enhance public safety and to work with the commissioner to ensure the city is safe for everyone, she said.
Dozens of other elected positions were also to be filled throughout the county, which posted unofficial results.
Incumbent Clifton Park supervisor Philip Barrett on the Republican line retained his seat against Melissa Boxer of the Democratic line, as did longtime incumbent Town Justice James Hughes, a Republican who defeated Democratic challenger Jennifer Jeram.
In the race for two Clifton Park council seats, Linda Walowit and Anthony Morelli on the GOP line defeated Alexander Patterson on the Democratic line.
In Milton, Republican Scott Ostrander defeated incumbent supervisor Benny Zlotnick, who isn’t affiliated with a party but was endorsed by Democrats, and Barbara Kerr, who ran on the United Milton line.
Feedback from Saratoga Springs voters indicated a desire for political infighting to cease.
Voter Cynthia Eletto, a 20-plus year resident of the city, said she most wanted the city to improve public safety and show a commitment to climate change.
Eletto said she voted for Kim because of his experience and knowledge of the city.
Arthur Gonick, a resident of the city since the 1980s, said he wanted the new administration to address the closing of bar times to combat violence.
“We need that resolved in a way that the city can also control it, and not have to go to the county for changes,” Gonick said.
“And then I think we need leadership that is going to bring diverse people together,” he said. “What we went through last summer cannot continue” in terms of the concerns about interactions with BLM activists.
“I would say that’s the prominent thing, but I also think we’re just not making efforts to get along anymore,” Gonick said. “I don’t know the race components of the people who got involved in the stabbing this weekend. They could all be white. It really doesn’t matter. We’re just not getting along.”
Peter Shea, a 30-year resident of Spa City, said he was chiefly concerned about the situating of businesses and the hospital.
“I live in a development that’s close to the hospital that’s going to be impacted by hospital expansion,” Shea said. “So I’m concerned about elected representatives who support the hospital expansion. And I’m worried about schools and taxes, those sorts of things, not wanting them to go up.”
Shea said he found the negative campaigning amongst the mayoral candidates in mailings to his home somewhat off-putting.
“I’d like to make up my own mind instead of the character assassination, which seems to be a fairly common tactic these days,” he said.
Lori Shirley, a resident of 15 years, entered the polls concerned about voting rights and the environment.
“Just working together in Saratoga better,” Shirley said. “It’s kind of gotten weird lately. I just want the officials to listen to the people a little bit more. I just feel like they’re really alienated from us for quite a long time now.”
In Saratoga Springs, 769 absentee ballots were sent to voters, with 406 returned as of Monday. That total is likely to increase, Roger Schiera, Republican Commissioner of the Saratoga County Board of Elections said.
Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.