Schenectady’s last lieutenant governor, Mary Anne Krupsak

Lt. Governor Mary Anne Krupsak stands with Democrat friends during a testimonial dinner for Schenectady County Democratic Chairman Francis C. Behan in January 1975. From left are Rep. Samuel S. Stratton, Rotterdam Town Supervisor John F. Kirvin, Stanley Niemic and Behan. Krupsak was lieutenant governor from 1975 to 1978 and was the first woman to hold the office. A native of Schenectady, Krupsak grew up in Amsterdam.

Lt. Governor Mary Anne Krupsak stands with Democrat friends during a testimonial dinner for Schenectady County Democratic Chairman Francis C. Behan in January 1975. From left are Rep. Samuel S. Stratton, Rotterdam Town Supervisor John F. Kirvin, Stanley Niemic and Behan. Krupsak was lieutenant governor from 1975 to 1978 and was the first woman to hold the office. A native of Schenectady, Krupsak grew up in Amsterdam.

SCHENECTADY Mary Anne Krupsak said she’s never lost her passion for politics. She’s also never shaken the memories of just how exhausting the campaigns can be.

“I still like politics, but running a campaign takes a lot out of you,” said Krupsak, an Amsterdam native, a former New York state legislator and also the lieutenant governor under Democrat Hugh Carey back in the mid 1970s. “People don’t realize how you have to be everywhere, you have to go everywhere, you have to attend every meeting. It’s very difficult to run for office.”

“My family was always interested in politics so I guess it rubbed off on me,” she said.

Krupsak, now 90 and a resident of Geneva in the Finger Lakes region, still follows politics and has been watching closely the progress of current New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, also a former lieutenant governor before taking over the helm when Andrew Cuomo resigned back in August. Last week, Hochul selected Schenectady native and current member of the U.S. House of Representatives Antonio Delgado as her second in command.

“I don’t know too much about him because I’ve been out in the western part of the state for a while, but I think it’s great,” said Krupsak, who was born in Schenectady and raised in Amsterdam. “But I think [Hochul] is doing a great job, and as she goes on and gets more involved I think she will become a better governor and better legislator.”

A graduate of Wilbur Lynch High School in Amsterdam, Krupsak’s parents were both pharmacists and operated a drugstore on Hibbard Street on the east side of the city. Her father, Ambrose Krupczak, was a Democratic member of the Board of Supervisors in Montgomery County, representing Amsterdam’s Fourth Ward.

“My father was forever involved in politics,” said Krupsak. “He was an elected supervisor for a long time, so we all understood politics and the importance of running a good, hard campaign. I appreciated politics and how important that was in our lives.”

Krupsak graduated from the University of Rochester in 1953 with a degree in history, then earned a master’s in public communications from Boston University in 1955. She worked as a public information officer for the state Department of Commerce, then joined the staff of gubernatorial candidate W. Averill Harriman in 1954. Harriman won the governor’s office and Krupsak remained on his staff for an entire term, 1955 to 1959, before Harriman was defeated for re-election in 1959.

Krupsak then worked for Schenectady Mayor and later U.S. Rep. Sam Stratton for a year before heading off to the University of Chicago Law School, graduating in 1962.

“He was a very dynamic mayor of Schenectady, and everybody knew and respected him,” Krupsak said of Stratton, who represented Schenectady and Montgomery County in the U.S. House of Representatives for nearly four decades. “That was a great experience, but I probably just thought I should become a lawyer by the time I was in my 30s. But he was a great guy.”

After law school, Krupsak landed a job in New York City with Howard J. Samuels, then a vice president with Mobil Oil who would go on to run unsuccessfully for governor and lieutenant governor. Krupsak then returned to Albany to work as an assistant counsel for the state Senate staff, and in 1970 she married Edwin Margolis, a law professor at Hunter College and a Democratic counsel for the state Assembly.

Around that time Krupsak jumped into the political arena herself, winning an election to the Assembly. For two terms (1969-1973) she represented Montgomery County and part of Schenectady County in the Assembly before winning a seat in the state Senate from 1973-1975. Interning on her staff that final year was a young Schenectady County Community College student named Gary B. McCarthy, now the mayor of Schenectady.

“Working with her was an exciting time for me and it kind of shifted the focus of what I wanted to do with my life,” said McCarthy. “I haven’t talked to her in a few years, but she was always a woman with a lot of energy, and she managed to keep a lot of ideas and concepts and projects going on at the same time. The staff was always working, ready to follow up on anything for her and make sure she was briefed on everything, and she was always gracious and kind to us. She was and is a great lady.”

In May of 1974, while serving in the state Senate, Krupsak announced her plan to run for lieutenant governor. To much of the surprise of the political establishment, she won the Democratic primary, defeating Mario Cuomo, the party’s primary choice, and Antonio Olivieri, who was labeled a “liberal Manhattanite.” She went on to win the general election and help Carey and the Democrats take power in Albany after 16 years of Republicans in Nelson Rockefeller and Malcolm Wilson. Rockefeller had won four consecutive four-year terms as governor and was replaced by Wilson in 1973 when he resigned to become Gerald Ford’s vice president following the Watergate scandal and Richard Nixon’s resignation.

Krupsak got plenty of support that year from women’s rights groups, labor unions and other liberal organizations, but she says she never really thought of herself as a feminist.

“I didn’t give being a feminist much thought, and I just don’t think I used that term much at all back then,” she said. “I was happy being in politics, and I already had won two or three elections by then, so I just thought I would easily win again. And I did.”

The Carey-Krupsak honeymoon didn’t last long. At the time, news reports said Krupsak felt underutilized in her role as lieutenant governor, and while she can’t remember specifically why she grew disenchanted with Carey, she knows she wasn’t all that happy in the position.

“That was so long ago I can’t remember the details,” she said about the period some 44 years ago. “But it was probably something he did that upset me, probably some petition or something.”

Instead of running as Carey’s ticket mate, she chose to primary him for the party’s nomination for governor.

The pair engaged in a somewhat heated television debate in August of 1978 before the September primary, which Carey won before going on to claim his second term as governor in November, defeating Republican Perry Duryea. Krupsak told The Associated Press that her primary fight with Carey strengthened him for the general election.

“We have the leadership to defeat Perry Duryea, and now we have the momentum that was so missing in the start of this campaign,” Krupsak said in the AP story. It was her challenge, she suggested, that forced Carey “to go be with the people.”

Krupsak’s unsuccessful bid to wrestle the governor’s seat away from her fellow Democrat signaled the end of her political career. In 1980, she ran for the U.S. House of Representatives from the 30th District after moving to northern New York and lost to Republican David O’Brien Martin. In 1990, after relocating to North Chatham, she made a bid for a seat in the state Senate but also was unsuccessful, losing to Republican Stephen Saland.

Throughout this time she was a law partner in the firm of Krupsak and Mahoney in Albany, and after her husband died in 1993 she moved to Western New York, where she helped create an economic development consulting firm based in Buffalo. Her home in Geneva sits on Seneca Lake.

“I moved out here because I knew the area so well from my college days,” said Krupsak, who called herself a big Mario Cuomo fan while declining to offer any comment on his son, Andrew. “I love the lake. I love the whole region.”

AMSTERDAMIAN AT HEART

While Krupsak was born in Schenectady because her mother had a doctor here, she is an Amsterdamian to the core, with both her grandparents having long been Montgomery County residents since leaving Poland late in the 19th century.

And while her ties to Schenectady are strong, having represented much of the county and the Capital Region in the Assembly and Senate, Delgado will officially become the first native of the Electric City to be lieutenant governor. Winner of a seat in the House of Representatives from the 19th Congressional District in 2018 and 2020, Delgado was born in Schenectady and raised in the Hamilton Hill section of the city. Amsterdam native and U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko of the 20th District, which covers much of the northern part of the Capital Region, said he is a big fan of both Krupsak and Delgado.

“New York is a great state with incredible diversity and strength in its people and communities,” Tonko said in an email to The Gazette. “Having leaders who know our region and its array of needs is a huge benefit. I had the honor of knowing Mary Anne Krupsak personally and working with her professionally as lieutenant governor, and I am thankful to again have that same honor with Antonio Delgado. Their knowledge of the Capital Region and dedication to its residents serve our communities powerfully, and I look forward to building upon that effective response with Antonio as I have previously with Mary Anne.”

As Krupsak discovered, however, becoming lieutenant governor isn’t necessarily a stepping stone to the governor’s chair in Albany.

George Lunn, elected Schenectady’s mayor in 1911, became lieutenant governor under Democrat Al Smith in 1923, but never rose any higher in state politics. While he lived in Schenectady much of his adult life after moving to upstate by way of Iowa and New York City, Lunn did win a Congressional race in 1916, but then lost the Democratic primary bid for the U.S. Senate in 1920.

While they weren’t Schenectady natives, there were four Union College graduates who became lieutenant governors of New York. Addison Gardiner was an 1819 Union grad who reached the state’s second highest post, as did fellow Union grads David Floyd Jones (1832), Allen C. Beach (1848) and M. William Bray (1911). None of the four ever tried running for governor.

Martin Glynn, who was governor of the state from 1913 to 1914, also had a strong Schenectady connection, having spent time in the city at Union Graduate School after getting his four-year degree at Fordham. Glynn was the lieutenant governor under Democrat William Sulzer and finished his term when Sulzer was impeached in 1913. Glynn was defeated at the polls in 1914.

Joseph C. Yates remains the only Schenectady native to become governor of New York, serving a two-year term in 1823 and 1824 between the second and third terms of DeWitt Clinton. Yates, who was born in 1768 on Front Street in the Stockade section of the city, was also a founding trustee of Union College.

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