SCHENECTADY — Frustrated by a divided government, a Schenectady community leader is hoping to take matters into her own hands.
Marva Isaacs, 79, will run for City Council as a Democrat. The Hamilton Hill Neighborhood Association president confirmed her ambitions Thursday following an Albany Times Union story reporting her bid.
The city’s first declared candidate of 2023 hopes to legislate independently from the all-Democratic council, which is divided between a progressive wing of color and white wing of moderates. The factions have beefed over police overtime, COVID-19 relief spending and accusations of racism.
“There shouldn’t be ‘Black and white,’” Issacs said regarding the council. “Because if you cut me, the same blood is gonna run out. I don’t understand this nonsense.”
Isaacs said she never had any intention of running for city office before witnessing such infighting last year.
If elected, the former Schenectady County Jail GED instructor would be the City Council’s oldest lawmaker.
She’s no stranger to working with local politicians. Within the last 10 years, Isaacs worked with an array of local and state officials to address economic development and gun violence in low-income city neighborhoods. In the 2021 election, she mounted support for pro-police, Conservative Party-backed candidate Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas.
This year, Isaacs supports the re-election bid of Mayor Gary McCarthy against a potential challenge from City Council President and fellow Hamilton Hill resident Marion Porterfield.
“[McCarthy] is a person that when you talk to him, he listens,” Isaacs said. “And he gets some things done.”
McCarthy, who didn’t immediately respond to comment, described the council on Sunday as “not always as smooth or as results-oriented as I’d like.”
Two out of three council candidates running for re-election so far have publicly declared support for the longtime Democratic politician. Councilman Carl Williams on Sunday said that he’s focused on his own campaign.
Porterfield’s term expires in 2025. She plans to make a final decision on whether to run for mayor after meeting with city Democratic Party leaders this weekend.
The 67-year-old has been council president since 2021, a member of the legislative body since 2012 and a longtime member of the Hamilton Hill Neighborhood Association. She and Isaacs don’t have a close rapport.
“Everybody has an opportunity to put their hat in the ring,” Porterfield said about Isaacs’ bid. “If that’s what she chooses to do, she can do that so that’s the only thoughts I have and the opportunity is open to anyone who feels like they can contribute and want to be able to do that.”
Council elections in Schenectady are citywide, enabling voters to choose from the four highest vote-getters. Winning a Democratic primary usually guarantees success in the general election as the city’s voters are overwhelmingly enrolled as Democrats. Voters haven’t re-elected a non-Democrat to the council since 2015 and a Republican since 2001.
Republican Matt Nelligan on Dec. 27 announced he’s challenging McCarthy for the mayor’s post.
The newly-revived Schenectady Republican Committee expects to launch a series of council bids within the next two weeks. GOP candidates Brendan Nally, Vivian Parsons and Kevin Hammer ran unsuccessfully two years ago.
The city’s Democratic Committee will hold candidate endorsement interviews on Saturday. It’s unclear if two-term Councilman John Polimeni will run again.
Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at [email protected] or 518-527-7659. Follow him on Twitter @TylerAMcNeil.
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I like Marva, she is always at the same places as me, when Chief Clifford had his party, Marva was there. She supports the police and she is color blind and just a good person. I have never heard anyone say a bad word about her. Good luck Marva.