SCHENECTADY — With a primary election fast approaching to determine who will represent the Democratic Party in the Schenectady mayoral race this fall, Mayor Gary McCarthy and City Council President Marion Porterfield will square off in a debate at SUNY Schenectady on Thursday evening.
The event, which is being co-sponsored by the college and The Daily Gazette, will take place at 7 p.m. in the school’s Carl B. Taylor Auditorium, with the event set to take place in advance of the June 27 primary.
With McCarthy seeking a fourth term in office and Porterfield launching an intra-party challenge to the incumbent, the Democratic colleagues are preparing for a high-stakes showdown.
“I’ll tell the story of a community that’s undergone a renaissance,” McCarthy said on Tuesday. “I’ve got a good team in place and I’d like to have the opportunity to keep them there.”
Porterfield said she plans to lay out her vision for the future of the city during Thursday’s debate.
“They haven’t given us questions, but I’m just going over what my platform is and anticipating what any of the questions might be,” she said on Tuesday.
Porterfield said that Thursday’s event will mark the first one-on-one debate of her 11-year political career.
McCarthy received the endorsement of the city’s Democratic party in January.
“I’m sure that the mayor will convince the voters that he has done a great job as mayor and that he deserves another term,” Schenectady Democratic Chairman Tom Bellick said of the debate.
“Things here in Schenectady have been the best right now that I’ve seen since moving here 35 years ago,” the chairman added.
The debate will be moderated by Daily Gazette Editor Miles Reed, with Gazette columnist Andrew Waite and a slate of journalists set to ask the candidates questions on a wide range of city topics.
“There seems to be a heightened interest in the mayoral race this year and it stands to reason,” Reed said. “It’s a faceoff between two long-serving Democrats who are well known in the community. We’re hoping the debate will allow voters to learn more about the candidates in their own words.”
Streaming options for the debate will be available on dailygazette.com.
McCarthy has already secured the Conservative party line for the Nov. 7 general election race, while Porterfield will also be running in a June 27 primary for the Working Families Party mayoral ballot line against candidate Ed Varno, a former lieutenant from the city of Schenectady Fire Department.
“I’m expecting a good outcome in both [primaries],” Porterfield said.
Republican mayoral candidate Matt Nelligan said he would be in attendance at the debate on Thursday evening, with plans to live-tweet his own responses to the questions posed to the Democratic candidates.
“I think McCarthy will lean on his granular experience as mayor to say that Marion is unqualified and I think Marion will say it’s time for change and that we need more affordable housing and that we need to focus more on people than politics,” he said on Tuesday. “But I think she’ll speak more in generalities. I think it will be more of a personality clash and a conflict over knowledge of substance more than a conflict over actual substance.”
McCarthy defeated Democratic primary challenger Thearse McCalmon en route to his general election win in 2019 to secure another term, a feat that McCarthy hopes to repeat this election cycle.
“It’s one of the ongoing forums and it’s the nature of the job,” he said of the debate. “I’m out in front of people every day and get asked questions every day. I look forward to this forum where we can articulate some of our accomplishments and talk about some of the things I want to do if I’m given the opportunity to continue to serve as mayor.”
Porterfield said on Tuesday that she is sensing more interest than normal in the upcoming Democratic primary.
Nelligan said he would like to see the Democratic candidates asked about the migrant issue that saw approximately 40 asylum seekers arrive via bus from New York City in the city of Albany on Saturday.
“I also think they should be asked about affordability and infrastructure,” Nelligan said. “I think they should be asked about crime since we’ve had two murders in the last week in the city. Affordable housing is an important point and, even though the school board is separate, I think education is an important point.”
Contact Ted Remsnyder at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @TedRemsnyder.