Mayor Brian U. Stratton announced Monday he would not run for the congressional seat once held by his father, opting instead to work toward the city’s continued revitalization.
“I am very pleased with my decision. I am focused on the city,” Stratton said. He called being mayor “an honor … [and] a job that I truly enjoy.”
Stratton said as mayor he wants to secure federal and state money to revitalize the city’s neighborhoods and to rebuild the city police department’s leadership and management. “We have already begun important work on many on these initiatives, and I want to be a part of moving them forward to completion,” he said in a news release.
Stratton said he gave “serious and thorough consideration” to his decision not to seek the seat being vacated by Rep. Michael McNulty, D-Green Island, and believed he would have won had he entered the race. But, he said, “there are more exciting and energizing things here as mayor.”
Brian Quail, chairman of the Schenectady County Democratic Committee, said local Democrats are pleased with Stratton’s decision. “He would have been an outstanding congressman, just as he is an outstanding mayor. The decision he made is good for Schenectady,” he said.
McNulty, D-Green Island, announced in October he would retire from his 21st Congressional District seat in January 2009 after 20 years in office. His announcement came during Stratton’s re-election bid to a second four-year term.
Many thought Stratton would seek his father’s former seat, banking on high name recognition and his record as mayor to power through the competition. But Stratton declared throughout his mayoral campaign he would serve his whole, four-year term if re-elected.
After his re-election, he investigated the possibility of running, even visiting with representatives of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington, D.C.
Local party officials said he became worried when the name of Paul Tonko surfaced as a candidate for the congressional seat. Tonko retired last year as assemblyman of the 105th Assembly District after 24 years to become CEO of the New York State Department of Energy Research and Development.
HIGH STAKES GAME
There were also concerns about the large cost to mount a congressional campaign, estimated at $1 million, and the potential loss of congressional seats due to population decline in New York, following the 2010 Census. New York lost two congressional seats following the 2000 Census and currently has 29 seats.
Tonko has refused to signal his intentions, clearly to the frustration of party officials. “It is fair to say everyone is eagerly awaiting Paul’s decision,” Quail said.
“The time for people to declare their candidacies is fast approaching, and all of this underscores the importance that the field needs to firm up,” he said.
Stratton said the congressional race remains fluid because of the Tonko question. Indeed, Quail said, the Schenectady County Democratic Committee has withheld its endorsement until “the various candidates decide whether they are in or out.”
Phil Steck and Tracey Brooks, Democrats in the race, have sought the county committee’s endorsement.
Brooks is the former Capital Region director for U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton and is a lifelong resident of the Albany area.
She currently faces Steck, Colonie Democratic committee chairman and a partner in the Albany law firm of Cooper Erving & Savage.
Steck has the endorsements of more than 30 politicians from Albany and Rensselaer counties, said Steck political director Ken Bulko. “We are adding endorsements by the day. Phil is doing a very good job of gobbling up the local elected officials.”
Brooks picked up a key endorsement Monday from Green Island Mayor Ellen McNulty Ryan, who is Michael McNulty’s sister. Ryan will also serve as Brooks’ campaign committee chairwoman.
Bulko said Steck’s strength lies in Albany and Rensselaer counties, which represents 60 percent of the 21st Congressional District. The rest of the district includes Schenectady, Montgomery and Schoharie counties. He said Steck has picked up the endorsement of former Amsterdam mayor John Duchessi, a Democrat who tried unsuccessfully to regain the mayor’s office last year.
“Duchessi still has an organization in Amsterdam,” Bulko said.
Republican J. Chris Callaghan, a former Saratoga County treasurer who ran unsuccessfully for state comptroller two years ago, said he will decide within two weeks whether he will mount a campaign for the congressional seat.