The Democrats for Change faction swept the city’s Democratic committee Tuesday in a primary victory reminiscent of former mayor Valerie Keehn’s two primaries.
They took at least 40 of 50 committee seats, according to unofficial results reported late Tuesday by the Saratoga County Board of Elections. One district had a tie.
Jeffrey Wait took the Democratic nomination for city judge and Shawn Thompson kept his seat on the state Democratic committee.
Wait squeezed out James Montagnino with 720 votes to Montagnino’s 669 votes, with 92 percent of districts reporting results late Tuesday.
He will face Republican Matthew Dorsey in the general election. “I’m very happy. I worked very hard,” Wait said.
Montagnino moved to the city in 2006. “I’m kind of happy that I did as well as I did, being the new kid on the block,” Montagnino said.
For the state committee, with 97 percent of districts reporting, Thompson took the seat with 1,090 votes, compared to Patrick Southworth’s 957.
“I feel very grateful that the voters recognized what we’re trying to do,” said Thompson, 41.
Southworth vowed to come back in two years.
The mood at Circus Cafe, where the Democrats for Change group met after poll results started to roll in, was victorious, especially after all three McTygue brothers lost their seats on the city committee. William, Peter and Thomas McTygue all were beaten by Democrats for Change candidates.
“Thirty-seven years of McTygue dominance has ended,” said Thilo Ullmann-Zahn, a Democrats for Change candidate who was re-elected.
Lou Schneider, also a United Democrats candidate and the current party chairman, lost his seat as well.
County Chairman Larry Bulman congratulated the “Change” candidates Tuesday night. “It’s a new day in Saratoga Springs for the Democratic Party, and it’s going to be a new day for the county committee,” he said.
Ken Klotz, a United Democrats supporter, said the defeat on the committee was “discouraging.”
“I hope they can step up now,” he said at Gaffney’s, where that faction met to tally poll results.
It was the first time in years there has been an organized effort to take over or retain control of the Democratic Party in the city.
There were 96 candidates running for 50 seats on the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee in Tuesday’s primary.
Both sides have blamed each other for not working together. Democrats for Change were accused of boycotting meetings and supporting Republicans for office, while United Democrats were said to exclude others’ views.
Committee members are unpaid at the county and state levels. At both levels, they make endorsements that can sway the electorate.
The party infighting is a carryover from 2005, when some Democrats opposed the party’s endorsement of Hank Kuczynski over Valerie Keehn for mayor. Keehn went on to beat Kuczynski in the primary and oust Republican incumbent Mike Lenz, and then sparred publicly with Commissioner of Public Works Thomas McTygue for two years while she was in office.
The undercurrent of discontent in the party split open last year when the leadership endorsed Gordon Boyd for mayor over Keehn. Keehn supporters lined up against McTygue supporters for the general election, and both incumbents lost while Republicans took their places.