For the first time in seven years the Amsterdam Common Council will be controlled by Democrats.
The shift comes not from voters, but rather First Ward Alderman Joe Isabel’s recent change of heart.
He announced his switch in party enrollment from Republican to Democrat on Sunday, saying he’s been thinking about the change for a long time.
“I have made the difficult decision to switch my political party registration from Republican to Democrat,” he said in a statement. “While my views on how to move the city forward have not changed, I feel that the party has. Over the past seven years, I have felt the Republican Party slipping further away from the core values that are important to me.”
The switch will officially go into effect after the Nov. 6 election.
As the decision places the council under their control, the other Democratic-affiliated aldermen happily welcomed Isabel into their ranks.
“Joe is a dedicated and conscientious public servant, and he wants to move the city forward,” Democratic Committee City Chair Jeff Stark said in a statement, “He will make a good fit in our party, and I’m glad to have him on board.”
Democratic Party County Chair Bethany Schumann-McGhee agreed, saying, “His perspective from many years of public service will be an asset to us.”
Mayor Ann Thane put their past differences aside, also issuing a positive statement.
“It’s been a pleasure working with Joe these past few years,” she said. “I’m pleased that he’s now part of the team.”
The remaining Republicans on the council, Richard Leggiero and Gina DeRossi, could not be reached for comment on how Isabel’s switch will impact the council, but Stark said very little will likely change.
“This is Amsterdam,” he said. “Local politicians aren’t voting party lines. They’re voting their consciences.”
He went on to say that Isabel will likely most likely retain his seat despite the shift.
“It’s still Joe Isabel,” he said. “There are just as many Democrats that will vote for him now that he’s in the party than Republicans who won’t.”
Isabel said he’ll feel more comfortable working with Stark, Thane and the Democrats.
“I believe that their fiscally responsible and forward-thinking agenda is the right path for the City,” he said in a statement.
“I have learned that cooperation is better than confrontation. I will continue to work with elected officials from both parties to move the city forward.”