The Schenectady County Legislature will have new leadership next year, after its Democratic chairwoman and deputy chairman both opted not to run for re-election this fall.
Judy Dagostino, who took over as chairwoman from the departing Susan Savage in 2011, will leave the Legislature at the end of the year.
Dr. Brian Gordon, the deputy chairman and a two-term member of the Legislature, also confirmed he will not seek re-election.
Dagostino, who was first elected to represent Rotterdam as a Republican in 2001, helped swing the majority in favor of the Democrats following her defection to that party in 2003. As a Democrat, she became a close confidante to Savage, who became chairwoman when the majority officially changed hands in 2004. Savage appointed Dagostino as vice chairwoman three years later.
Dagostino cited her desire to spend more time with her family in making her decision to leave politics, according to party officials. She could not be reached Wednesday.
Similarly, Gordon said he wants to spend more time with family, including two teenage children now attending high school. The 46-year-old orthopedic surgeon from Niskayuna was also recently appointed to the board at St. Peters Health Partners Medical Group and continues to practice medicine — career endeavors that will make it difficult for him to devote the necessary time to the Legislature.
“If they could make a 30-hour day, it’d be easier,” he said. “Really, it comes down to an issue of time.”
Gordon was an advocate for going forward with the controversial new, 200-bed nursing home now under construction on Hetcheltown Road in Glenville. The $44 million Glendale Home project broke ground last year and is expected to be completed by the end of this year.
“That’s been a priority of mine — we need to have the ability to take care of people who can’t afford to be in a private facility,” he said. “I’m very proud that we’re taking that step to show that commitment to our elderly.”
The impending departure of Dagostino from District 4 and Gordon from District 3 deprives the Democratic ticket in November of two candidates who routinely trounced opponents in elections. Both easily won re-election in 2008.
County Democratic Committee Chairman Brian Quail lamented the loss of two candidates he considers “outstanding legislators,” and said their absence from the ticket won’t go unnoticed. But he said the loss of two incumbents is to be expected when eight legislative seats are up for re-election.
“It’s understandable there will be some turnover,” he said.
The county Democratic Committee recently endorsed Rory Fluman, a member of the Scotia Board of Trustees, to run in place of Gordon. The committee also endorsed Conservative Randy Pascarella and Democrat Matt Martin for vacancies in District 4 — which includes Rotterdam, Princetown and Duanesburg — but it was unclear which candidate will run for the four-year seat Dagostino will vacate.
Martin was appointed to the Legislature earlier this year, replacing Angelo Santabarbara after he was elected to the state Assembly last year. There are two years remaining on Santabarbara’s term, meaning whoever wins his seat will also need to seek re-election in 2015.
The Democrats also endorsed incumbents Karen Johnson in District 1, Philip Fields in District 2 and Martin Finn in District 3. Also endorsed was Catherine Gatta, who was elected to serve out the term vacated when Savage left the Legislature in 2011. Gatta will vie for her first full term representing District 3. In addition, the committee endorsed incumbents Tony Jasenski and Holly Vellano, a Conservative who caucuses with the Democrats.
Losing two popular incumbents could also provide a chance for Republicans to once again establish a foothold in the Legislature. Since the departure of Robert Farley in 2011, James Buhrmaster has served as the Legislature’s lone GOP and minority caucus member.
“It’s a great opportunity,” said Buhrmaster, who also serves as chairman of the county’s Republican Committee.
The GOP has endorsed Benjamin Wallach, marketing director for the Niskayuna Co-op, in District 1 and Jason Planck, an advocate for the disabled, in District 2. In District 3, the committee endorsed Glenville Town Board member Alan Boulant, U.S. Army veteran Nicholas Gerace, and Grant Socha, a Conservative and vice president of Socha Management.
For District 4, the Republicans endorsed Brian McGarry, who ran unsuccessfully for Rotterdam town supervisor, and Charles Quadrini, a member of the committee. Buhrmaster said the committee is still deliberating on whom to run for the third available seat in that district.
Buhrmaster was confident the party will make inroads in this election. He faulted many of the incumbents for their support on contentious issues, such as the Glendale project and overriding the 2 percent tax cap last fall.
“There are a number of people who are still running that were on the wrong side of those issues,” he said. “This is a good opportunity for us to make some headway.”