A previous version of this story incorrectly described Alliance Party candidate Robert Barnes’ resume. He was a Goose Hill neighborhood president in the Democratic Committee, not the neighborhood association. He may also be running a completely separate race from the already-announced City Council race between Councilman Ed Kosiur and challenger Joseph Kelleher. The county Board of Elections is seeking clarification from the state board, but believes those candidates will run head to head for a one-year term, while Barnes and any other candidate will run for the vacant three-year term.
A disaffected Democrat quit his committee seat Monday night to join the loyal opposition in Schenectady.
Robert Barnes will run for City Council on the Alliance Party line — and is likely to be endorsed by the Republicans as well.
He nearly joined the council a few months ago as a Democrat. He’s been a hardworking committeeman for years, getting petitions signed every summer for the local candidates. He was one of three interviewed by the Democrats for an appointment to the council this year.
But the Democrats gave the seat to Ed Kosiur, and Barnes is now running against him.
The Republicans and Alliance have also endorsed Joseph Kelleher for the November election. The Democrats have not yet announced their second candidate.
Barnes is the Goose Hill neighborhood president in the Democratic Committee, although he moved out of that neighborhood a decade ago. He lives in the upper Union Street neighborhood now.
He criticized the Democrats on the council for voting as their leaders directed, rather than doing “what the people want to do,” but backed away from directly criticizing Mayor Gary McCarthy.
McCarthy has strong roots in the Goose Hill neighborhood.
And while Barnes said he wanted to reduce taxes, he hasn’t decided if he would vote to spend gambling revenue on tax reduction, if a casino is sited in Schenectady.
Former Councilman Carl Erikson pushed the council to vote to spend that money on property-tax reduction.
Barnes said taxes are his number one concern.
“The taxes are too damned high,” Barnes said, adding that he wants to find more revenue streams.
“And that doesn’t mean a casino, either,” he said, before explaining that he was “neutral” on whether a casino should be built in Schenectady.
As for how to spend the gambling revenue, if any, he said he wasn’t sure if it would be worth it to reduce taxes in that way.
“Is it going to save the taxpayers $100?” he said. “I’m not sure. . . . If it’s in the best interest of the people, I’d truly consider it.”
He pledged that he would be an independent voice on the council and would advocate for neighborhoods.
“I think they’ve lost focus on the neighborhoods,” he said of the Democrats on the council.
And, he said, they are “beholden” to Democratic leaders.
“One party rule is not a good thing to have,” he said.
Alliance Party founder Roger Hull said he endorsed Barnes because the council needs members “who will do the right thing.”
Barnes, 52, graduated from Norwich University in Vermont with a Bachelor’s of Science in business administration management.
He is a contract management specialist for the state, currently managing contracts and grants for the comptroller’s office.
He also has 12 years of military experience, in which he rose to the level of captain in the Army. He did not serve during an active combat period.
He ran unsuccessfully against Assemblyman James Tedisco, R-Glenville, in 1994. He also unsuccessfully ran a primary against two Democrats for a City Council race in 1996, as well as for school board in 2010.
The second City Council seat only opened up a week ago, when Councilman Erikson resigned without warning. The Democrats and Republicans have until Sept. 16 to get a second name on the ballot, and do not have to collect signatures because of the late date of the resignation.
But the Alliance Party, which didn’t garner enough votes to be considered a “major” party, must gather 631 signatures by Aug. 19 to get Barnes on the ballot.
Barnes was confident that he could gather 1,000 signatures in that time. He needs more than the minimum because the major parties tend to challenge petitions and get names thrown out on technicalities.