The race for mayor in Gloversville may well be decided on primary day, in which incumbent Dayton King and newcomer Bill Rowback are competing for the Republican nomination. Both candidates — who are each running on other ballot lines in the November general election — told this newspaper that they regard Tuesday's outcome as the most likely indicator of who will become mayor.
With that in mind, and primary day fast approaching, here’s what you need to know before heading into the voting booth Tuesday.
The race between King and Rowback heated up this summer, with Rowback criticizing King for having a second job as a real estate agent and King questioning Rowback’s lack of experience.
Rowback, a 28-year veteran of the city’s fire department, has been on a meeting blitz since his campaign began, bringing himself into contact with city officials as well as public housing tenants at Gloversville Housing Authority board meetings. He told The Daily Gazette in July that his goal is to knock on every door in Gloversville before the election, and he can often be seen driving around the city with a giant campaign sign on a trailer attached to his truck.
Significant agitation has occurred online from the Rowback camp, with Bill Rowback’s son, Brandon Rowback, posting on Facebook videos that contain his views on the campaign as it’s progressed and King’s performance as mayor.
Brandon Rowback also recently filed a Freedom of Information Law request for emails between King and former city clerk Susan Semione. He told the newspaper last month that the FOIL request was not connected to his father’s campaign, and was simply an effort to understand why Semione was not reappointed as clerk during the most recent cycle.
City officials told The Daily Gazette that the request was a politically motivated fishing expedition and said at a recent council meeting it would wind up costing taxpayers money. At that same August council meeting, King asked Brandon Rowback what exactly he was after, an interaction that resulted in Brandon Rowback narrowing his request and the city later complying.
The backdrop to the campaign was an at-times bitter budget dispute — resolved in May — between the Gloversville Fire Department and City Hall. City officials, led by King, wanted the fire department to trim their payroll by $300,000 annually or face a November referendum that, if passed, would have converted the fire department to a hybrid volunteer-career department.
The department, of which Bill Rowback is a member, currently has 28 full-time firefighters.
The five-month impasse was broken after the department’s union agreed to reduce minimum staffing levels, amid other concessions. A seven-year contract was signed in May.
Bill Rowback said at his campaign launch in February that his motivation for running for mayor had nothing to do with his status as a firefighter, and, if elected, he would quit the department. He said instead that his campaign is an effort to restore pride in Gloversville and bring jobs back to the area.
Rowback also said in February that he’s interested in bringing activities like basketball tournaments back to city parks, instituting an adopt-a-street program, and creating a citywide community learning center where residents can learn basic property management and upkeep skills to help combat blight in the city.
Rowback, who is endorsed by the Fulton County Republican Committee, has hit King for his second job as a real estate agent with CMK & Associates. Rowback has said, if elected, he would be a full-time mayor with no outside employment.
The mayor of Gloversville makes $42,000 annually.
King was first elected to office in 2009 and won re-election in 2013. He’s previously told The Daily Gazette that he’s focused on running a clean campaign centered on the accomplishments of his eight-year tenure.
These include, he said, maintaining a flat tax rate for the past six years, adding police officers to increase public safety and combat the city’s drug problem, creating a two-year position focused on code enforcement and fighting blight via a state grant, and helping to bring several businesses to the city that generate over $1 million in tax revenue.
King also touted his administration’s handling of the fire department contract negotiation, which he said was fair to both taxpayers and the department. The department had been without a contract since 2013, when it expired.
King has defended himself from political attack on Facebook and in the press. In response to Rowback’s criticism of his second job as a real estate agent, King said he’s very accessible through his office in City Hall and on social media, and gives his cellphone number out to anyone who asks. He’s also said his job as mayor comes before his job as a real estate agent.
As for Brandon Rowback’s FOIL request, King said the initial request was for all emails between himself and the city clerk spanning a full year. The request would have taken months to complete and would’ve necessitated the hiring of additional personnel, he said, which would’ve cost taxpayer money. Those conditions are what led him to ask Brandon Rowback what he was after at the August council meeting, a line of questioning that was criticized in an editorial in this newspaper.
Looking forward to Tuesday and beyond
With no Democratic Party candidate, both Republican contenders told the Gazette on Friday that they believe primary day will be the clincher in deciding who will be the next mayor of Gloversville. Both camps are also focused on making sure their supporters turn out to vote Tuesday.
“I think right now most people have made up their minds, so I think it’s really who can get their supporters to the polls,” King said Friday.
He added that his campaign will be focused on reaching voters through phone calls, social media, email and knocking on doors to encourage supporters to get out and vote.
“I feel very confident that if the people who support me show up on Tuesday, we’re going to win,” King said. “I think if I win the Republican primary I’m definitely in in November. I think for [Rowback] this will be his best showing in the Republican primary because he’s supported by the [Fulton County Republican Committee]. But I think if he loses the primary I have a lot broader support among all voters who like the direction we’re headed in.”
Rowback said Friday that his efforts before primary day are focused on meeting as many voters as possible. On Friday he held a meet-and-greet chicken barbecue at his campaign headquarters on South Main Street, and later Friday was scheduled to present his platform (accompanied by pizza) to residents of Forest Hill Towers and Kingsboro Towers, which are part of the Gloversville Housing Authority.
“And Monday we’ll be knocking on as many doors as we can, and then we’ll wait until 9:30 p.m. [Tuesday] to see the results of me winning,” said Rowback, adding that he’s campaigning right up until the general election Nov. 7 regardless of the primary results. “I’m feeling great, I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback out in the community ... and for me it means a lot to hear the residents of the city of Gloversville supporting me.”
Rowback said he hasn’t considered what direction, political or otherwise, he’ll go in if he loses the election.
“I’m not even looking at that,” he said. “I feel deep in my heart that I’m going to win.”
Both candidates are running on the Conservative party line, meaning they will square off again in the Nov. 7 general election. King is also running on the Independent line but his petitions have been challenged by Brandon Rowback. King countered Brandon Rowback’s challenge, and the matter is working its way through county court.
Both King and Rowback have said they’ll participate in a mayoral forum at 7 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Gloversville Theater, 42 N. Main St. Fliers announcing the event say that residents will be afforded the chance to submit questions to moderators, who will then present them to the candidates.
City resident Phillip Carlson announced his bid for mayor in April but has since dropped out of the race and will not appear on the ballot in Gloversville.
- Ward 1: Forest Hill Towers, 31 Forest St.
- Ward 2: Church of The Holy Spirit, 149 S. Main St.
- Ward 3: Church of The Holy Spirit, 149 S. Main St.
- Ward 4: Kingsboro Towers, 2 Frontage Rd.
- Ward 5: United Methodist Church, 316 N. Main St.
- Ward 6: Ambulance Service of Fulton County, 8 Frontage Road.
Polls in Gloversville are open from noon to 9 p.m. A ward map can be found on the city’s website at www.cityofgloversville.com.