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What you need to know for 11/20/2017

Highlights as voters get ready to head to polls Tuesday

Highlights as voters get ready to head to polls Tuesday

State propositions on all ballots, even where there are no local contests
Highlights as voters get ready to head to polls Tuesday
In Saratoga Springs, city voters are being asked whether to change the city charter.
Photographer: ERICA MILLER

Correction: This article was updated at 5:45 p.m. Sunday. Schenectady City Councilwoman Marion Porterfield has not endorsed Working Families candidate Damonni Farley for a City Council seat

CAPITAL REGION — Voters on Tuesday will collectively make decisions ranging from whether to hold a convention to rethink state government to picking who oversees the plowing of their roads. This year, everyone has something at stake, even if their local political candidates are unopposed.

There are three statewide ballot propositions, including one on whether the state should hold its first constitutional convention since 1967. Saratoga Springs residents, meanwhile, will be deciding whether to change their unusual form of city government, and high-profile mayor's races are being decided there and in Gloversville.

In Schenectady, the City Council race has revealed a deep split among the Democrats who currenly hold six of the seven council seats, with some council members endorsing Working Families candidates over their party's incumbents.

All the races are taking place in an off-year, when no federal or statewide offices are at stake, and historically most people don't bother to vote.

All the ballot questions should have answers — barring cliffhangers — by late Tuesday night. Polls across the state will open at 6 a.m. and close at 9 p.m., and all polling places are open, even if there are no contested races in your town or city.

Here are some highlights:

STATEWIDE PROPOSITIONS

By far the most attention has been on Prop. 1, which asks whether voters want to hold a constitutional convention in 2019. Supporters see it as an opportunity to reform a state legislative process that has been plagued by corruption and write new ethics rules, while opponents fear delegates in the end could make few changes, and could potentially threaten provisions like the one that keeps all state forest land "forever wild" and free from commercial development.

A Siena College poll released earlier this week found that likely voters are leaning against a convention by a better than 2-to-1 ratio. The last two times the issue has been on the state ballot voters turned it down.

Prop. 2 would allow courts to reduce or eliminate the public pensions of public officials convicted of public corruption. The third proposition would make it easier for local governments in the Adirondacks and Catskills to use state land for their own public purposes, setting up a land bank of forest preserve land they could draw against. Any such land swaps now require their own statewide proposition to be passed.

SARATOGA SPRINGS

In Saratoga Springs, city voters are being asked whether to change the city charter: The proposed new charter would scrap the current commissioner form of government in favor of a seven-member City Council which would hire a city manager to oversee day-to-day city operations. The current system, in which commissioners are elected to oversee a specific department and also sit together as the City Council, has been criticized as antiquated and inefficient, while defenders of the current system say it's part of what has made the city economically successful. The charter changes were proposed by a commission chaired by Skidmore College political science professor Robert Turner, after being appointed in 2016 by Mayor Joanne Yepsen.

With Yepsen not running for re-election, the city will also elect a new mayor. Republican Mark Baker, the long-time executive director of the Saratoga Springs City Center, supports the current government form, while Democrat Meg Kelly — currently Yepsen's deputy mayor — supports the change. Baker also has the Conservative, Independence and Reform ballot lines, while Kelly has the Working Families and Women's Equality lines.

With Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen also retiring, voters will chose between Democrat Peter Martin and Republican Donald Braim to replace him. If the charter is changed, it won't take effect until 2019.

To represent the city on the county Board of Supervisors, Democrats Patricia Friesen and Tara Gaston are running against Republicans Matthew Veitch and John Safford.

SCHENECTADY

With three City Council seats at stake, three Democratic incumbents are seeking re-election, and two Republicans are running, as is third-party candidate Damonni Farley. The Democrats are Marion Porterfield, John Mootooveren and Karen M. Zalweski-Wildzunas, and the Republicans are Mohamed Hafez and Rima A. Cerrone.

Farley, who had a judge throw out his efforts to force a September Democratic primary, is running on the Green and Working Families lines. In a show of division within the council majority, Leesa Perazzo, the council president and a Democrat, has endorsed Farley.

SCHENECTADY COUNTY

There's a spirited race for supervisor in Niskayuna, where Joe Landry, the Democratic incumbent, is being challeged by Republican Yasmine Syed and Green Party candidate Elmer Bertsch. In Rotterdam, Republican-Conservative Richard Gentile III is running against incumbent supervisor Steven Tommasone, who has the Democratic and four other ballot lines.

In Glenville, Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle is unopposed, but has used election attention to pressure county Legislature incumbents to consider having Schenectady County give more sales tax revenue to the county's towns.

Full lists of races are available at www.schenectadycounty.com/boe.

GLOVERSVILLE

In Gloversville, incumbent mayor Dayton King faces an uphill battle as a he seeks a third four-year term. In September, he lost a Republican Party primary to William A. Rowback Jr., a 28-year city firefighter. King has the Conservative party ballot line, but Rowback has the Republican and Moving Forward party lines.

SARATOGA COUNTY

There are races for supervisor in five of the county's 19 towns, according to the county Board of Elections, including places where reinvigorated local Democrats are challenging Republican incumbents for the first time in a decade or more.

In Charlton, Democrat Albert Wilson is challenging 12-year incumbent Alan Grattidge's re-election bid, while in Wilton, Nancy Dwyer is challenging 16-year incumbent Arthur Johnson. Democrats are also fielding Town Board candidates in those towns. In Malta, Democrat William Breheny is challenging Vincent DeLucia as he seeks re-election for the first time, and Town Board seats are also being contested in many towns.

In Milton, where Supervisor Dan Lewza isn't seeking re-election, Town Board member Scott Ostrander defeated fellow board member Barbara Kerr in a September Republican primary, but Kerr remains on the ballot as the Reform candidate. In Moreau, Gardner Congdon is retiring, and Republican Ted Kuszierz and Democrat Michael Linehan are vying for the seat.

In Mechanicville, former mayor Anthony Sylvester Sr. is looking to win the job back. He served two terms from 2005-2013 but was barred from running again by term limits. He is trying to defeat Republican Dennis Baker, who won his first term four years ago.

SCHOHARIE COUNTY

There are countywide races for district attorney and sheriff.

The district attorney's race features a contest to fill the seat left open by the retirement of longtime district attorney James Sacket. That race pits longtime Assistant District Attorney Susan Mallery of Cobleskill against a relative newcomer, Shawn Smith, the Blenheim town supervisor and assistant district attorney in neighboring Delaware County.

In the sheriff's race, incumbent Democrat Anthony Desmond is seeking a third four-year term, and is opposed by Undersheriff Ron Stevens, who has several ballot lines, including the Republican and Conservative lines. Both previously had long careers with the state police.

The League of Women Voters of New York State has information on candidates and issues available at www.vote411.org.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, swilliams@dailygazette.net or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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