43rd STATE SENATE DISTRICT -- Democrats have settled on an aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo as their candidate for the state Senate seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Kathy Marchione, while a Marchione aide this week picked up key party support.
Three of the four Democratic committees in the district have endorsed Rensselaer County resident Aaron Gladd, a U.S. Army combat veteran and currently deputy director of policy in Cuomo's office. Rensselaer County Democrats won't meet until next week.
Marchione legislative director Daphne Jordan, also a member of the Halfmoon Town Board, was endorsed by the Saratoga County Republican Committee executive committee on Tuesday, after it interviewed four potential candidates. The county committee was the first in the district to act; the Republican organizations in Rensselaer, Columbia and Washington counties still must consider their endorsements.
"Each candidate that presented the other night had capacities and skills," said Saratoga County Republican Chairman Carl Zeilman. "Daphne just rose above the rest with her knowledge of the issues and of government, and her passion just rose above the rest."
There are five Republicans in the hunt for the seat: Jordan; Waterford Town Board member and Saratoga County Veterans' Services director Frank McClement; Poestenkill Town Board member Eric Wohlleber; Gerard Zabala of Wilton; and Chris Boyark of Mechanicville. Zeilman said Boyark did not attend the interview meeting.
Marchione announced in April that she will be retiring after serving three two-year terms in the Senate, concluding a 38-year political career. She has given her support to Jordan, though McClement had also picked up endorsements from Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo and other Saratoga County elected officials.
"She's on the Town Board, and she's been a small business owner, so she understands the issues facing small businesses," Zeilman said.
Jordan, who has worked for Marchione since January 2013 and was elected to the Town Board in 2014, outlined a conservative agenda similar to Marchione's.
"I’m running for the 43rd Senate District to deliver affordability, opportunity and security for a better, stronger New York State," she said in a statement. "I want folks to start saying ‘I Love New York’ and stop saying ‘I Leave New York.’ I will stand up and fight Governor Cuomo and the downstate Democrats’ radical, left-wing agenda of pushing higher taxes, pardons for cop-killers, free college for illegal aliens and imposing more government red tape that shackles our economy and hurts job creators -- especially here in upstate."
Republicans have an enrollment advantage in the district, and Marchione never faced a serious Democratic challenge. Nevertheless, Democrats are optimistic in a year when concerns about President Donald J. Trump and national Republican policies have energized their supporters.
They think Gladd is a strong candidate.
Gladd, 31, was born in Saranac Lake, and says he grew up in rural poverty. He is a graduate of the University at Albany with a master's in public administration from the Nelson Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy. He has also studied at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
He joined the Army in 2011, and as a first lieutenant served a combat tour as a platoon leader in eastern Afghanistan.
"At a time when our working and middle class families are struggling to get ahead, New Yorkers need a fighter who has the passion to serve and the character to get it done," Gladd said in a statement. "I was proud to serve my country in Afghanistan, and as state senator I will serve my community and fight to restore hope, compassion and opportunity to upstate New York."
In the governor's office, his campaign said he's been involved in issues like promoting statewide broadband access, women's rights, paid family leave, combating the opioid epidemic and advocating for infrastructure projects. He lives in Brunswick with his wife and two pre-school children.
"We think he's got a diverse background that can represent all the residents of the district. He understands the needs and concerns of working families from his background," said Saratoga County Democratic Chairman Todd Kerner.
The 43rd Senate District includes eastern Saratoga County, Rensselaer County outside the city of Troy, all of Columbia County and part of Washington County.