SCHENECTADY — The Working Families Party (WFP) is claiming Mayor Gary McCarthy is reneging on a promise not to wage a write-in campaign against their preferred candidate in their primary in this year's mayoral race.
The party voted to support Thearse McCalmon earlier this year after interviewing both candidates and reviewing questionnaires.
McCarthy promised he would not wage a write in campaign for the WFP nomination, party officials said.
But the two-term mayor filed an "opportunity to ballot' petition, which enables him to wage a write-in campaign to try to wrest the WFP line away from McCalmon in June.
“He broke his promise to our committee and is seeking our line against the wishes of the WFP,” wrote Schenectady WFP members Ellie Pepper, Jamaica Miles and Chad Putman and Capital District WFP members Karen Scharff and Anita Thayer in a press release on Friday. “McCarthy has proven once again that he can't be trusted.”
McCalmon, a teacher and activist, is waging a Democratic primary campaign against McCarthy on June 25.
McCarthy, who has been endorsed by the city Democratic Committee, officially launched his campaign for a third term last week.
He cited his efforts to bring city-owned distressed properties under control, overseeing a period of economic development and the ongoing expansion of affordable housing projects in low-income neighborhoods as evidence that he has delivered on his campaign promises from when he first sought the seat in 2011.
He didn’t deny that he would possibly wage a write-in campaign for the ballot line.
“It’s what the people decide,” McCarthy told The Daily Gazette on Monday. “I’m looking to be re-elected as mayor.”
Under New York state’s fusion voting system, candidates can run on multiple party lines. McCarthy is also seeking to run on the Conservative Party line, which endorsed him, as well as on the Independence Party line.
Republicans are not running a candidate.
McCalmon, who declared her candidacy in February, contends McCarthy's economic development strategy has disproportionately benefited real estate developers at the expense of low-income residents.
The WFP statement said the party is supporting McCalmon because she “will be a mayor for all of us, not just downtown businesses. She will create a welcoming and fair city and provide the kind of leadership our city needs.”
McCarthy was endorsed by the WFP in his two previous bids for mayor, and said the news release didn’t indicate why the party was dissatisfied with his performance.
“By any independent account, it’s a fairly impressive record over the past eight years,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said the WFP is throwing its weight behind a candidate who has criticized Rivers Casino & Resort, who he said provides unionized jobs to 400 city residents.
McCalmon shot back, "It seems as though the mayor is committed to doubling down on his brand as a typical dishonest politician."
She contended the mayor misled city residents when he said casino would result in an 18 percent tax cut.
"What I have said is we need to learn from the mistakes made with the Rivers project — namely the lack of a defined Community Benefits Agreement that would have mandated that a sizable portion of those union jobs the mayor is now citing would actually have to be filled by Schenectady residents," McCalmon said in a statement issued through a spokesman.
The city should also have had an agreement for fixed payments to the city and not a percentage based upon the casino business, she said, which would result in predictability.
"The patrons at Rivers and the owners should be the ones that care about who wins or loses at the casino," she said, "but instead Mayor McCarthy has decided to sit the taxpayers of Schenectady at the Rivers roulette wheel hoping we get enough money to pay our bills. It's never a good idea to rely on gambling to pay your bills, but because of Mayor McCarthy's failed leadership, we, the hard working citizens of Schenectady, are being forced to do just that."