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McCarthy claims victory in tight Schenectady mayoral primary race

McCarthy claims victory in tight Schenectady mayoral primary race

McCarthy claims victory in tight Schenectady mayoral primary race
Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy during primary victory speech at Zen in downtown Schenectady.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

SCHENECTADY — Mayor Gary McCarthy appears to have fended off a Democratic primary challenge from Thearse McCalmon.

With 95 percent of returns counted by 10:15 p.m. on Tuesday, McCarthy carved a 4-percentage point victory, garnering 51.7 percent of the vote compared to McCalmon’s 47.8 percent, according to unofficial totals from the Schenectady County Board of Elections. Out of 1,917 total votes, McCarthy led McCalmon by 65 votes, 858 to 793. McCalmon's campaign said 125 absentee ballots have been received with more than 200 issued. Absentees have another full week to arrive.

McCarthy acknowledged the race was tighter than anticipated.

“It's a little bit closer, but I am confident we have won the Democratic line, and we have probably won the Working Families line,” said McCarthy at 10:15 p.m.

McCarthy, 63, delivered comments at Zen in downtown Schenectady surrounded by virtually all of the city and county’s Democratic establishment. 

He urged attendees to pivot toward the City Council race this fall, and urged them to rise above what he referred to as “chronic critics” lobbing criticisms from the sidelines.

“That is something I dealt with in the campaign,” he said. “We rose above it and ran on a positive message.”

Republicans are not running a candidate this cycle, so the primary victory makes it likely McCarthy will be elected to a third term as mayor during the general election in November. 

A write-in candidate received 26 votes for the Working Families Party Line compared to McCalmon’s 21.

That candidate is presumed to be McCarthy, but details won't be revealed until tabulated by the county Board of Elections. 

McCalmon, 41, circulated petitions this spring to gain access to the line. McCarthy did not, but later changed course and opted to do so.

She declined to concede late Tuesday, citing the need to count absentee ballots.

The results serve as a warning shot to McCarthy, she said. 

"It's not how I performed — the people want reform," she said. "The mayor needs to pay attention." 


McCalmon, a BOCES teacher and activist, challenged McCarthy from the party’s left flank, contending the city’s economic revitalization largely bypassed lower-income neighborhoods, with residents failing to benefit from housing developments in both downtown and Hamilton Hill.

The city should have negotiated a community benefits agreements with Rivers Casino & Resort, she said. 

She also made social justice issues a central plank in her campaign, calling for city police to be more culturally responsive and for the city to become a sanctuary city, which would carry safeguards for immigrant populations.

McCarthy touted economic growth and the city’s efforts to combat blight as key accomplishments during his eight-year tenure. 

He proposed no new bold agenda items if elected, but rather a continuation of those policies. He also cited the continuation of the city’s Smart Cities initiative. 

If re-elected in November, McCarthy will be the first mayor to win three consecutive terms since Frank Duci, a Republican who was re-elected for a third time in 1980.

McCarthy had declined to debate his opponent despite repeated attempts by the McCalmon campaign to do so.

Duanesburg race

The race to fill a vacant town of Duanesburg council seat is tied between two Republicans seeking the position. 

Thomas G. Collins and William J. Wenzel, Jr. each received 48 votes, with 1 write-in, according to the county Board of Elections.

Three candidates ran for two full-term seats on the Independence Line: Francis Potter was the top vote-getter with 9, John Ganther garnered 7 votes, and Jennifer Barnes, 5. 

A write-in candidate received 2 votes.



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