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Democrat turmoil continues in Saratoga

Democrat turmoil continues in Saratoga

Party committee members resign over Michele Madigan's primary loss
Democrat turmoil continues in Saratoga
Former Saratoga Springs Democratic chairmen Charles Brown and Courtney DeLeonardis speak at a press conference Thursday.
Photographer: Erica Miller

SARATOGA SPRINGS  — Nearly a dozen more members of the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee have resigned in the wake of city Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan's loss to Patricia Morrison in a June Democratic primary.

The 11 committee members who announced their resignations on Thursday are backers of Madigan, who remains on the November election ballot as the Independence and Working Families parties' candidate even though she lost the Democratic nomination.

Madigan said Thursday that she plans to actively campaign and believes she will win in November. The Republicans are not putting up a candidate for the seat.

"I plan to be all-inclusive and reach out to all the residents of Saratoga Springs," she said. "My fiscal stewardship for the city I think has been excellent ... I'm going to run on my record and seek support from Democrats, Republicans, Conservative, independents, people with no party affiliation."

Madigan noted that she has held city property taxes stable throughout the seven city budgets she has developed. (The budgets are subject to City Council review and approval.)

"I believe in the end the majority of people will come out and support me and I will be re-elected finance commissioner," Madigan said.

Charles Brown, a former chairman of the city Democrats who is among those who resigned, said their resignations free them up to actively support Madigan in the general election, since committee members must support Morrison as the primary winner.

"As long-serving members of the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee, we have come to a point where we must chose the welfare of our city over party," Brown said at a press conference held in High Rock Park.

The departures announced Thursday are in addition to the five party executive committee members who resigned two weeks ago, including then-committee chairwoman Courtney DeLeonardis. They also cited their support for Madigan over Morrison.

The committee had backed Madigan, who is seeking a fifth two-year term, after endorsement interviews in March. Morrison, who is a member of the committee, subsequently filed her primary challenge and won the June 25 primary by 32 votes.

"We endorsed Michele Madigan and then Patty ran and won the primary," DeLeonardis said.

Had they remained on the committee, she, Brown and others would have been obligated to support the primary winner, they said. "Although we deeply regret having to leave the committee, this will free us to work for the candidates we are confident will best serve the city," the departing members said in a news release.

Those who announced their departures this week were Brown, Jennifer Blanchard, Frank Capone, Cynthia Corbett, John Daley, Michele Feinstein, Nancy Goldberg, Kathryn Gorman, Janet Kuczynski, Michael Sharp and Jane Weihe.

Brown acknowledged there has been a split within the committee, which prior to the resignations had about 50 members. "We're Democrats," he said. "There has always been some division within the city."

Morrison, who works for CommerceHub in Albany, said she brings 25 years of business experience as she campaigns to be the city's chief financial officer, and the primary result showed that many people are not happy with Madigan. She also said she's concerned about the pace of development and quality of life in the city.

"There are a number of citizens eagerly waiting to join the committee and work in accordance with the will of the voters we are elected to serve," she said. "It is not unusual for there to be a change when leadership and the will of the voters are misaligned. Our city Democratic Committee will be stronger going forward."

Brown said the departing group decided to leave three months ahead of the election out of fairness to those who remain on the committee, so they can organize for the November election. The committee has a campaign fund of about $10,000 heading into the election, where all five City Council seats and two city representatives on the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors are up for election.

It will be up to the remaining committee members to pick a new chairperson at a meeting next week, but Saratoga County Democratic Chairman Todd Kerner has the power to fill the vacancies. It is unclear when or whether he will. He continues to back Morrison.

"The Democratic Committee is like a family, we sometimes argue and disagree due to the passion we bring to public service," Kerner said in a brief statement on Thursday. "We want to thank those who are leaving for their hard work and dedication. We continue to move ahead with an excellent slate of candidates and look forward to the November elections."

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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