Democrats take Schenectady council seats
SCHENECTADY Democrats swept the Schenectady City Council race, and the man that Republicans thought was the “weakest link” climbed to the top of the ticket Tuesday night.
Candidate John Mootooveren was delighted when the unofficial tally put him at 4,155 votes — hundreds more than anyone else.
“It’s amazing!” he said, recalling the day two years ago when his race was too close to call. He eventually lost that race by 39 votes. So he was delighted in Tuesday’s overwhelming victory all the more.
Mootooveren, 41, is the first Guyanese-American elected to the council. He highlighted his decades of experience as an accountant in the campaign, and he said that might have won over the voters. Or maybe they liked his “positive only” campaign.
Either way, he’s ready to get started.
“I am going to bring my experience to the City Council,” he said. “Now let’s get things done.”
City Council incumbents Carl Erikson and Marion Porterfield also won, finishing with 3,756 and 3,579 votes respectively in unofficial results.
Erikson said the sweep was a vote of confidence for the Democrats, who hold all but one seat on the council.
“I think the outcome is a sign we’re doing a good job in the eyes of the voters,” he said.
Erikson, 41, has built a reputation as the council’s financial expert. But he’s faced opposition from other Democrats for his unwillingness to follow the party line at times. Earlier this year, he wasn’t sure if he would even be endorsed for re-election.
Now he can continue the strategies he started in the 2014 budget, he said.
“I was moving forward as if I was going to win,” he said, noting that he has begun several efforts that could save the city money in years to come.
“It’s a long-term strategy,” he said.
Porterfield, 56, had an extra reason to celebrate Tuesday: She can finally get a break from running for re-election. After campaigning for an appointment, running in a primary and a general election for a one-year term and then running again this year, she has finally earned a four-year term.
Porterfield has focused on jobs, both in her private life — where she’s creating a jobs program with Better Neighborhoods Inc. — and on the council. Now that she has four years to work with, she said she will take on the lack of diversity in municipal employment.
“I really want to increase the ethnic diversity in the city. I really think that’s important,” she said.
She hopes to start a public safety program similar to ROTC for high school and middle school students, which might encourage them to take jobs as police and firefighters.
The total loss was deeply disappointing for the Republicans, who were surprised by Mootooveren’s strong performance.
They said they thought Mootooveren would be the Democrats’ “weakest link.” When he came in first, they knew they didn’t have a chance.
“We tried our best. Did the best we could,” said candidate Joseph Lazzari, who finished in fourth place with 2,953 votes in unofficial results.
“We thought we had a good message. We tried to level the playing field, get some diversity on the council,” he added. “I’m sorry to hear we fell short.”
Candidate Joseph Kelleher said he was taking heart from his surprisingly strong result, considering that he was a first-time candidate who has only lived in the city for a short time. He came in fifth with 2,733 votes in unofficial results.
He said he hoped the Democrats noticed how many people voted for the Republicans.
“It sends a message that people want change,” he said. “But apparently not all of them are ready for it.”
He plans to run again.
“I’m not going away,” he said. “The people put their faith and their trust in me.”
Candidate Mary McClaine came in last with 2,315 votes in unofficial results. She said she hadn’t expected that result.
She has been a fixture at City Council meetings for a decade. She tried repeatedly to get on the ballot before the Republican Party finally endorsed her this year.
The successful council candidates will be paid $14,093 next year.