McCarthy wins in close race; Alliance Party makes gains

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By Nick DAngelo

On the evening of Dec. 1, 2011, nearly 24 full days after the polls closed in the Schenectady mayoral race, a State Supreme Court judge declared that Acting-Mayor Gary McCarthy would be sworn in to a full term beginning Jan. 1, 2012.

The decision by State Justice Vincent Reilly, who has served as a Democrat-elected office alongside McCarthy since 1985, ended the most contentious race for the city’s top post in Schenectady history.

In the end, McCarthy defeated Alliance Party founder Roger Hull by 89 votes out of nearly 10,000 cast—less than a single percentage point.

“From all accounts, it was a fair election,” reflected political science professor Zoe Oxley, a Schenectady resident. “Roger Hull did very well, considering that he had never run for elective office before, that the Democratic Party has a huge enrollment advantage in the city, and that he was initially a third party candidate.”

Hull went on to be cross-endorsed by the Republicans.

For the infant Alliance Party, founded in 2009, the November election marked its first foray into local politics. While some of its candidates for city council and county legislature were stricken from the ballot line, the Party still pulled off an impressive win for now-Councilman Vince Riggi.

Riggi, a self-described “government watchdog,” is a native of Schenectady who unsuccessfully ran for the City Council as a Republican in 2006. Six years later he is an independent voice on the fully Democratic board. A second Alliance Party candidate, Phil Tiberio, would have had the necessary votes to capture another seat if he hadn’t been one of the victims of a quirky ruling barring him from appearing on the Alliance ballot line.

In a letter to supporters sent out after the judicial ruling, Hull wrote: “How can a loss be a win? For starters, the Alliance Party, which was founded in my living room in June 2009, is less than two-and-one-half years old. Despite its ‘infancy,’ the Alliance Party effectively fought to a draw a machine that has served itself for 37 years.”

Oxley noted that despite big gains, the Alliance Party is still fighting an uphill battle.

“Even with Vince Riggi on the city council, the Alliance Party is still an underdog. Riggi won not only because of his Alliance Party backing but also because he is well-regarded by many as an able critic of the city government,” she said.

So, what is next for the Alliance Party? Hull would not discuss the possibility of running again in 2015, but the former naval litigator and gubernatorial consul did say that the party will continue to be active, fielding a candidate for city council next year.[pullquote]If we had gotten 129 [students] out to vote, it might have been a different story.—Roger HullFormer Union College President[/pullquote]

As for a second Hull bid, Oxley said, “It is hard to say whether this year was his best chance to win or whether he could be competitive, and perhaps win, in the future. He improved considerably on the campaign trail and he could draw on his past experience and existing base if he were to run again. Thus, he could mount a strong challenge in a future election.”

Hull, in a separate email for this article, reflected on the campaign and, without hesitation, noted that he had “no regrets.” But he did have some criticism for students of Union, where he served as president from 1990-2005.

“During my 15 years at the college, I always tried to convince students it was in their best interest to register and vote, since they could easily affect an election,” he said. “I was never very successful, so I appreciate efforts getting 29 students to the polls. Now, if we had gotten 129 out to vote, it might have been a different story.”

McCarthy was contacted for this article, but, after several back-and-forth emails, refused to comment.

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