Schenectady’s Democrats clash over campaign leaflet and implicit alliances

SCHENECTADY – Bitter relations between several Democrats on city council exploded this week when MP Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas sent campaign materials to voters that show her campaigning with two other council members, including the man she tried to overthrow as president of the board. .

Council Chairman John Mootooveren said the campaign leaflet which arrived in the mail at his home on Thursday gave the impression that he and Zalewski-Wildzunas were running mates, he said.

“I saw a photo from four years ago when we were campaigning as a team at the time. We are not campaigning as a team this year, and I want to make it very clear to voters that there is no reason to campaign with her when she had so many negative things to talk about about me, ”said he declared.

“We don’t want to fool the voters and that’s exactly what she is doing, fool the voters that she and John Mootooveren are working together.”

Mootooveren was the target of an offer last month by Zalewski-Wildzunas to dethrone him as chairman of the city council. She also threatened to ask the state attorney general’s office to look into her removal from two city council committees.

“How can I present myself with someone who, just two weeks ago, presented a failed no-confidence vote motion against me and spoke out against me as president of the city council”, he declared, stressing that he was entitled to modify the powers of the committees.

Councilor Marion Porterfield, who is also in the 2017 flyer photo, was puzzled by Zaleswki-Wildzunas’ decision to send a letter that passed them off as allies.

Porterfield said Zaleswki-Wildzunas appeared on a local radio show and called her unqualified to chair the council’s finance committee.

“We don’t agree on some issues, and she hasn’t been a supporter of mine, even on the board, has made negative comments about me publicly when she had concerns and issues about committee assignments. She said. “He’s trying to send a message to voters without saying it’s not true.”

Zalewski-Wildzunas said it was “not the intention” to trick voters into believing the three were campaigning together.

“Quite frankly, the intention was to show that I’m a team player, that’s it,” she added. “You have three approved candidates. John is approved, Marion is approved, I’m sorry if this was taken wrong.

Five seats on the city council are on the ballot this year. The three outgoing Democrats were all endorsed by the city’s Democratic Committee in their offers for new 4-year terms. But Mootooveren and Porterfield are campaigning with Democratic challenger Damonni Farley, who hopes to gain party support in the June primaries. Two more city council seats are also listed on the ballot, and candidates running for those seats would complete the terms of Ed Kosiur and Leesa Perazzo, both of whom resigned earlier this year.

Republicans run Kevin Hammer, Vivian Parsons and Brendan Nally for city council.

In a statement, Farley criticized Zalewski-Wildzunas.

“Schenectady’s voters understand that winning an election requires the support of all corners of the city’s diverse community,” he said. “Using this image without consent appears to be an attempt to portray a relationship that is at odds with her track record, her recent treatment of her colleagues, and the clear discord of the current board.”

Mootooveren said he was also campaigning with Haileab Samuel, the mayor’s choice to sit on the council and Carl Williams, both of whom won the approval of the city’s Democrats in their quest for the Kosiur and Perazzo seats. Newcomer Doreen Ditoro, an insurgent Democrat, is also vying for one of those seats.

The Schenectady branch of the NAACP released a statement Friday morning, describing the efforts of Democrats in the city and county of Schenectady to “crack down on black candidates.”

“Current attempts to suppress people of color who run for office at city and county levels of government also seek to limit our right to vote for qualified representatives who reflect the demographics of our local communities,” wrote the Local NAACP President Reverend Nicolle Harris Friday.

Williams and Samuel, who are black, are endorsed by the approved local Democratic candidates, but Harris said that “the city committee leadership, current city council members and neighborhood leaders have instead chosen to petition for a white candidate to ensure that the two seats are not allocated. Black candidates. “Ditoro is white.

Harris notes that of the 22 elected positions in city and county governing bodies, only three are held by people of color.

Tom Bellick, chairman of the Schenectady City Democrats, did not immediately return a call on Friday.

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