SCHENECTADY — Mayor Gary McCarthy launched his campaign for re-election Tuesday with a rally in the rotunda of City Hall.
The Democrat is the first mayor in decades to seek a third consecutive, four-year term in office. The last mayor to win three elections in a row was Frank Duci, a Republican who was elected in 1972, 1976, and 1980.
“It’s truly a great record. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy was first elected to the post in 2011 and re-elected in 2015. Both times he defeated former Union College President Roger Hull, but so far Hull, who ran on an independent line, has given no indication he intends to renew the rivalry this year.
So far, Schenectady’s Republican Party does not have a candidate for mayor.
Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, who introduced McCarthy to raucous applause from supporters, described his fellow Democrat and friend as a “partner for progress.”
He asserted that the Electric City has flourished over the past eight years with McCarthy at the helm.
“During his time in office, we have seen some significant progress here in Schenectady — economic development, new jobs, more investments in our schools, more investments in our community, and the list goes on and on,” Santabarbara said.
Former Schenectady City Council President Margaret “Peggy” King lauded the mayor as a “key player in a team that works well together and that has transformed the city.”
Assemblyman Phil Steck said McCarthy is the “best executive” he has worked with in government.
McCarthy talked about the three primary objectives he’s worked on during his second term in office: taking a different strategy in addressing blighted properties, the initiate HOMES (Home Ownership Made Easy in Schenectady) program to encourage more people to live in the city, and continued supporting the economic development team.
He also touted the construction of Rivers Casino & Resort at Mohawk Harbor building project and the others in the pipeline downtown and in neighborhoods, many of them in Hamilton Hill and Mont Pleasant.
“I’m proud of my record, my administration’s accomplishments, and the many partners we have doing great things everyday in Schenectady,” McCarthy said. “I ask everyone here, every resident to join with me as a partner in this campaign to continue the impressive progress we have produced.”
McCarthy faces a potential primary challenge from newcomer Thearse McCalmon.
Her campaign released a statement Tuesday saying McCarthy has “decided to take the coward’s route by challenging” her signatures. She filed over 900 signatures Thursday. To force a primary run-off on June 25, she needed at least 575.
The statement goes on to say that McCarthy’s team filed a general objection Monday with the Schenectady County Board of Elections in a bid to knock McCalmon off the ballot.
“This odious process is enacted when a candidate does not have a record or platform they can stand on,” the statement read. “It’s a disruption of the democratic process to deny voters a choice for who their next mayor will be.”
Amy Hild, the Democratic county Board of Elections Commissioner, did not return a call Tuesday seeking comment.
As mayor, McCarthy has overseen part of the efforts to remake downtown Schenectady into an entertainment and dining hub. He’s also been credited with making reforms in the once troubled Police Department and has presided over the city at a time when crime is down.
But he ran the city at the time of a fatal fire across the street from City Hall that left four dead and eventually led to a scathing state audit that found the city’s codes department ignored complaints about safety hazards in apartment buildings and was years behind on state required inspections.
He also faced allegations that he smelled of alcohol when he chased a woman through the city’s streets after a confrontation near his home.
Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen was later called in to investigate the incident but filed no charges against McCarthy. Heggen’s report on the incident said the “actions of the Schenectady Police Department and (Mayor) Gary McCarthy raise concerns.” McCarthy was steadfast in denying he was intoxicated.
McCarthy was the architect of the Schenectady County Democratic Committee, an organization he used to shape the local organization into the dominant political party in the city and county.