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Who Wants to be Executive?

The race to replace Mike Breslin solidifies around two candidates

by Taylor Morris on May 18, 2011

The race for Mike Breslin’s Al­bany County executive seat officially began last week in Washington Park, where—flanked by Democratic Party leaders including Mayor Jerry Jennings and County Comptroller Michael Conners—Dan McCoy, firefighter and current chairman of the Albany County Legislature, announced his candidacy for the position. McCoy likely will face a GOP rival in the general election, with all signs pointing to lawyer and Whalen Group owner Jen Whalen.

Conners, who was rumored to be angling for the nomination himself, said he “wholeheartedly endorses” McCoy’s run and intends to remain comptroller. Last week, in a blog post for the Times Union, Conners said he “look[s] forward to campaigning with [McCoy],” noting, “the timing is not right” for his own run for county executive.

McCoy seems to be finding support from other political parties as well. Albany Independence Party chairman and State Independence Party vice chairman Paul Caputo gave McCoy a strong review after the party’s candidate interview process last week, calling him “the type of guy our state party would feel very comfortable” endorsing and a candidate who “believes in helping his constituency.” According to Caputo, the Independence Party looks for candidates that fit “the ideals of our party: [doing] what’s right for the people” without “[taking] party into consideration.”

McCoy’s most likely challenger is Republican hopeful Whalen, an attorney and commercial realtor who lost a close race in 2010 to incumbent Assemblyman Bob Reilly and seems to have the full support of the Albany County GOP behind her.

“I have a short list,” said Donald Clarey, Albany County Republican chairman. “It’s Jennifer,” Clarey continued, calling Whalen’s qualifications and campaign abilities “off the charts.” Clarey said a committee meeting would be held next week to discuss candidates, and any official announcement would be made in the coming two weeks. Clarey said that whomever the GOP puts forward wouldn’t be a “token candidate” and would run a “hard-fought race. . . . The people of Albany County will decide.”

After Reilly’s narrow win in last year’s Assembly run, Whalen seems more worried about convincing her family about a potential run than wooing Albany’s voters. On the possibility of a run, Whalen said she’s “considering it, because so many people have basically said ‘You’ve gotta run. . . . You can win.’” But Whalen is still weighing the possibility with her husband and two children. “It’s a double-edged sword,” Whalen said of campaigning, “I want to improve the future for our children,” but she is also wary of the effects multiple campaigns may have on her two sons.

Whalen has not met with the Conservative or Independence party committees, but hopes to secure both lines if she runs. “I raised a lot of money last year. . . . I’m a proven hard-worker and a proven vote-getter,” she said, noting that “the taxpayers should have a selection. . . . I’m a firm believer in the democratic process.”

Other party officials were more tight-lipped about future endorsements. Karen Scharff, statewide co-chair of the Working Families Party and co-chair of the Albany District Committee, said the WFP “is in the midst of our endorsement process and [has] not made any decisions yet on the county executive race.” The WFP previously endorsed McCoy’s bid for Albany County legislator. The Conservative Party conducted candidate interviews this week, including one with McCoy, and held a committee vote Wednesday night— after Metroland’s deadline— to determine their nomination.