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Don’t Miss a Beat

Things are constantly changing in Albany’s mayoral race—blink and you just might miss something

by The Staff on September 5, 2013

If you’ve followed this year’s Albany mayoral race so far, you may have noticed that it’s been a bit topsy-turvy. Just last week, we at Metroland put together what we hoped would be an informative look at not only the Democratic frontrunners, Corey Ellis and Kathy Sheehan, but also the candidates who would not appear on the ballot for the Sept. 10 primary—those that would be on the ballot for November’s general election. By the time that our issue appeared on the stands, two of the four candidates that we had profiled had changed the status of their prospective races.

Alex Portelli, a Libertarian, who was running as an independent candidate, announced on Thursday (Aug. 29) that he was withdrawing his bid from the race, and was endorsing his mother, Theresa Portelli. She will fight for the Green Party line, currently being held by William Peltz, who has not actively campaigned. If she can get more write-in votes than Peltz by Sept. 10, then she will indeed be on the ballot for the general election.

More than 800 challenges were made to Alex Portelli’s ballot petitions, but that might not be the only reason he exited the race. His campaign was questioned from the start because the 23-year-old restaurant owner is on parole, and thanks to the complicated election laws in New York state, the question of whether or not a parolee, who is unable to vote in the election, could run for office was never fully resolved.

Portelli also alleged that he had recently had a less-than-pleasant run-in with the Albany police. He said that on Saturday night (Aug. 24), he was working at his Albany restaurant, Joe and Dough, when Albany police stepped into his small cafe, turned off his equipment, searched him for a weapon and made comments about his campaign. The incident took place between 9 and 10 PM Saturday night, according to Portelli and two other witnesses.

Albany Police Department spokesman Steven Smith confirmed that police were dispatched to the scene. “We received two 911 calls specifically identifying [Portelli] as having a weapon,” said Smith.

“I noticed outside that there were [police officers] and a gentleman that was just in here being searched,” said Albany resident Madison Steenburg, who added that she was in Portelli’s restaurant for the duration of the incident. According to her account, the police told her that they were searching for a caucasian male with a firearm. About an hour later, she said, the police returned, entered the establishment and confronted Portelli.

“They let him sit down, and that’s when the really political questions started flying,” she said. “You think you’re going to get mayor? You think you’re going to be able to get it with your record?”

Another witness who worked that night at a business near Portelli’s Joe and Dough also gave an account similar to Steenburg’s. According to that witness, who asked not to have his name mentioned in this article, the police questioned a male in front of Portelli’s restaurant, and then returned later and entered the Joe and Dough while other police officers searched a car belonging to Portelli. “It was very strange; there was a lot of police on the street circling the block,” the source said.

Smith declined to give Metroland any statements about the vehicle search or the alleged political remarks made by police, but Portelli said that, to his knowledge, there is a pending internal investigation.

The other mayoral candidate in flux is Marlon Anderson, who announced his intention to run in April, but was bounced from the Democratic line in July when he failed to get the 1,000 valid signatures required to be on the ballot. The Times Union reported on Aug. 22 that Anderson had “submitted petitions to run on the Voice of the People ballot line,” but that GOP Albany County Elections Commissioner Rachel Bledi said, “Anderson appears to be short of the required number.”

Still, Anderson is actively campaigning and has appeared at two August mayoral forums, one hosted by Occupy Albany, the other by college radio station WCDB.

“I’m still exploring my legal avenues, so I won’t know until after the [Democratic] primary if I will be on the general,” said Anderson via an e-mail exchange this week. “But I am encouraging people to write me in on the Democratic ballot next week.”

He did not respond to a follow-up question as to whether or not he was pursuing the same strategy as Theresa Portelli, whose efforts to get more signatures than Weltz would put her on what is known as the opportunity-to-ballot line.

A call to the Albany Board of Elections office on Friday morning (Aug. 30) resulted in a confirmation only that the final outcome of who would be on the general ballot was still unknown because of a last-minute petition that was submitted on Thursday night. The office was unable to confirm who filed the petition.

By E.S. Cormac and Erin Pihlaja