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Triumphant in defeat: Saratoga Springs Mayor Valerie Keehn.

PHOTO: Chris Shields

Election Wrap-Up

Anticipated victories and surprising losses punctuate this year’s polling results

Red, white, and blue balloons loomed overhead while Troy Republicans crowded around a drowned-out television in Franklin Terrace Ballroom, mingling through a tight maze of party supporters and glitter-dusted, drink-adorned tables.

In downtown Troy, Democrats packed into Franklin Plaza, huddled around laptops synced to the polling results, raising their drinks and chatting wildly. Early reports spoke to a strong Democratic showing, punctuated with a sweep of the Troy City Council.

For Troy Republicans, the high-water mark of the evening came with the announcement that incumbent Troy Mayor Harry Tutunjian had handily defeated Democrat James Conroy, Christopher Consuello of the Working Families Party, and Elda Abate of the Troy People’s Party to secure his second term in office.

The crowd of around 150 erupted in applause at the mayor’s victory entrance.

Tutunjian glowed as he took the podium shortly after and declared “a bittersweet victory” in the mayoral race in front of a sign proudly proclaiming Rensselaer County the home of Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Brunswick), who was on hand at the reception.

Tutunjian clutched a white “Mayor Harry Tutunjian” cap in his hand as he spoke.

“I tried to follow Mayor Giuliani’s methodology for how to run a city,” Tutunjian said, with his wife, Francesca, and his father, Naz, at his side. “Run it they way you think it should be run. Do what the people want. Do what’s right. Don’t keep everybody happy all the time, but in the end do what’s right to sleep well at night, to look yourself in the mirror in the morning and the people will support you.”

Tutunjian called his victory a “testament to hard work and to the open- mindedness” of the residents of Troy and went on to thank his supporters, campaign workers, and Sen. Bruno.

“I’m looking forward to four more years of progress,” Tutunjian said. “I think the people spoke loud and clear, and I think the people returned me to office with a pretty clear mandate.”

“It’s for the people. We are here for the people,” said Clement Campana, milling through the crowd of Democrats. He was ruddy and pleased; the Democrats had succeeded in overturning the Republican majority on the council. Democratic incumbents Bill Dunne, Peter Ryan, and Campana each won an additional two-year term. Newcomers Gary Galuski in District 6, Council-at-Large candidate John Brown, and Ken Zalewski in District 5 each secured strong victories.

Onstage, Campana, Troy’s City Council president-elect, held up Brown’s hand: “Here’s your new generation!”

Campaign workers from the Working Families Party and supporters of Zalewski, who trounced his opponent incumbent Robert Krogh, 1,413 to 650, erupted into wild applause and shrieks as the final numbers were confirmed.

“As we stand here, there is a six-to-three Republican majority” in the Troy City Council, said Campana. “Come January 1, there will be a six-to-three Democratic majority!”

“It is a signal that the people want checks and balances,” said Dunne. “It is a rejection of Harry’s strong-arm tactics.”

In North Greenbush, the Jeff Spain-Lou Desso faction of the Democratic Party won a notable victory. Incumbent Supervisor Mark Evers easily beat Greenbush Party candidate and current town attorney Josh Sabo 2,150 to 1,493. Desso and Al Spain snagged the two board seats, and Kathryn Connelly, incumbent town clerk, held her post.

It wasn’t clear on Tuesday, however, who would be the next Rensselaer County district attorney. Republican candidate Greg Cholakis and Democratic candidate Richard McNally will have to wait until as late as next Thursday to learn which of them will get the position. The night ended with Cholakis ahead by a little more than 200 votes, but with absentee ballots still uncounted, the race is too close to call.

Cholakis patrolled the room for much of the night and was easily the most visible candidate at the gathering. Ebullient with a hint of tension on his face, Cholakis graciously chatted up anyone that caught his arm, though he broke away from the crowd every so often for an occasional update on the election returns.

As districts reported election results, Cholakis and McNally remained only a few ballots apart with their near 50-50 split sustained throughout the evening.

At 11:15, with all but one precinct reporting in, Cholakis approached the podium to announce that the outcome of the race was still uncertain.

“I wrote two speeches for tonight, depending on how it went, but I guess I should have written a third speech,” said Cholakis. “It was a very, very close race. I said from the beginning it was gonna be close. . . . We’ll have to wait and see how it plays out.”

Cholakis said that he was proud of the campaign he ran. “No matter what happens, I know that I’m going to be able to go to bed when this is over and know that I did everything I could. I think I ran for the right reasons. “

Republicans are optimistic about victory for Cholakis given his lead, but thought that his margin of victory was going to be much larger, according to Chairman Casey. Casey acknowledged that Cholakis’ opponent was qualified and cited a negative campaign on McNally’s part as the reason for the tight race.

“I have made it a principle not to engage in negative campaigning,” Casey said. “Not only because it hurts the candidate, but because negative campaigning demeans the process.”

“To get to a better place, there has to be some pain and sacrifice. This city has gone through that pain and sacrifice,” Democratic Saratoga Springs Mayor Valerie Keehn told the Republican throng at the Holiday Inn in Saratoga Springs Tuesday night. Keehn was celebrating, but not her own victory. Defeated by Republican mayoral candidate Scott Johnson 3,760 to 4,241, Keehn’s sorrow was tempered by her exuberance that 32-year-incumbent Commissioner of Public Works Thomas McTygue, her persistent political rival, had finally been unseated by Republican Skip Scirocco.

Scirocco crushed McTygue, 5,190 to 3,222.

McTygue has been a focus of a state investigation into oil spills; many say he is the focus of an FBI investigation into corruption.

Keehn raised her arms in triumph, and thanked her cheering Republican supporters.

Earlier at Democratic headquarters, Keehn explained her loss to her supporters by saying: “I didn’t just have two opponents, I really had three, and one was the biggest political machine in the city.”

Keehn waged her campaign within a divided Democratic party, thanks to infighting with McTygue. Keehn’s Conservative/Independent opponent Gordon Boyd only garnered about 500 votes.

Scirocco was excited about his overwhelming win and said he wants to make sure he represents all parts of the city.

“Call this man Superman!” announced a DPW worker who, along with a number of other DPW workers, was vigorously celebrating Scirocco’s victory.

McTygue had been stopped by police earlier that morning with a DPW employee allegedly illegally taking down Scirocco signs. Scirocco decided not to press charges.

Republican Kenneth Ivins defeated Jane Weihe to become finance commissioner, and Democrat Ronald Kim defeated Richard Wirth, retaining his seat as commissioner of public safety.

Democrat Joanne Yepsen defeated Republican Matthew Veitch and Democrat Cheryl Keyrouze to become Saratoga city supervisor.

Republicans now have firm control of the Saratoga City Council.

Keehn insisted she will stay involved in Saratoga Springs politics and made it clear she felt she had done what was best for the city.

“We had the courage to take on the political machine that has dominated this city for years,” she said, “to make this city a better place.”

In Albany County, 7th District Legislator candidate Democrat Brian Scavo trails his opponent Green Party candidate Dave Lussier by a mere five votes. In the Albany County 6th Legislative district race, newcomer Democrat Christopher Higgins beat incumbent Christopher Burke and Republican R.A. DePrima. Burke ran on the Working Families line after losing the Democratic primary to Higgins. Incumbent county Executive Democrat Michael Breslin handily defeated his opponent, Republican Roger Cusick.

—Jason Chura, Chet Hardin and David King


What a Week

Tasked

This week, the Albany Common Council appointed its selections to the Gun Violence Task Force. The most notable appointee was Albany County District Attorney David Soares. Others were anti-gun-violence activist Allison Banks, the Rev. Valerie Faust, task force organizer Leslie Fisher, attorney Robert Serenka, the Rev. John Miller, and Leonard Morgenbesser, who has consistently catalogued media reports of gun violence in the city. Soares said he would like to implement ideas that have worked for other cities to curb the use of illegal guns.

Tortured Logic

Debate erupted in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings on President George Bush’s nominee for attorney general, former New York federal judge Michael Mukasey, before the nomination won the committee’s approval by an 11-to-8 margin on Tuesday. At the heart of the controversy lay Mukasey’s refusal to call waterboarding (the interrogation technique that simulates drowning) torture and to prosecute those who employ it. Mukasey stated that it is Congress’ responsibility to pass a law against it, and if they do that he would be happy to abide by that law. “He will in fact enforce the laws that we pass in the future? Can our standards have really sunk so low?” chided Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.). “Enforcing the law is the job of the attorney general. It’s a prerequisite, not a virtue.” Stunned by Mukasey’s apparently evasive logic, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) asked: “Does that mean we have to outlaw the rack?”

Money Bags

Long-shot presidential contender, Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas), might rank in the single digits in national polls, but his campaign has proven to be impressive at fundraising, setting a record in the Republican Party for an amount raised in a single day: $4.3 million. The fundraising push, mostly organized by his extensive network of online supporters, took place on Guy Fawkes Day, in honor of the 1600s British mercenary who attempted to assassinate King James I. A strong opponent of open borders, Roe v. Wade, and the Iraq War, the libertarian- leaning Republican has attracted an odd base of supporters, including far-right wing Republicans, young tech-savvy libertarians, and antiwar activists.



The Missing Ingredient

In an Oct. 30 story in the Albany Times Union, business reporter Chris Churchill reported on the decision by the owners of a small family dairy farm to begin bottling, marketing and selling their own milk. Fourth- and fifth-generation farmers Donald and Seth McEachron of Black Creek Valley Farm in Salem, Washington County, described to the TU how they came to the decision to diversify their operation and not rely solely on selling their milk to big companies. Among other things, the story included the fact that farmers who produce “high-quality” milk are not rewarded for it financially by large companies who mix it with “lesser” milk from as many as hundreds of other small farms. What the story did not mention was the fact that Black Creek Valley Farm, like many other small farms, does not inject its cows with genetically engineered bovine growth hormone.

Seth McEachron said that he did tell reporter Churchill that the farm’s milk is rBST-free and that is a factor in their marketing strategy. In fact, offering milk without the added hormone (created by agriculture/biotechnology giant Monsanto Company) has become an increasingly winning marketing strategy nationally in recent years, as more and more mile producers and suppliers, as well as retailers like Starbucks, and the entire state of Oregon, have rejected rBST. Regionally, Crowley Foods, Garelick Farms and Byrne Dairy all now produce only rBST-free milk. And recently, food retail giant Kroger announced that all of its milk would be free of the genetically engineered hormone by February 2008. Monsanto despises the labeling of milk as rBST-free and lobbies and litigates aggressively against it, but the demand for naturally produced milk is only increasing.

Churchill confirmed that he was told that Black Creek Valley’s milk is rBST-free, and that he left it out only for space reasons and not out of any attempt to mislead. And he assured me that the TU has no policy regarding the bovine-growth-hormone controversy.

Still, the biggest story in milk production and marketing over the past few years has been the snowballing trend toward rejection of recombinant bovine growth hormone by dairy suppliers and retailers across the country. Every small dairy farm takes this into account, including Black Creek Valley Farm, which doesn’t use rBST and made that fact clear to the TU reporter. While we give Churchill the benefit of the doubt that this was a benign omission, it may leave the impression in informed readers’ minds that the Hearst Corp. supports Monsanto’s agenda: to leave as many consumers as possible in the dark about the fact that more and more Americans think all-natural milk is better, and better for them, than milk that has been genetically engineered.

—Stephen Leon





Loose Ends

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