You’ve Been Primaried

ALBANY, NY – Councilwoman claims that Jerry Jennings supporters are backing a puppet candidate in the 7th Ward. This story was first published in Metroland on September 10th, 2009.

Someone wants 7th Ward Councilwoman Cathy Fahey (D, WFP) out of office. After losing the Albany County Democratic Committee’s endorsement twice to relatively unknown contenders, Fahey had a suspicion that members of Albany’s Democratic Party don’t want her around because she is not aligned with Mayor Jerry Jennings.

“I view the fact that I did not get the endorsement as directly connected to the fact that I was a very early supporter of Shawn Morris’ candidacy for mayor,” said Fahey.

Susan Tobin, the committee’s endorsed candidate, will be challenging Fahey on Sept. 15 in the Democratic primary.

Fahey’s stance on various issues places her squarely in the progressive camp in Albany along with Jennings’ mayoral opponent Councilman Corey Ellis (Ward 3) and Councilman Dominick Calsolaro (Ward 1).

Initially, the Democratic Committee endorsed Democrat George Lynch, who later dropped out. “[Lynch] told me he backed out because he decided that I was a good candidate, that I was doing a good job on the council, and he didn’t think it was fair and he decided to back out,” Fahey said.

Lynch could not be reached for comment.

As reported earlier in Metroland, Calsolaro had a similar experience in the 1st Ward when, to his surprise, he lost the Democratic Committee’s endorsement to a relative newcomer, Scott Mannarino. Calsolaro suggested that it was a play by Jennings’ supporters to prevent him from campaigning for Ellis by keeping him busy with a primary.

Tobin, like Mannarino, has Jennings’ support in her bid for the 7th Ward seat, but said that she has heard of no political hit job on Fahey within the Democratic Party.

“I was approached by the Democratic Party, and I was recommended by a couple of my neighbors,” said Tobin. She also acknowledged that there was another contender in the ward before the committee came to her.

“I know I wasn’t the first choice,” she said.

“I’ve always been involved in the community,” said Tobin. “I thought there could be some things I could do better than what was being done before.”

Tobin claimed that Fahey is out of touch with her community.

“I’m a constituent of the 7th Ward,” said Tobin. “I’ve heard no communication for four years, no opportunities to sign petitions, [Fahey] never came to my door, never asked my opinion, so I think that’s unacceptable.”

Fahey countered by citing her involvement in both community groups in her ward, the Helderberg and Delaware Avenue neighborhood associations. She said that she also sits on three council committees that are designed to improve the quality of life for residents in the ward and the city of Albany.

Fahey said that she feels the main issues facing her are public safety, youth programs, and continued strengthening of the commercial district along Delaware Avenue. As for Tobin, Fahey criticized her for refusing to debate. A date had been set and agreed to that would have featured both Fahey and Tobin, as well as the candidates for the 1st Ward.

“The fact that she didn’t come to the debate,” said Fahey, “made it difficult to find out what she stands for, and I think the citizens lose out when someone isn’t available to talk about the issues.”

Mannarino also skipped out on his opportunity to debate Calsolaro.

Tobin said she informed the organizers of the debate that she would be unable to attend a week in advance. She also said that she’s been campaigning on every street in the 7th.

“My whole plan was to go door-to-door,” said Tobin. “I felt that I could reach more people doing that, so I kept with the plan, my original plan.”

Tobin, the director of giving at Albany Academies, said her experience in health care, education, strategic planning and fundraising, along with her work in the nonprofit sector, provide her with the credentials to do a great job as councilwoman.

“I know how to deal with people. I know how to compromise. I know how to reach a consensus,” said Tobin.

Fahey said that she believes she’s done a good job as councilwoman so far.

“I really look at my job on the council as working with residents and these neighborhood associations,” she said. “The work that I do on the council reflects what people in my districts are thinking and what they want to see happen in the neighborhood.”

As for losing the Democratic committee’s endorsement, she attributes that to the political structure of Albany.

“I think that the ward leader, Bob Jukes, is very loyal to the current mayor, and it did matter that I was supporting someone else,” she said. Fahey said she believes the 7th Ward primary was “orchestrated” by Jukes and other supporters of Jennings.

Jukes could not be reached for comment by press time.


About Daniel Fitzsimmons

Staff writer for the Manhattan weeklies Our Town, Our Town Downtown and the West Side Spirit.
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