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SARATOGA SPRINGS: Mayoral challengers rally behind NYRA

Two out of three mayoral challengers agree: NYRA's right for Saratoga Springs.

Leading up to Gov. Eliot Spitzer's announcement as to whom he would recommend to continue to hold the rights to New York's racing franchise, mayoral challengers Gordon Boyd and Scott Johnson lobbied for the New York Racing Association which ultimately won and took the opportunity to do a little political posturing in the process.

Johnson, the Republican candidate, came out decisively in favor of keeping NYRA after its current contract expires. After publicly throwing his support behind NYRA in its bid to retain the racing franchise at the beginning of his candidacy, Johnson organized a petition drive that accumulated 2,681 signatures of support for the franchise holder.

"As I watched the decision regarding the racing franchise unfold, it became clear to me that our city lacked real leadership," said Johnson at a Thursday, Aug. 30 press conference. "I refuse to be wishy-washy or non-committal on such a pivotal issue for Saratoga Springs. We deserve strong, decisive leadership, but leadership isn't just about saying the right things. It's about rolling up your sleeves and taking action. You don't just talk the talk, you walk the walk. It's the mayor's job and responsibility to the community to lead, to collaborate and unite Saratoga Springs."

Johnson said the direction of Saratoga Springs could change "at the drop of a hat" if the franchise were awarded to a group whose interests were not aligned with the city.

Boyd, the Democratic candidate, had proposed a one-year extension for NYRA earlier this year. However, the same day as Johnson's press conference, Boyd sent a letter to Spitzer encouraging the governor to award the franchise to NYRA for the next 20 years.

"NYRA is well-qualified to continue in this capacity at all three New York tracks: Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga. NYRA is also ready to go. NYRA knows New York racing and requires no training or orientation into the nuances, sensitivities or details," wrote Boyd. "Both NYRA's board and its upper management include individuals such as Charles Wait and Gavin Landry with strong local roots, people we know well, and whose values are in line with the community's. This is especially relevant with regard to one issue of particular concern to Saratogians: the protection of historic structures on NYRA property, including not only the main track, but also the land and structures north of Union Avenue. If NYRA were to continue to operate Saratoga, we would know that we have a partner willing to work with the city's land use approval boards on any major changes to the Union Avenue facilities."

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