Albany voters have not replaced an incumbent mayor at the ballot box since Democrat William Stormont Hackett defeated scandal-scared Republican James R. Watt in 1921.
And if County Executive Dan McCoy has his way next year, that streak will continue.
Last week, McCoy and the Democratic Party committee ousted county Chair Carolyn McLoughlin, also the Albany City Council president, and replaced her with one of McCoy’s family members – albeit by marriage – Jack Flynn, a councilman from the Eighth Ward.
More on the debacle of how Flynn and company then tried to oust Board of Elections Commissioner Matt Clyne later.
But first, McLaughlin was hardly secretive about her intent to take on Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, and by removing her as chair without so much as a decent floor fight, certainly sends a message or two.
The first being, that if you take on Sheehan, you also take on McCoy. Sheehan is vulnerable after a rocky first term – and that’s putting it nicely – but with McCoy in her corner she is nearly unbeatable.
The fact she was replaced by a fellow city Dem speaks volumes too – if she can’t get Democrats to vote for her as chair, how is she going to win a citywide election?
That last part is particularly true given that Councilman Frank Commisso is also eyeballing a run at mayor. He has a solid family name, was born and raised in the Capital District, knows the city finances inside and out, is articulate and plays well in front of the cameras.
McLaughlin got beat by a relative no-name like Flynn, how is she going to win a three-way primary against people like Sheehan and Commisso – especially when she and Commisso would be vying for the same Democrats, or those who don’t like Sheehan.
Actually, in the long run, it probably would have helped Sheehan more if McCoy and company left McLaughlin as chair, and maybe even nudged her to run for mayor.
McCoy has solidified his position in Albany County, and he’s done so in part by publicly staying above the petty political fray and the party infighting that crops up from time to time. When it comes to Sheehan, though, he is out front and vocal about his support.
Why, you have to wonder, did he throw his support behind Sheehan so early and so adamantly.
There really hasn’t been a Democratic Party machine since Dan O’Connell ran the show from about 1917 to the mid 70s.
The closest thing since O’Connell is probably former Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings. But, even he had the Breslin brothers to keep him in check. The Breslins were hardly a machine either for the same reason.
Albany city Democrats and Albany County Democrats haven’t really gotten along too well for decades, but someone with the political savvy and smarts could bring them together under one fiefdom.
Say what you want about McCoy, but if he squashes any opposition to Sheehan and she does win a second term she’ll owe him he could become the closest thing to Dan O’Connell since, well, Dan O’Connell.
Flynn and Clyne
Back to the debacle.
Shortly after Flynn – who was working at the Board of Elections making $48,500 – was elected chair, McCoy ally Andrew Joyce, made a motion to table the recommendation of the party’s Board of Elections Commissioner Matt Clyne.
It is widely believed Flynn was eyeballing Clyne’s $90,000-plus salary.
But, Flynn showed up at the BOE for work the next day and Clyne fired him. There is that old adage – if you’re going to shoot at the king (or your boss) you better kill him.
Unless something extraordinary happens, Clyne will likely be re-appointed by the county Legislature early next year.
If McCoy and company were a bit smarter about the whole thing, they would have had someone in the wings to challenge Clyne. Instead they tried to back door the move and to its credit the committee, behind Gil Ethier of Cohoes, put a stop to it.
I bet O’Connell would not have made such a rookie mistake, but there is a learning curve for everything, even King of the County.
Jim Franco has covered the Capital District for more than 20 years. He can be reached at 878-1000 or by email at [email protected]