As county’s Democratic Party grows, Chairman Crawford wants to unify factions

Jacob Crawford,

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff
Jacob Crawford, left, holds his daughter Elowin, as he chats at the 2018 Democratic caucus with Guilderland's highway superintendent, Greg Wier. Crawford will continue as Guilderland's Democratic chairman while also serving as Albany County's Democratic chairman.

ALBANY COUNTY — Jacob Crawford, the new chairman of Albany County’s Democratic committee, says he wants to unite the party. He’s also eager to reclaim the Helderberg Hilltowns where, although enrollment is primarily Democratic, GOP-backed candidates have the majority on three of four town boards.

“The county party continues to grow larger and larger with more people wanting to be involved …,” Crawford told The Enterprise this week. “There are many different factions of the Democratic Party. I would like to unite us, bring us together, make us a stronger party, to ensure that, when we endorse a candidate, that candidate wins both primaries and general elections.”

Voter enrollment in Albany County is heavily Democratic and the county’s executive, sheriff, and comptroller, and district attorney are all Democrats. This year, the district attorney, David Soares, was unsuccessfully challenged in the Democratic primary.

“I believe it’s time for us to come together to make the party more about individual committee members and how hard they work for the party and not about one elected official or one policy idea or one proposal,” said Crawford.

Crawford, who is 33, has been a county committeeman for 13 years. After the death of Guilderland’s  longtime Democratic chairman, David Bosworth, in April 2017, Crawford stepped in as acting chairman and then was elected to chair Guilderland’s Democratic committee.

He will continue as Guilderland’s chairman, he said, while serving for the next two years as the county chairman, too. 

“I think a lot of the work overlaps …,” Crawford said. “Luckily, we’ve got one of the strongest committees in the county and I know they’re able to do all of the work to get our Democrats elected on the town level,” he said of Guilderland.

Crawford, who also serves on the Guilderland Zoning Board of Appeals, said he works for the Democrats because “the Albany County party has continuously endorsed and elected Democrats that work to improve the economy for working-class families.” The Democrats, he said, have ensured that taxes, both for businesses and homeowners, are “affordable.”

Crawford, himself, comes from a working-class family. His father is an electrician and is president of a union local; his mother worked in doctor’s offices. The younger of two boys growing up near Syracuse, Crawford came to the area to study at the University at Albany where he met his wife and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public administration.

He and his wife, Kellen, bought a house in Guilderland in 2011, where they are raising their three daughters: Reegan, 8; Delaney, 6; and Elowin, 3.

“She’s the one who came up with all these wonderful names as she has a very unique Irish name as well,” said Crawford of his wife.

He works for New York State United Teachers as an analyst in higher education, doing policy financial research.

“NYSUT represents about 80,000 members in higher education so I provide background research and analysis on budgets, whether it’s for collective bargaining or for the state budget process or policies put forward by SUNY or CUNY boards of trustees or the State Education Department to see what the impact is on our members and what those policies mean,” said Crawford.

He replaces Jack Flynn who chaired the county Democrats for four years and promoted an equity agenda, establishing a Disability Caucus and a Social Justice and Anti-Racism Committee. Also, during Flynn’s tenure, the first African-American County Court judge, William Carter, was elected; as was the first female Albany County Court judge, Andra Ackerman; and the first female African-American Albany County Family Court judge, Sherri Brooks.



Asked about his goals, Crawford said, “The Democratic Party is a large party with a number of different ideas and I want to harness that energy and drive it in the right direction.”

He went on, “The other goal I have is to raise as much money as we possibly can raise so we can compete at all levels in every race.”

Asked what the “right direction” is, Crawford said, “It’s about finding the right candidates that will fit the locality. They’re going to best represent those that live in those communities. Obviously, there are different plans on how to run towns in the Hilltowns compared to how it is to run the town of Colonie, which has 90,000-plus people compared to some of our Hilltowns that have 2,500.”

Albany County’s Republican committee recently chose Randy Bashwinger, Berne’s GOP chairman and highway superintendent, as its chairman. Berne, like Westerlo and Knox, has far more enrolled Democrats than Republicans although all three towns now have board majorities backed by the GOP.

All four Helderberg Hilltowns went for Donald Trump in 2016, after previously supporting Barack Obama.

Crawford said of Bashwinger, “He’s interested in taking his brand of politics to the suburban towns in the county to try to win some of those races. I would look forward to the competition. I think the Trump style of politics is not what the suburban voters of Albany County are interested in or are looking for, and I look forward to taking the competition up to him in the Hilltowns.”

Crawford went on, “We are going to be recruiting and finding candidates in the Hilltowns of Albany County that are going to be run on the Democratic line and hopefully get elected and represent those constituents that for some reason chose to vote for Trump or vote for the Trump style of politics for the past couple of cycles but that’s OK.

“We’re looking to recruit more Democrats and we’re looking to use the new chairs that have been elected in the Hilltowns and harness that energy. So I look forward to working on our side of the aisle against Randy in terms of what he’s trying to build with his candidates. But, at the end of the day, it’s about getting the best individuals elected to best represent those communities.”

Responding to ideas expressed last week by Wanda Willingham, an Albany County legislator representing Arbor Hill who heads a task force on the effect the pandemic has had on businesses — Willingham said, “Albany County will not survive unless we look at the poorest first” — Crawford called Willingham an “amazing leader” and said it’s important to see “what can be done to fix the disparities in this county.”

He went on, “This is something the county needs to tackle together. The Democratic Party has always been actively involved in terms of gathering gift cards for families in need, coat drives for families in need. That’s something I’ve been talking about with the chair of the New Scotland Democratic Committee, Crystal Peck, especially in these difficult times because there are people out there hurting all over the county.”

Crawford concluded, “The Democratic Party should step up and be involved.”


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