From the editor: County races hit close to home

ALBANY COUNTY — Although much of the nation’s focus is on the presidential contest for 2020, close-to-home elections next month in Albany County will perhaps have a greater effect on the daily lives of our readers.

In the interest of having a well-informed citizenry, The Enterprise has put together this voters’ guide, focusing on the county legislative races in our coverage area — Guilderland, New Scotland, Berne, Knox, Rensselaerville, and Westerlo.

In our regular weekly editions, we are continuing with our issues-based profiles for town elections. In this pull-out section, also distributed at local libraries, we’ve focused entirely on the county legislative elections.

For the contested races at both the town and county levels, we are adding a new element. In addition to being able to read profiles of the candidates, you may also watch videos of them, answering the same series of issues-based questions.

This allows voters to see how their own views line up with candidates’ views, as well as seeing how candidates react to questions, in order to make an informed choice. It also lets candidates speak directly to voters.

The videos are available, for free, on our website at

County-wide elections include:

County Executive: Incumbent Democrat Daniel P. McCoy, also running on the Conservative, Working Families, and Independence lines, has served two four-year terms. He is being challenged by Libertarian Robert G. Porter;

County Comptroller: Michael Conners, after 25 years as comptroller, is not seeking re-election.  Susan A. Rizzo won the Democratic primary in June and is running on that line. Darius Shahinfar, whom Rizzo defeated in the Democratic primary, is still running on the Working Families and Independence lines. David R. Yule is running on the Republican line;

County Sheriff: Incumbent Democrat Craig D. Apple is unopposed. He also is running on the Conservative, Working Families, and Independence lines;

County Court Judge: Andra L. Ackerman won the Democratic primary in June and also has the Independence Party line. Holly A. Trexler, who lost to Ackerman in the primary, is still running on the Working  Families Party line;

Family Court Judge: Voters will choose two for this post. Sherri J. Brooks and Amy E. Joyce bested a field of seven in June’s Democratic primary. Brooks is also running on the Working Families Party line. William P. Andrew, who lost in the primary, is still running on the Conservative line. And Margaret C. Tabak, who also lost in the primary, is on the Working Families line;

County Coroner: The county has four part-time coroners who serve four-year terms. Coroners determine the time and cause of someone’s death, and identify the decedent. There are two separate races for coroner. The first race is for a full four-year term. Incumbent Democrats Timothy J. Cavanaugh and John G. Keegan — each of whom also have the Conservative and Independence lines — are being challenged by Republicans Scott R. Malo and Deborah M. Busch. Voters will choose two candidates in this race.

The second race, for a two-year term, is to fill a vacancy, and voters will choose either Democrat Antonio Sturges or Republican William B. Keal; and

Supreme Court Justice, 3rd Judicial District: John C. Egan Jr. and Michael Lynch both have the Democratic, Republican, and Independence lines; additionally, Egan has the Conservative line and Lynch, the Working Families Party line. Justin Corcoran has the Democratic and Independence lines while Linda Blom Johnson has the Republican and Conservative lines.

Roughly half of Albany County’s 182,351 enrolled voters are Democrats. About 42,000 are not affiliated with any party and about 34,000 are Republicans. The rest are enrolled in small parties. (These figures, on party enrollment, like others in this section, are from the Albany County Board of Elections.)


County legislature

The Enterprise interviewed county legislative candidates in these districts:

District 28: Incumbent Democrat Dennis Feeney is unopposed;

District 29: Incumbent Republican Mark Grimm is being challenged by Democrat James Cohen;

District 30: Democrat Dustin Reidy is running against Republican Peter Golden;

District 31: Republican Jeff Perlee is running against Democrat Fran Porter;

District 32: Democrat Mickey Cleary is running unopposed;

District 33: Incumbent Democrat William Reinhardt is running unopposed;

District 38: Incumbent Democrat Victoria Plotsky is running unopposed; and

District 39: Incumbent Democrat Christopher H. Smith is running unopposed.


The issues

The Enterprise asked county legislator candidates about their relevant background and reasons for running as well as about these issues:

Homeless people: Albany County has a high rate of homelessness — 27 homeless people for every 10,000 residents, with 750 people homeless on any given night. Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple has a plan to fill empty cells at the county jail with homeless people and parolees, which he believes would reduce recidivism. The sheriff’s office has partnered with the Homeless and Travelers Aid Society of Albany, which is applying for a grant to fund the program’s administrative costs and is also expected to take over management duties should a grant be awarded.

Should the county support this initiative? Why or why not? And how? What else, if anything, should the county do to help the homeless?

Emergency medical services: Many areas of the county that were once served by volunteer ambulance squads no longer have enough volunteers to carry on, so the county’s EMS, under the sheriff’s office, is filling the gap. The county EMS next year is moving to more full-time staff members, which costs more than the current part-time staff, causing some towns to push for the county, rather than the local municipalities, to bear the burden of cost for EMS services. This would entail state legislation to create a district within the county, for taxing purposes, to pay for county EMS.

Are you in favor of the county rather than the municipalities bearing the cost of EMS? Why or why not?

Environmental issues: In September, the Albany County executive issued an order banning single-use plastic straws and stirrers from county departments and operations, and submitted legislation requiring all businesses and organizations offering beverages for public consumption to do the same. Earlier, the county banned the use of polystyrene foam (Styrofoam) for disposable food service ware by all eateries throughout the county and required instead the use of compostable or recyclable alternatives. Also, the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act requires 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2040 and economy-wide, net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Do you support a ban on plastic straws and stirrers? What recycling, or energy-saving, or green energy-producing initiatives would you like the county to take and why?

Paid sick leave: In June, 11 Democrats joined 10 Republicans to vote down, 21 to 17, a proposed law that would have required Albany County employers to provide paid sick time to their workers. If this law is proposed again, perhaps in another form, would you back it? Why or why not? If you think it needs modification, what changes would you make?

Suburban poverty: Last year, 18 percent of Guilderland students came from poverty; that’s up from 5 percent a decade ago. Suburban poverty is more hidden than urban and rural poverty, and because of the spread-out nature of suburbs, often without public transportation, it is difficult for poor suburbanites to access centered city services.

What is being or should be done in Albany County to help the suburban poor?

Opioids: While Albany County continues to pursue legal action against pharmaceutical companies involved in the opioid crisis, overdoses and addiction continue throughout the county.

The Sheriff’s Heroin Addiction Recovery Program, known as SHARP, has reduced re-incarceration by 28 percent for those who participated in the treatment program at Albany County’s jail, but the number of participants is small. 

What is being done at the county level to prevent addiction in the first place and to deal with the crimes that often follow, and what more should be done?

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