In a Dem-dominated county, Perlee and Grimm are GOP victors

ALBANY COUNTY — While Democrats, from the top of the ticket on down, continue to dominate in county elections, the GOP held its own in two local legislative races.

In District 31, which covers Altamont and Guilderland Center as well as parts of Knox and Berne, Republican Jeff Perlee, with close to 58 percent of the vote, easily beat Democrat Fran Porter, a newcomer to politics.

In Guilderland’s District 29, incumbent one-term Republican Mark Grimm, with nearly 56 percent of the vote, beat Democrat James Cohen.

In the only other contested legislative race in Guilderland, in Westmere’s District 30, Democrat Dustin Reidy, with over 63 percent of the vote, handily defeated Peter Golden, who is unaffiliated with a party but ran on the Republican line. 

The county has 184,685 enrolled voters of which more than half (94,247 or 51 percent) are Democrats. Just 18 percent (34,374) are Republicans while 22 percent (42,194) are unaffiliated. The rest belong to small parties, each with 1 percent or less of registered county voters.

District 31

The Hilltown GOP tide that has swept Republicans into office in 2017 and 2019 — Berne, Knox, and Westerlo will all have Republican-majority boards despite about double Democratic enrollment — may have helped Jeff Perlee to victory in District 31.

The seat has been held since 2012, after the district had been redrawn, by Knox Republican Travis Stevens who did not seek re-election.

Perlee has roots both in the Helderbergs — his family goes back eight generations there — and in Altamont, where he lives.

“I was depending on a good margin in Knox and East Berne,” Perlee said on Wednesday. “I was hoping to keep it even in Altamont and Guilderland Center.”

He calculates he won with 56 percent of the vote in both Altamont and Guilderland Center so, for his 58-percent overall tally, he calculates it must have been higher in the Hilltowns.

Perlee called his victory margin “a pleasant surprise.”

He went on, “I ran a very deliberately not-partisan campaign. I did that partly of necessity because Democrats significantly outnumber Republicans in this district … But it’s also a good thing to do.”

Perlee concluded, “If there’s a mandate, it’s: Don’t make this about partisan positions; find a way to put aside partisanship to get things done.”

During his campaign, Perlee said, “I’m deeply rooted in the area and have a great love of the Helderbergs. This area is very different than other parts of the county … It deserves unique representation.”

Perlee plans to offer “a voice and a vote to influence policy” to preserve what is “very near and dear to my heart” — preserving and enhancing the look and feel of the Helderbergs.

He named the three elements he would pursue to do this: recreation and tourism, supporting local businesses, and planning and development.

“What really defines us is the physical features,” Perlee said. Yet, he said, the county has done nothing to provide infrastructure or programs to encourage recreation or tourism in the 31st District.”

Perlee said on Wednesday, his goals to pursue those three elements remain the same. “My focus will be to integrate the key components in each part of this district … for green-centered economic development that feeds off of Thacher Park,” he said. “The county can and should play a role in that.”

Porter, a Democrat who lives in Altamont, was making her first run for office. With a 30-year career in state government, Porter has had experience working for the state’s labor and health departments and became director of the program that provides food for pregnant women, infants, and children (WIC).

With over 42 percent of the vote, Porter did as well as an aunt she’d admired since childhood. A nun living in the most Republican district in Iowa, her aunt ran for the state senate. Despite having little time, few resources, and the “impossibility” of being a woman, a nun, and a Democrat, her aunt sill garnered 40 percent of the vote, said Porter.

Porter got 839 votes on the Democratic line and 136 on the Working Families Party line.

Perlee received 945 votes on the Republican line, 227 on the Conservative line, and 177 on the Independence Party line.

Porter could not be reached for comment Wednesday morning.

District 29

Republican Mark Grimm beat the political odds again in his bid for a second term in the county legislature.

District 29, encompassing seven election districts in the Fort Hunter area, has 38 percent of its registered voters enrolled as Democrats and just 27 percent as Republican, Grimm said.

“It’s a pretty significant difference,” he said on Wednesday.

A former Guilderland Town Board member, Grimm attributes his political success to his “hard work” and his “always putting constituents first.”

Grimm bested Democrat David Cardona in 2015 when Republican Lee Carman retired after three terms to run for the Guilderland Town Board instead. 

Asked about his goals for the upcoming term, Grimm said on Wednesday, “I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. I work really hard. Keeping my constituents happy — that’s my priority.”

Grimm said he works hard not only as a legislator but as a campaigner.

“Our Republicans suffered last night,” he said, referencing the ouster of Carman from the Guilderland Town Board (see related story).

“It’s the organization versus the party out of power. The Democrats control the town. The party in power has a lot more volunteers,” Grimm said. “That’s a challenge.”

Asked about his own future political ambitions, Grimm said, “I’m very happy as county legislator, a business owner, and a soccer and lacrosse dad.”

He concluded, “I’m grateful to Team Grimm — the voters, the donors, and the volunteers.”

Democrat James Cohen made his first run for county legislator a half-century ago, and has been active in party politics all the while. Asked during his campaign why he has kept running, despite repeated defeats, Cohen said, “The reason I’m running this time is personal. My wife, Kathy, passed away four-and-a-half years ago … That was difficult for me. She was a creative person.”

The couple had married in 1965. As he’s been campaigning door-to-door, Cohen said, he runs into people who knew his wife, and they share memories.

He also said of his earlier defeats, “I think I’ve helped with the discourse.”

Grimm received 789 Republican votes, 166 Conservative votes, and 109 Independence Party votes.

Cohen got 771 votes on the Democratic line, and 68 votes on the Working Family Parties line. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday morning.

District 30

Dustin Reidy, who calls himself a “progressive Democrat,” said on Wednesday morning that he wanted to thank the voters as well as the community leaders, labor unions, and “tireless volunteers” who worked for his victory.

“I’m excited that voters in Westmere have given me the honor of representing them in the Albany County Legislature,” he said, adding that he hopes to “bring new energy and transparency to local government.”

For the last 10 years, Reidy has worked on issue advocacy and has helped manage and run voter outreach and election campaigns. 

Golden, a novelist and historian, told The Enterprise Wednesday morning that he believes running for office is a form of community service because it is important for people to talk about the issues and to have choices.

“Life would be very interesting if everyone had to run at least once,” Golden said. “There’d be a lot more people coming out [to vote], for one thing.” 

District 30 had been represented by Democrat Bryan Clenahan from 2007 until last year, when he became a Guilderland town justice, following the arrest and resignation of former town justice Richard Sherwood. 

Democrat Charles D. Cahill Jr. was appointed to fill Clenahan’s seat but did not run to keep the seat. 

In June’s Democratic primary, Dustin Reidy decisively won against Steven Wickham, who had been the candidate selected by the Guilderland Democratic Party for District 30. 

In Tuesday’s election, Reidy received 850 Democratic votes and 72 votes on the Working Families Party line. 

Golden received 432 votes on the Republican line, and 99 on the Conservative. 

Unopposed

Legislative candidates in these local races were unopposed:

District 28: Democrat Dennis Feeney got 941 Democratic votes and 183 Independence Party votes;

— District 32: Democrat Mickey Cleary got 942 votes on his own party line and another 125 on the Independence Party line, for about 77 percent of the vote. Incumbent Democrat Paul Miller, who narrowly lost the Democratic primary to Cleary, still had the Working Families Party line although he announced he would not campaign for the post. He received 308 votes, or more than 22 percent;

District 33: Democrat William Reinhardt received 1,334 Democratic votes and 279 Working Families Party votes;

District 38: Democrat Victoria Plotsky received 1,141 Democratic votes and 267 Independence Party votes; and

— District 39: Democrat Chris Smith received 1,036 Democratic votes, 616 Conservative votes, and 161 Independence Party votes. 

Top of the ticket

Democratic incumbent County Executive Daniel McCoy, at the top of the slate, got over 89 percent of the vote with his only challenger, Libertarian Robert Porter, taking just over 10 percent. McCoy had the Conservative, Independence and Working Families party lines as well as his own party’s.

Democrat Susan Rizzo, who had won the June primary against Darius Shahinfar for comptroller, handily won Tuesday over Republican David Jule and over Shahinfar who ran on the Working Families line. Rizzo garnered 56 percent of the vote, Yule got 30 percent, and Shahinfar close to 14 percent.

Sheriff Craig Apple, unopposed, got 54,127 votes.

Democrat Andra Ackerman will be the first female Albany County Court judge. She got over 78 percent of the vote, beating her rival in the June primary, Holly Trexler, who ran on the Working Family Parties line.

Democrats Sherri Brooks, with over 40 percent of the vote, and Amy Joyce, with close to 36 percent of the vote, bested their June primary rivals — William Andrews on the Conservative line and Margaret Tabak on the Working Families line.

Democrats Timothy Cavanaugh, John Keegan, and Antonio Sturges will be the county’s coroners, after Cavanaugh, with about 37 percent of the vote, and Keegan, with about 35.5 percent, turned back Republican challengers Scott Malo and Deborah Busch. Sturges cruised to victory over Republican William Keal, 63 percent to about 37 percent. 

— Elizabeth Floyd Mair wrote the section on District 30.

 

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