Back on Sept. 13, Shayne Gallo stood grimly in his spartan Broadway headquarters surrounded by a small cadre of Working Families Party volunteers, a handful of supporters, and his mother as he watched his chance at the mayor’s office ebb with the numbers flowing in — numbers which showed his opponent, Ninth Ward Alderman Hayes Clement, had a six-vote lead in the Democratic primary. Kingston’s Democratic party elite — incumbent aldermen and the committee chairman, along with assorted business and community leaders — were holed up a few blocks away at Clement’s HQ, guardedly optimistic that the slim lead would hold and the candidate they had endorsed would roll over divided Republican opposition to take City Hall.
Then came the absentee ballots. It was a tense week of waiting, followed by agonizing hours over two days as the candidates sat face-to-face counting them. Gallo ended up on top by seven votes.
By 10 p.m. on Election Day Tuesday, it was clear that the 52-year-old attorney, son of an old-line Kingston political family, brother of the late mayor T.R. Gallo and early underdog, would sweep into power — not just with a victory, but with a landslide over Republican opponent Ron Polacco. According to unofficial numbers from the board of elections, Gallo took 3,151 of 5,597 votes cast, giving him a 56 percent to 31 percent victory over Polacco. Conservative Party candidate Richard Cahill Jr. came in third with 519 votes, about 9 percent, while Red Dog Party candidate Steve Ladin received 165 votes.
Gallo, speaking the afternoon after his triumph, attributed the crushing victory to a strategy based on coalition-building with an emphasis on bringing people into the campaign who had felt shut out by politics-as-usual in Kingston.
“Basically, the focus was to form a coalition of Democrats and the non-enrolled along with the Republican base who were crying out for change and wanted to be part of the solution,” said Gallo.
The breadth of that coalition was evident at Gallo’s victory party at Frank Guido’s Little Italy on Thomas Street Tuesday night, where the same Democratic Party establishment that spurned him at the party’s June nominating convention turned out in force to celebrate the win. The loudest cheers of the night came when Gallo thanked the Working Families Party for its endorsement and on-the-ground support. The upstart left-leaning third party had likely provided the margin of victory in the primary with an aggressive door-to-door campaign that party member and Ward 5 Alderwoman Jennifer Fuentes said was meant by state party leaders as a test of the WFP’s ability to take on a Democratic Party machine and win. Sprinkled around the crowd were Republicans, like onetime mayoral candidate Jean Jacobs, and Gallo’s grass roots supporters, like the young men he’d represented in his role as a part-time Family Court attorney.
(Image: Mayor-elect Shayne Gallo hears it from the crowd upon arrival at his election night victory party. Photo by Dan Barton.)