When the polls closed on election night Tuesday, the political balance of the Kingston Common Council remained unchanged, with Democrats maintaining their 7-2 majority and the post of alderman-at-large. But that’s virtually all that will remain the same come January when six new aldermen take their seats and a veteran city lawmaker departs after being unseated in an upset.
“There’s going to be some new issues that haven’t been raised before and a new look at some things that they said couldn’t be done,” said Republican Deborah Brown, who won a surprise victory over Democrat John Simek in the 9th Ward. “You’re going to see a new set of eyes on a lot of things.”
Brown’s victory was impressive, and unexpected. She ran without the benefit of the Republican Party line (it was denied to her in a petition challenge by Democratic hopeful Mark Halwick Jr., who went on to lose the primary to Simek) in a ward where Democrats enjoy a nearly three-to-one advantage. But perhaps the most surprising turn on election night was the unseating of Ward 3 Alderman Charlie Landi, a Democrat, by 27-year-old first-time candidate Republican Nate Horowitz.
Landi, 77, has served a total of 20 years on the council since 1988 and headed up its powerful Finance and Economic Development Committee. In recent years, he’s issued dire warnings of impending fiscal doom, called for givebacks by city unions and warned of the impact of too many off-the-tax-rolls non-profit properties in the city. Horowitz countered with his own message of fiscal conservatism and an energetic ground campaign.
“I think people just saw the direction we’ve been going in for the past 10 years and decided it was not a positive direction,” said Horowitz. “I’m not saying I’m going to change that all by myself, but people just wanted some kind of change.”
In another twist, all three seats vacated by aldermen seeking the mayor’s office changed parties. The Ward 9 seat is currently held by Hayes Clement, who opted to forgo re-election in a failed bid for the Democratic nomination. In Ward 1, where Republican Andi Turco-Levin spent a single term before embarking on her mayoral campaign, Democrat Matt Dunn beat out Republican Al Teetsel, who was seeking to return for a third term on the council after taking a two-year hiatus. In Ward 6, Republicans failed to field a candidate to replace mayoral runner-up Ron Polacco, giving Democrat Elisa Ball a free ride to the council chambers.
The sudden infusion of six freshman alderman, along with a new mayor, means that the four remaining incumbents, Bob Senor (D-Ward 8), Shirley Whitlock (D-Ward 4) Tom Hoffay (D-Ward 2) and Council President Jim Noble will have their work cut out for them. They’ll be expected to take a lead role in a challenging legislative and budget environment.
“We’re fortunate to at least have three experienced aldermen,” said Noble, who expressed regret at Landi’s defeat. “They’re going to have to step up and take some of these committee chairs and show them the ropes, because we have a lot of work to do.”
Ward by ward
Here’s the breakdown of how the votes came out. All figures are unofficial until certified by the board of elections.
Ward 1: Democrat Matt Dunn bested Republican Al Teetsel 475-255.
Ward 2: Two-term incumbent Democrat Tom Hoffay held onto his seat by a 294-202 margin over GOP challenger Seth Allen.
Ward 3: Republican Nate Horowitz upset Democrat incumbent Charlie Landi, 467-356.
Ward 4: Democrat incumbent Shirley Whitlock held a 148-92 margin over Republican opponent Frasier Sprague.
Ward 5: Democrat Bill Carey won a three-way race with 306 votes. Working Families Party candidate Janai McDonough received 135 votes while Republican Craig Johnson brought in 103.
Ward 6: Democrat Elisa Ball, running unopposed, took 562 votes.
Ward 7: Democrat Maryann Mills beat Republican Curtis Dankelmann 519-335.
Ward 8: Incumbent Bob Senor, running unopposed, received 308 votes.
Ward 9: Deborah Brown, a registered Republican running on the New Beginnings line, tallied 359 votes to Democrat John Simek’s 277.
Alderman-at-Large Jim Noble, a Democrat, won a third four-year term as council president, besting GOP challenger Joe Marchetti 3,291-2,233.