Written with Hugh Reynolds
If you were to keep a tally of all the people Mayor Shayne Gallo has clashed with over the more than three and a half years of his administration — one-time allies unceremoniously booted from their jobs, nonprofits’ directors shoved out of relationships with City Hall, elected officials accused of everything from incompetence to nepotism to outright unethical behavior — they could fill a room.
On Thursday night, moments after the polls for the city’s furiously contended Democratic primary had closed, they did. And they were very, very happy.
Gallo, to put it plainly, crashed and burned and took with him virtually everyone who had hitched their political aspirations to his agenda. By 10 p.m., mayoral challenger Steve Noble was taking a victory lap at Keegan Ales where a crowd heavy on young, hip “New Kingston” types hoisted Mason jars of beer as roots-rockers The Gold Hope Duo played a chorus of “Great Minds Drink Alike.” Gallo had not called Noble to concede. But Jen Fuentes, a onetime Gallo ally who was Noble’s chief strategist, was watching the numbers come in and the outcome was clear: The 33-year-old city Parks & Recreation employee had ousted the boss from the Democratic line. Unofficial election-night numbers showed Noble up 880 votes to Gallo’s 668.
The rout carried over into other races, where Gallo partisans by and large fell to Noble backers running under the “One Kingston” banner. Noble’s uncle, longtime Alderman-at-Large James Noble, withstood a primary challenge from Jeanette Provenzano, a longtime county lawmaker who stepped down from the legislature to be Gallo’s running mate for the city’s number-two elected office. According to unofficial results, Jim Noble beat Provenzano 829-685.
In the city’s wards, three Gallo partisans lost to “One Kingston” candidates. In Ward 1, where there is no Republican running in the general election, Lynn Eckert handily beat Gallo-backed Laurie Morris 107-45, according to unofficial results. Eckert will replace Council Majority Leader Matt Dunn, who did not seek another term. In Ward 2, Douglas Koop ousted incumbent and Gallo ally Brian Seche 144-49, according to unofficial results. With no Republican in the race, Kopp is assured a seat on the council come January. In Ward 3, a rematch between incumbent and Gallo antagonist Brad Will and Andrew Champ-Doran ended with a 139-86 victory for Will. Gallo allies prevailed in just two wards where there were primary challenges. Maryann Mills will retain her Ward 7 seat after beating former alderman Bill Reynolds 105-51, according to unofficial results. Reynolds had suspended his campaign shortly after receiving the nomination. In Ward 4, incumbent Nina Dawson beat out “One Kingston” candidate Daniel Kanter 86-29. In the county legislature District 7 race, One Kingston candidate Jennifer Schwartz Berky prevailed over city Purchasing Agent Brian Woltman 312-156, according to unofficial results.
James Noble reflected on the magnitude of the victory addressing the crowd at Keegan’s. After introducing himself as “Uncle Jimmy” in an apparent mocking reference to Gallo’s allegations of nepotism, Noble read out the names of the victorious “One Kingston.”
“Not only do we have the mayor’s office and alderman-at-large, we will have control of the council,” said Noble. “Thank God and I see great things in our future.”
Steve Noble was more circumspect, saying that his main job was to keep the campaign rolling as they move towards November’s general election, where he will face Republican challenger Ron Polacco. Noble said he planned to focus on broadening his outreach beyond Democratic Party faithful to Republicans and independent voters.
“I put a lot on the line for this,” said Steve Noble. “But I knew that if I could run a grass-roots campaign and bring a positive message to people who want to do new creative things in Kingston, I would be their guy.”
Gallo vows disciplinary charges
At Gallo headquarters at an insurance office Uptown, the mood was somber, and seemingly bitter.
“Just can’t beat a campaign of hate and negativism. It was very nasty,” said Gallo. “I’m proud of our campaign. We kept our head above water. We didn’t lower ourselves.”
Gallo, calling Noble “a pretentious elitist,” said, “People were duped by a small group of elitist cronies.”
Gallo said that 300 absentee ballots had been requested from the Board of Elections for the primary; they’re to be counted next week. But with a 212-vote lead, more than two-thirds of them would have to go against Noble for Gallo to scratch out a win.
Gallo said he would immediately move to bring Steve Noble up on “a few dozen” charges of incompetence and misconduct stemming from accusations that Noble mishandled several city grants. Gallo said civil service law allows him to suspend Noble for up to 30 days without pay. “Remember how he requested I bring charges. I couldn’t do it during a mayoral campaign. Now, we’ll grant his request,” said Gallo.
Gallo also said Polacco could well be the next mayor, “what with Noble’s lack of a record and the kind of nasty campaign he ran in the primary” and the disciplinary charges Gallo promised Noble will be facing. He stopped short of saying he would support Polacco, however.
As far as his own political future is concerned, Gallo said he’s done and added that he’d spend the next few months looking for a job “that fits my talents and proven record.”