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Regional Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, November 8, 2007

Dems continue to dominate Albany County Legislature

By Saranac Hale Spencer

ALBANY COUNTY - There were no upsets in elections for the Albany County Legislature, but there were some close calls.

In seven local races, six Democrats and one Republican kept their seats.

Two of those races were uncontested. Charles Houghtaling, a six-term incumbent in the 38th District and chair of the legislature was elected with 1,444 votes to represent southwestern New Scotland and Westerlo for four more years. Bryan Clenahan, a Democrat appointed in June to represent the 30th District in Westmere got 1,125 votes, according to unofficial results from the county's board of elections.

Clenahan, who works as deputy council to the Democratic minority in the state senate, filled the seat vacated by fellow Democrat Dennis Feeney when Feeney moved to the 29th District, where he lost his bid on Tuesday for that seat.

"I do think it's easier as an incumbent," said Republican Lee Carman of his win over Feeney in the 29th District, covering Fort Hunter. But, he added, it's the "same amount of work, going door-to-door."

Carman, the vice president of secondary marketing for the Guardian Loan Company, got 52 percent of the vote, leaving Feeney, who is an attorney with the law firm Feeney, Centi, & Mackey, with 48 percent.

"We both grew up in this part of town," said Feeney on Wednesday. So, he said, they were "two people who know a lot of people and have a lot of friends" He just happened to have a few more."

In the 32nd District, which covers Guilderland along Route 20 from McKownville to Route 146 and from Guilderland Center to the New Scotland town line, a 30-year resident of Guilderland and four-term incumbent, Mary Lou Connolly, bested newcomer Anton Konev in another close race. Connolly, who owns Bartolotta-Connolly Insurance, beat the 23-year old Democrat who ran on the Republican ticket with 58 percent of the vote after what she termed a "negative campaign."

"His whole campaign was focused on" one lie after another," she said of Konev, a problem she chalked up to his "age and lack of accomplishments."

"When you are running against an incumbent" can you say that things are great"or should you say the reality"" asked Konev on Wednesday. His campaign took a negative tone because he was trying to oust an incumbent, he said, adding, "I was asking people to fire her."

Even though he lost this race, Konev is not discouraged. He pointed out that Abraham Lincoln lost political races before going on to become president. Konev, who works as a senior legislative assistant for state Assemblyman Peter Rivera, tried to challenge Connolly in the primary elections, but his petition was thrown out because of problems with some signatures, he said in October. So, although he's a Democrat, he ran on the Republican ticket.

"It was a low turnout," Connolly said of how Konev managed to pull down 42 percent of the vote. "And he was on the Republican line," she said. "I'm sure that's where he picked up his support."

This was a year that the heretofore nearly defunct Republican Party in Guilderland made significant gains in the town, picking up two seats on the town board in a major upset.

In District 31, the Republican challenger and political newcomer, Ted Danz, nearly caught long-time incumbent and local political fixture William Aylward, who ended up with 53 percent of the vote.

"By and large"the western part of Guilderland was very much on my side," Danz said on Wednesday. He added that the village of Altamont, where Aylward lives and serves on the board of trustees, voted heavily in Aylward's favor.

"The Republican Party isn't very strong in this area," Danz said, comparing his campaign with Aylward's. Over the past week, the Democrats were calling residents with a recording of County Executive Michael Breslin stumping for Aylward.

Danz, who owns Family Danz Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc., estimated that his campaign cost roughly $9,000, most of which came out of his pocket, he said, and "not one penny from the Republican Party, not one postage stamp."

In a speech to fellow Democrats after learning of his victory on Tuesday night, Aylward said, "A lot of money was spent in this election to beat me."

Aylward, a retired social studies teacher, couldn't be reached for comment on Wednesday.

In New Scotland, another Democratic incumbent, Herbert Reilly, owner of Reilly & Son Funeral Home, defeated his Republican challenger, Patrick Greene, a private-practice lawyer, by getting 66 percent of the vote in the 33rd District, which covers northeastern New Scotland.

Greene, like many Republicans, wanted to downsize the legislature and he also vowed that he wouldn't take the legislator's salary, if elected.

On the Hill, Democratic incumbent Alexander "Sandy" Gordon, a farmer, won a decisive victory with 56 percent of the vote, leaving Republican Travis Stevens, an engineer, with 35 percent, and Kevin Crosier, the Berne town supervisor who is an enrolled Democrat but ran on the Working Families and Conservative lines after Gordon beat him handily in the Democratic primary, with 9 percent of the vote.

Stevens, 32, said that he wouldn't rule out another run for office, adding that he learned a lot from the experience. "The sky is the limit," he said.

"A very clear message came from the voting population," Gordon said on Wednesday of his win. "I feel reassured."

- Jarrett Carroll contributed William Aylward's election-night comment to this story.

New radio system allows police, EMTs, firemen to talk

By Rachel Dutil

ALBANY COUNTY - A new radio system will allow police, firefighters, and emergency medical service personnel from around the region to communicate with one another.

"In the past, when we had multiple agency response, the agencies could not communicate with each other," said Albany County Sheriff James Campbell. Each agency had to radio back to its communications center, and someone there contacted other agencies, he explained. That method, he said, was "very time consuming."

"With the new system, agencies can all talk to one another," said Campbell. It connects 41 fire departments, 15 law-enforcement agencies, and 18 emergency medical service entities in Albany County, he said.

"When the towers went down," said Campbell, referring to the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001, "police couldn't talk to fire, fire couldn't talk to police."

The interoperability system also allows Albany County to communicate with municipalities in the neighboring counties of Rensselaer and Schenectady, said Campbell.

The $1.7 million system was funded through a Homeland Security grant. "I know we wouldn't have had the money to do it without the grant," said Campbell.

He said that he first looked into a countywide radio system in 2000. The county legislature appropriated $10,000 in 2002, so the sheriff's department could hire a consultant to study the feasibility of communications among county agencies, Campbell said.

In 2004, the county received a grant totaling nearly $2.5 million from the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services for Urban Area Initiative Grant Program. An amount of $1.7 million was targeted for the new radio system, said Campbell.

"Homeland Security grants are all about improving communication," he said.

The new radio system is "definitely a benefit to public safety," said Campbell.

"It allows fire departments to all talk to each other on one frequency," he said. In the past, when multiple fire departments responded to a fire, there would often be several radios on the hood of a designated firetruck, he said.

The new system will be used for "emergency services only," said Sheriff Campbell. "There will be no idle chatter on it," he said.

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