CONSERVATIVES SPLIT IN CONGRESSIONAL CONTEST

JORDAN CARLEO-EVANGELIST STAFF WRITER
Section: Capital Region,  Page: D3

Date: Friday, July 23, 2010

The state Conservative Party may be lining up behind Guilderland Republican Ted Danz to oust Democrat Paul Tonko from the 21st Congressional District, but Albany County Conservatives are waging their own fight against Danz. They are backing Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Democrat-turned-Conservative Joseph Sullivan for the job.


Sullivan -- a longtime Albany political hand who ran for Common Council last year but left the party after he said he became disillusioned with the partisan infighting -- enrolled as a Conservative shortly after losing the 14th Ward's Democratic primary to incumbent Joseph Igoe.


Conservative Chairman Richie Stack said he questioned Danz's commitment to the job and didn't feel comfortable handing his party's line to a Republican when an actual party member wants to run.


Sullivan made a bid for the seat too in the crowded 2008 Democratic primary that handed Tonko the nomination.


From time to time, the Conservative Party lines up behind Democrats in Albany County -- including Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings and then-City Treasurer Betty Barnette last year, both of whom faced Republican opponents.


Asked if he was concerned about Sullivan's long list of Democratic bonafides, which include working as local coordinator for Ted Kennedy's 1980 presidential run, Stack shrugged it off.


"Hey, I was a Democrat one time," Stack said. "I always tell people I was a Corning Democrat. Corning was more conservative than any Republican in this county."


A run for the chair


A couple of weeks ago we told you that Paul Mancino, first vice chairman of the City of Albany Democratic Committee, plans to make a bid for chairman.


Mancino will face at least one challenge before that: He's being primaried for his Democratic committee seat in the 4th Ward's 11th election district.


If Mancino were to lose his seat, he could still be elected party chairman and retain his post as 4th Ward Leader. The ward includes Arbor Hill and North Albany.


But County Legislator Wanda Willingham has said she wants to be the 4th's new leader -- and some insiders say that Willingham is behind the committee power play, including a primary challenge of 90-year-old longtime committeewoman Mary Gipson, a move that has angered some of the party faithful.


"She's out of control. I don't know what she's trying to do," Mancino said, adding that he doesn't believe primaries are bad thing but that he doesn't think people who have dedicated themselves to the party should be targeted.


"Some of the people Wanda is putting up," he said, "I've never seen them involved in the party before."


In all, there are primaries in five of the 4th Ward's election districts


(Willingham could not be reached Thursday.)


Further uptown, the 7th Ward appears to be the most hotly contested inside the Democratic Party. There are primaries in seven election districts with 32 candidates running for just 14 committee seats.


Mayoral race in Cohoes?


A mayoral showdown may be taking shape in the Spindle City.


Albany County Legislator Shawn Morse, who is also a deputy majority leader and very close to county Democratic Chairman Dan McCoy, has formed an exploratory committee for a run for mayor of Cohoes next year.


Morse has been long rumored as a potential opponent for Mayor John T. McDonald III, who is in his third term in City Hall and plans to seek a fourth.


Morse, who is in his second term in the legislature and chairs the Audit and Finance Committee, says that he will make a decision sometime this winter.


"I'm exploring all my options," said Morse. "Right now I am focused on working diligently as a county legislator."


McDonald struck a similar tone: "I'm very happy doing the job that I'm doing. I've always said that being mayor of Cohoes is a privilege, and I respect that privilege," the mayor told Inside Politics. "I have every intention of running again for office."


If Morse does run, it would not be the first time he went head to head with the mayor. In the early part of the decade as president of the city's firefighters union, he and McDonald battled over overtime and staffing reductions in the department. "We had some real battles," said Morse. "But we are both older now, we don't scream at each other anymore."


McDonald said Morse didn't tell him hr planned to explore a run -- but wouldn't have expected him to.


"Shawn and I talk regularly," the mayor said. "Nobody knows Shawn Morse better than John McDonald."


Coincidentally, both men were said to have had interest in succeeding state Sen. Neil Breslin, a Delmar Democrat running for re-election this year.


Inside Politics is a companion to the Local Politics blog ---- http://blogs.timesunion.com/localpolitics -- and compiled by Jordan Carleo-Evangelist. Randy S. Koniowka contributed. Reach the Insider via e-mail at jcarleo-evangelist@timesunion.com, on the phone at 454-5445 or at http://twitter.com/tulocalpolitics