Albany, suburban Democrats find unity

County party ends dispute, elects compromise slate with 2 leaders for first time

CAROL DeMARE Staff Writer
Section: Capital Region,  Page: B1

Date: Thursday, February 8, 2007

ALBANY - The Albany County Democratic Committee elected a new slate of officers late Wednesday, headed by two chairmen, to represent party members throughout the city and suburbs.

The two sides came together after a contentious vote in September that pitted a city faction represented by Frank Commisso against a suburban one led by David Bosworth. That election gave Commisso the chairmanship by a vote of 253-216, but it was challenged by the Bosworth people and ultimately invalidated by a state judge on grounds a weighted vote was not used. Instead, committee members stood for their candidate.

Instead of going head-to-head again, a compromise slate was negotiated in which Commisso, Democratic majority leader of the County Legislature, and Bosworth, Guilderland Democratic chairman, would share the leadership - a first in the party's 85-year history.

The 359 members present Wednesday - out of 600 total - voted to change the rules to allow for co-chairpersons and then approved the compromise slate. About five people in Albany's inner-city wards stood to oppose both measures.

The slate includes Bruce Shultis of Albany, first vice chairman; Shirley Brown of Colonie and Matthew Clyne of Bethlehem, second vice co-chairpersons; Carolyn McLaughlin of Albany, secretary; and Peter Gannon of Colonie, treasurer.

After the vote, Commisso vowed "to work to bring this party together. I hear many, many times, the city, the suburbs. This is one organization, one team, and let's all wear the same jerseys."

Bosworth said, "We need to speak with one voice as we face the elections coming up," particularly on the county level. Brown, a Democratic worker in the Republican stronghold of Colonie for three decades, said it's been a "dream of mine to expand the empire."

Vera Michelson of the 4th Ward was one of those opposing the unified slate. She said not enough people were consulted on the compromise. "To me, it was not a democratic process. I'm glad nobody from Iraq was watching."

Third Ward committee member Anton Konev said, "the concept of co-chairs has been known to fail" elsewhere.

He called it a "back-door deal" and said neither Common Council President Shawn Morris nor council member Barbara Smith, who represent the "more progressive part of the party in the city," weren't involved. Both women were on Bosworth's earlier slate.

"It was not an election, but a selection," Konev said, and "that's not democratic."

Ron Bailey, Third Ward chairman, voted for the compromise package but had reservations. "These guys have been fighting since September and back-stabbing and talking about each other and now we're supposed to believe they're going to have love for each other."

Joanne Martin of the 13th Ward approved of the compromise, saying, "I hope it will make the party stronger."

Carol DeMare can be reached at 454-5431 or by e-mail at