Press-Republican

November 6, 2013

Democrats take control of City Council

By JOE LoTEMPLIO and DAN HEATH
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — If preliminary results hold up, the City of Plattsburgh Common Council will have five new faces and one returning one.

Democrats Rachelle Armstrong, Michael Kelly, Paul “Crusher” O’Connell and Joshua Kretser were the apparent winners, along with Republicans Dale Dowdle and Bruce Lawson.

WARD 5 CLOSE

Lawson’s race in Ward 5 was the closest, as he clung to a 4-vote lead over Democrat Becky Kasper by an unofficial count of 325 to 321. Potentially, at least three dozen or so absentee ballots remain to be counted.

“I would have rather have it decided tonight, but with the voter registration the way it is in this ward, I knew it was going to be an uphill battle, and Becky ran a thorough campaign,” Lawson said.

“But I would rather be ahead by 4 than behind by 4, at this point.

Kasper said she was pleased that she and Lawson ran positive campaigns.

“I thoroughly enjoyed learning about my ward,” she said.

Even if she loses the election, she is still co-director of public service at SUNY Plattsburgh, and one of that department’s missions is community development.

“Even if I’m not on the council, I can still serve the community in that capacity,” she said.

WARD 1

Armstrong, a Democrat, soundly won the Ward 1 race over Republican William Ferris and independent Maureen Carlo.

She tallied 386 votes to 262 for Ferris and 78 for Carlo.

Armstrong said she is pleased to earn a seat on the council at a time when the city is at a critical point, where it can really take off.

“Everybody I talked with feels that. I hope we can all have input on that as stakeholders,” Armstrong said.

She wants to see the re-emergence of a robust Community Development Office.

“I think there was evidence we haven’t had as clear an agent to promote and develop our city,” she said.

Ferris and Carlo did not return messages from the Press-Republican for a comment on the race.

WARD 2

In Ward 2, Democrat Michael Kelly apparently defeated Republican Michael Drew by just 20 votes, with the unofficial count at 222 to 202.

Kelly served on the council from 2007 to 2010, and Drew from 2002 to 2007.

Kelly said he’s really proud that it appears four Democrats have been elected to the City Council.

“I sense we’re going to make some changes, make some progress,” he said.

“I can’t wait to work with the Town of Plattsburgh and Clinton County to see where we can share some services.”

Kelly said his decision to campaign on the progressive side of the Democratic platform may have made the race closer than it would have been if he had run as a mainstream Democrat. He plans to push the city’s agenda to the progressive side of the Democratic platform.

Drew said that facing registration in the ward that favored Democrats by a 3-to-1 count was difficult.

“But he (Kelly) ran a good race and worked hard, and I wish him well,” Drew said.

WARD 3

Dale Dowdle, a Republican, won comfortably over Democrat Justin Meyer in Ward 3, with 409 votes to 370 for Meyer.

“I think I got out there and listened to voters, and I did my homework,” Dowdle said.

“People are concerned about taxes, but I think for the most part people are happy.”

Meyer said campaigning was a great experience, even in defeat.

“I got out and spoke to people and did what I could,” he said.

“Unfortunately, the voters decided for Mr. Dowdle. I congratulate him.”

WARD 4

In Ward 4, O’Connell, a Democrat, beat Republican Peter Ensel, 531 to 435.

O’Connell attributed his victory to hard work. It helped that he has been a lifelong city resident who was born in his ward.

“I know how the Fourth Ward thinks,” O’Connell said.

He said he has a number of issues he wants to bring to the forefront, including developing a better rapport with the Town of Plattsburgh.

O’Connell said he believes voters want to move in a new direction.

“I think the desire for change is evident in some of these results tonight,” he said.

Ensel said that going up against an opponent who has spent his whole life in the ward and knows so many people was tough.

“But I am proud of my campaign, and I have no regrets,” he said.

WARD 6

In Ward 6, Democrat Joshua Kretser garnered 195 votes to defeat Republican James Wemette, who had 98 votes, and Chris Jackson with 79.

Kretser said that since he returned to Plattsburgh from New York City he has immersed himself in community-action groups and recognizes the city’s potential. At the same time, his 10 years in New York City helped steer his campaign in the right direction.

“That definitely gave me a different perspective,” he said.

Now that he will be on the council, Kretser said he wants to see a huge increase in development through a focus on community resources and recreational opportunities. That includes the return of a more robust Community Development Office.

“We should be able to go after grant money from the state and federal government we haven’t been able to do with the lack of a Community Development Office,” he said.

Wemette issued a statement that said: “Thank you to those that supported my campaign for Plattsburgh City Council Ward 6. We worked our hearts out in a good cause and spread the message about the need for a common sense and dollars and cents approach to local government. I’d like to congratulate the apparent winner, Joshua Kretser, for kicking ass in the election for Plattsburgh Ward 6.”

Jackson, the incumbent who decided to run at the last minute after saying he would not seek re-election, said he was proud of the six years he spent on the council.

“In the past six years, we dealt with some difficult problems, and we fixed them,” he said.

“I decided to run again because I wanted a chance to work with Jim Calnon (mayoral winner), but it’s hard being on a third-party line.”

Email Joe LoTemplio at: jlotemplio@pressrepublican.com