By Jack Besterman | October 11, 2021
Three candidates for Albany’s upcoming mayoral election gathered in the University at Albany’s Fine Arts building Thursday night to discuss problems currently facing Albany as well as the city’s future. Topics ranged from the fairness in the media to public safety in an event hosted by Channel Albany Community Media and Albany Student Television.
The candidates present were Alicia Purdy, who is running under the Republican and Conservative banners, Ved Dookhun, a representative of the Socialist Workers Party who is running as a write-in candidate, and Valerie Faust, a Democrat who failed to oust Mayor Kathy Sheehan during the primary election and is also running as a write-in candidate. The discussion was moderated by Marc Gronich, president of Statewide News Service.
Candidate Purdy described herself as a conservative who wants to “go against the status quo,” and “remove politics from everyday life.” Candidate Dookhun, on the other hand, said that his “personal life is political,” and is running because neither the Democrats nor the Republicans support workers. Dookhun himself is a freight rail conductor. Candidate Faust is an Albany reverend and schoolteacher who decided to run for mayor after being involved in activism and acting as a “problem solver” for her ministry.
Mayor Sheehan, who is running for a third term, did not attend the event despite being invited. Independent candidate Greg Aidala also declined to attend. According to Marc Gronich, Aidala said he would only go if Sheehan went.
Sheehan was a main topic of conversation and was harshly criticized by all speakers. On the topic of the budget, candidates were asked what they would change from Sheehan’s proposed 2022 budget. Valerie Faust criticized the budget for failing to address youth crime, homelessness, and the unemployed. She said she didn’t trust Sheehan’s budget because Sheehan is “not a person of her word, and I know that personally.” Faust did not respond to a follow-up email asking what personal experience she was talking about. Alicia Purdy said she wouldn’t keep anything from the new budget specifically because it was developed by Sheehan.
On the topic of policing, candidates were asked whether they thought the Albany Police Department was doing an adequate job or if they were being hampered by the current administration. Faust and Purdy both thought that the mayor’s office was too involved in APD matters. Candidate Faust said that the mayor should stay out of Chief of Police Eric Hawkins’s business. Purdy went even further in attacking the mayor, saying the mayor didn’t support police and that such interference was changing police culture in Albany into one in which police don’t show up to riots and only care about their pension and their badge. There have been multiple events during Sheehan’s past term where she described Black Lives Matter protests as riots and stood by uses of force by police and endorsed Chief Hawkins’s decision-making. When emailed for examples of Sheehan not standing by police behavior, Purdy did not respond.
Candidates were specifically asked about an amendment to Local Law J, which would increase the number of members on the Community Police Review Board, which has the power to subpoena department information and discipline officers. Candidate Faust said the law gives the CPRB too much power, but wouldn’t definitively say that she doesn’t support it. Purdy says she doesn’t support the law in its current form, calling it a “sideways defunding” of the police. Purdy didn’t respond to a question clarifying what this meant, since the proposed budget for 2022 adds over $1 million to the police budget. Candidate Dookhun took a different stance, saying that the law was “too simplistic” because it doesn’t fundamentally change the institution of policing from one that protects property over people. Dookhun said that protests against police brutality needed more discipline and should take cues from the Civil Rights Movements of the 1960s and 70s, specifically citing Malcolm X.
The event wrapped up with a discussion of revitalizing Albany’s cultural institutions. All of the candidates were in favor of having a cultural food fair, which would break down barriers between Albany communities. Candidate Faust said she was in favor of allocating money to update Albany’s libraries and museums. Purdy proposed a new aquarium that would showcase Albany’s river life. Dookhun was also in favor of investing into these institutions but noted that workers don’t have enough time for leisure even with new attractions.
The mayoral general election will be held Nov. 2.