ALBANY Citing dissatisfaction with what he described as the “top-down” style of governing employed by a leadership that has long controlled the legislature, County Legislator Joe O’Brien (D, 25th District) has decided to become the first to challenge Majority Leader Frank Commisso (D, 11th District) in the entire 22 years that Commisso has presided over the democratic caucus.
“A number of people have been asking for meaningful change, meaningful involvement,” said O’Brien, who volunteered to run when members of his party were considering a challenge to Commisso. “We’re frustrated that there’s no involvement, that it’s always from the top down and never from the members up. That’s always the way that it’s done.”
Growing dissatisfaction with party leadership seems to have reached a boiling point in 2015, potentially toppling the current regime and significantly altering the way that business is done in Albany County politics. This discontent has culminated in the formation of the Democratic Reform Coalition, the aim of which is to implement a series of ‘good government’ reforms intended to make county politics more inclusive and transparent. Some feel that unseating a leadership they see as obstructing these reforms is necessary to ensure the accountability and participation of all county elected officials.
“There isn’t any involvement of the women or of the minorities,” O’Brien said, pointing out that the current arrangement is essentially a three-white-men-in-a-room dynamic. Commisso, Chairman Shawn Morse (D, District 17) and Deputy Majority Leader Sean Ward (D, District 16), according to several O’Brien supporters, tend to make legislative decisions in an opaque, behind-closed-doors fashion. There have been several notable instances when this has caused suspicion and anger among the other 36 democratically elected members of the legislature.