Just three weeks before the Nov. 3 election this year, a group of Albany County legislators and candidates announced the formation of a Democratic Reform Coalition, which touted a platform that would make it more difficult for sitting legislators to guarantee themselves victories in their legislative districts, and shed light on a legislative process that many have decried as too opaque.
The announcement, timed as it was, was widely viewed as a push to get reform-minded Democrats elected to the legislature. And it seems to have worked: five of the six coalition candidates were elected to office and all five sitting coalition members seeking re-election won in their districts. (A sixth, Noelle Kinsch (D-6), did not run for another term.)
As well as calling for a non-partisan and independent redistricting committee, the coalition platform included a call for all county government meetings to be broadcast and live-streamed; term limits on leadership positions; empowerment of rank-and-file legislators; the codification of county legislation, rules and regulations; the appointment of an ethics commission that, while the legislature voted unanimously in favor of in 2011, was never created; and a general agenda promoting environmental responsibility, civil rights and economic opportunity.
Announcement of the coalition was met with hostility by sitting Democratic Outgoing Chairman Shawn Morse sent an email to coalition founder Chris Higgins (D-5) in which he accused the legislator of hypocrisy and of jeopardizing democratic elections in suburban districts, where the races tend to be more competitive.
“That email is what ‘democracy’ looks like in the county legislature,” Higgins responded in a statement. “It represents yet another example of the ‘old Albany’ bully tactics members of the legislature have been subject to over the past four years.”
With the exception of Democrats from Bethlehem, angry at the April redistricting, none of the coalition members went so far as to call for the ouster of party leadership, but the creation of the coalition itself was a clear critique of the way the legislature has been run for decades.