A coalition of reform-minded legislators ultimately lost their bid to unseat longstanding leadership when some members defected in support of the established leadership—and four incumbent Republican lawmakers from Colonie chose to support a status quo they have often criticized over the last four years. After considering a number of other reform candidates for the Chairmanship, reformists, with Legislator Christopher Higgins (D-5) at the helm, ultimately nominated Alison McLean Lane (D-14), a vocal advocate for reform who would have been the first woman to hold the position. Higgins gave a short speech, urging his colleagues to vote in support of McLean Lane and telling other members that they had “an opportunity to make history by voting in support of what would be the first woman in the history of Albany county to take over this prestigious position.” The critical lawmakers remained unswayed, however, and Ward was elected Chairman by a vote of 23-16 after being nominated by Lucille McKnight (D-1), the presumptive Deputy Majority Leader, a position selected by Majority Leader Frank Commisso.
About a dozen coalition members (sitting Democratic legislators and candidates) pledged, three weeks before the Nov. 3 election, to support specific reform measures such as the creation of an independent redistricting commission (the creation of new district lines by the hands of elected officials has been found to violate federal civil rights legislation three times in a row, and cost Albany County taxpayers millions in legal fees); broadcasting and live-streaming of all county meetings; term limits on leadership positions; and empowerment of an ethics commission, among other things. Of those dozen members, only six voted in favor of McLean Lane. One chose not to run for re-election, another did not win in his district, and four coalition members ultimately decided to support Ward, in a move that seems to go against the platforms upon which they ran their campaigns. Legislators Sam Fein (D-6), Andrew Joyce (D-9), Gary Domalewicz (D-10) and Raymond Joyce (D-13) cast their vote in support of a candidate who seems to clearly represent a status quo the coalition had hoped to overturn.
Four Dems who were not expressed members of the reform coalition, including McLean Lane, voted with reformists. Doug Bullock (D-7), David Mayo (D-20) and Joe O’Brien (D-25), who took on Commisso for his seat as Majority Leader. They were joined by six Republican lawmakers, igniting rancor within the ranks of the minority party and leaving them without a clear leader going into the year.
After being escorted to his place at the front of the chamber, Ward addressed the divided parties, saying that “everyone was involved in this process of choosing a chairman” and remarked that it didn’t matter to him who won the seat. “Don’t think I don’t want the position, I’m very interested in doing it,” he added quickly, to a smattering of laughter around the packed chamber. “Today is a day for 39 legislators who all took an oath of office to serve our county. And some have been here for a while, but we have 14 newcomers and I’ve spent a lot of time talking to them, whether they were going to vote for me or not, about the importance of serving their districts and the county.”