In year’s past, a column setting odds on who will run for what came out around May. But the newly accelerated political calendar has pushed it up, along with the collection of designating petitions, which begins on Feb. 23.
That means, in Colonie and across the state, the political parties have a lot of work to do in a relatively short period of time.
As you know, Supervisor Paula Mahan will retire after 14, successful years at the helm and the field is wide open. It’s a pretty good job as far as elected office goes. The pay is $123,000, the town is on solid financial shape and things are ticking along pretty well in the Capital District’s largest suburb.
The list of those who would like the job is understandably long. But the odds get longer when personal sacrifices and risks are factored in, not only by running an expensive, competitive race in a town that covers nearly 58 square miles and has a population of about 85,000 but for doing the job that is very much 24/7.
The odds below are only on whether or not a potential candidate will throw their hat into the ring. They are not on if they can win or lose. They were formulated after a panel of election experts analyzed reams of data and through consultation with odds-makers from across the county. Na, not really. They are from a reporter looking to fill up a paper in the dog days of winter during a global pandemic. They do, though, incorporate conversations with a bunch of people, and sometimes that means more than a database.
Without further ado, the odds for potential Democrats running for supervisor are:
• Pete Gannon: 3-1. The lifelong Colonie resident wants the job and has an impressive resume in government and the private sector. He knows the political game, is young and ambitious and there is not a blemish on his record. He does, though, have a young family and being supervisor is not a 9 to 5 job. To do it right — and there is no reason to believe Gannon would not — it takes nights and weekends and time away from home. Also, to run and hang onto his job as CEO of the United Way, he would presumably need permission from the Board of Directors. If they say no, the odds of him running decrease to 20-1.
• Tom Nardacci: 5-1. But only if Gannon doesn’t run. If his longtime buddy does decide to take the plunge, his odds drop to 50-1. The CEO and founder of Gramercy Communications and owner of three coworking office buildings with a resume of public service would make a formidable candidate and said he is interested in holding public office. He is a transplant from Rensselaer, though, and while that doesn’t as much as years past, it won’t help him among some of the lifers. Also, he is stretched thin trying to navigate four businesses through the perils of COVID so what he said about “timing is not right” could ring true. On the flip side, being your own boss means you don’t have to ask anyone’s permission to take an afternoon and bang on doors.
• Melissa Jeffers: 7-1. She is young and has ambitions and four years ago won a seat on the Town Board becoming the first millennial to sit on the panel. But she just started a new job with the Office of Court Administration too so it’s not clear if she is would have to give that up to run or not. She is building name recognition, even started a Facebook page, “Proud to be Colonie,” but every indication it was started with good intent and not to build her up for bigger office. Things like that, though, don’t hurt. She would also have to pick between running for Town Board as an incumbent or supervisor.
• David Green: 15-1. The Town Board member who is an attorney with a solid practice would likely take a pay cut and he has made no recent moves to increase his visibility. He did change his enrollment from Republican to Democrat but that was largely seen as a way to get a judgeship rather than to run for a higher political office.
• Nancy Hernandez: 20-1. Mahan’s former deputy on the Town Board stepped down to get a pretty solid job with the state Comptroller’s Office. There is likely way less heavy lifting working for the state than being supervisor so unless something drastic happens, she is a longshot.
By every measure, Republicans nationally and locally are not as strong as the Democrats and recent events have not helped. I asked the panel of consultants what they thought about what is happening in Washington and the potential impacts it will have on local races and I got pelted with pocket protectors. But, again, this is not about who will win, but who will run.
For the Republicans:
• Jennifer Whalen: 3-1. The former Town Board member who is now a county Legislator gave the clearest indication of any of the candidates that she wants to run by, well, saying it. She had a solid record on the board, initiating the live streaming of Town Board meetings and has endeared herself to one of the larger advocacy groups in town, SAVE Colonie, a Partnership for Planning. We’ve been told she has the capability to raise money and has decent name recognition. She may also work harder than any other candidate to secure the nomination, which does nothing but help her odds.
• Peter Crummey: 5-1. The longtime town senior judge would probably be the strongest candidate the GOP has to offer. He is well respected and well-liked by both sides of the aisle and has outstanding name recognition. The question is, whether or not he wants to ramp up his public service or if he wants to stay in the position he has now. Town court is one of the busiest in the state, but he has been doing it for a while and he has it running pretty smoothly. Whether or not he wants to give that up to be the executive in a town like Colonie is an open question. It is, though, a higher profile position and the GOP in the Capital District could use someone with his charisma in such a position.
• Peter Tunny: 7-1. The county legislature used to be on the Town Board and served on the Town Board from 1996 to 2003. He is the director of transportation for the South Colonie School District and ties to either school district is always a plus. He is also well-liked guy on both sides of the aisle with decent name recognition.
• Rick Field: 10-1. He was elected to the Town Board two years ago and may want to follow in the footsteps of his father, Fred Field, who was supervisor for nine terms. He has solid name recognition, thanks to his father and his real estate business, but little or no government experience. Also, his politics might be a bit too far right for a moderate town like Colonie.
• Frank Mauriello: 12-1. Admittedly, those odds could be a little on the high side for the current minority leader on the county Legislature. Mahan beat him handily four years ago but he ran a solid, respectable race and without having to face a popular incumbent, he could be a formidable candidate.
• George Scaringe: 15-1. He narrowly lost to Mahan two years ago but the former town and county GOP chair was widely seen as the candidate by default — in other words nobody else wanted to run. He knows the inner workings and behind the scenes political process as well as anyone but never seemed comfortable as a candidate. Safe to say, there will not be a default candidate this year.
• Julie Gansle: 17-1. Historically, the town clerk has stayed on a while, Gansle was elected four years ago and is up this year. Our panel of odds makers say she will likely not face a strong opponent for clerk and even if she does, she will likely win so they don’t see her giving up a good gig like that for something that is far less than guaranteed.
• Paul Burgdorf: 25-1. The county legislator has been involved in local and state politics for a while but he gave the strongest response when asked if he would run. “No.” Banging on doors in Schroon Lake would be difficult.
The odds on the odds are even money that someone will run who not included in this list. One way or another, it is going to be a fun year. That much is a sure bet.
Jim Franco has covered the Capital District for more than 20 years. He an be reached at 518-878-1000 or [email protected]