As one prominent Troy Democrat said: “Hey, if we don’t have any decent Republicans to fight … we may as well fight with each other.”
And there is no doubt a fight brewing within the Democratic ranks.
Chairman Tom Wade is looking to oust Council President Rodney, his wife Jolene and Councilman Ken Zalewski, D-District 5 from the Democratic Party Committee. He strongly hinted that if they don’t walk away from the seats quietly, and instead challenge his picks by waging primaries, he would look to have them removed from the party for disloyalty.
Safe to say, the three are not going quietly.
“As a proud registrant and committeeman of the Democratic Party, I have consistently proven my loyalty to the party leadership, elected Democratic officials, voters and constituents,” said Wiltshire, a former president of the Rensselaer County Young Democrats, in a statement. “If the chairman wishes to proceed down this path I, along with my attorney Kathleen O’Keefe, will pursue this in court.
“I am a Democrat through and through. I have never supported nor given money to a non-Democratically endorsed candidate. I take these allegations seriously and I am prepared to take this as far as it needs to go.”
O’Keefe worked for Sen. Cecelia Tkazyk in her nail-bitter recount win over Assemblyman George Amadore and has long been counsel to the state Assembly majority. In other words, she knows Election Law and if Wade does try to bounce the three from the party it could ultimately end up in court.
The disloyalty, Wade claims, started when Wiltshire accepted the Independence Party endorsement in exchange for giving the Republicans committee chairs and other appointments. Zalewski’s disloyalty, according to Wade, was when he backed incumbent Republican Councilman Dean Bodnar over his Democratic challenger Michelle DeLair during the District 5 race last year.
Both sides are coy about their strategy too. The way it works is a committee representative can run in any Election District within the Assembly District where they reside. So few signatures are needed to get on the ballot that they can wait until the last minute to show their hands and disclose who is running where. In other words, we likely won't know who is running where and against who until petitions are filed next month. It really doesn't get more down and dirty than a good committee fight.
The brewing battle became public when Wade handed out committee petitions for the “solid” committee members. I say “solid” because there are 30 Election Districts in the city, and with each having two committee members it’s not easy to fill the entire slate and there are always vacancies. There are those party loyalists, however, who have served for years and who run without question every two years. The Wiltshires and Zalewski were once considered “solid” committee members.
That started to change when Wiltshire accepted the Independence Party line, which helped him knock Lynn Kopka, D-At Large, out of the presidency she held for two years. Kokpa is a tried and true Wade loyalist.
Add that to the ongoing investigation the Council is conducting into two controversial demolition projects headed up – or ordered by – members of the administration of Mayor Lou Rosamilia, another Wade loyalist, and Wiltshire’s well known ambitions for higher office and … well … we have a war.
The winner of the war, should the two sides continue with the game of chicken and actually bang heads when petitions are due next month, will likely have control of not only the Democratic nod for mayor but the Rensselaer County Democratic Party.