A real mayoral race is brewing in Troy

TROY – Competitive, bipartisan mayoral races are unfortunately rare in this region – and just about everywhere, I suppose.

In Albany, for example, Republicans barely exist and incumbents are almost guaranteed to be re-elected. In Colonie, Republican Supervisor Peter Crummey is running somewhat unopposed by Democrats this year, after eking out victory two years ago. And while Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy faces a Republican challenger, it’s a safe bet that the Democrat will win relatively easily in November.

Troy is different. Most city mayoral elections are competitive enough to offer voters a real choice, and this year’s contest between Republican Carmella Mantello and Democrat Nina Nichols is no different. Troy organizes a real cooking competition. And yes, that’s a good thing, even without the interest that restaurateur Vic Christopher might have generated.

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To be sure, Nichols and the Democrats enjoy a 3-to-1 registration advantage, a gap that has widened so much that it’s fair to wonder whether a Republican can still win the mayor’s race in the city.

But Mantello appears to offer Republicans a pretty good chance. After all, it’s a lifelong Trojan, with particularly deep roots in the city. (As she often mentions, her father was a city police officer.) She’s also city council president, proving she can win citywide — even though she lost two mayoral elections, most recently in 2011.

Mantello presents herself as an experienced, non-ideological candidate who will focus on the nuts and bolts of running the city. Troy, she claims, has been largely leaderless under Mayor Patrick Madden, a Democrat, leading to dirty streets, low morale among city workers and, far from downtown , to deep concerns about the future of the city.

“No matter the neighborhood, crime is the major problem,” Mantello told me, saying the solution lies in a broken windows philosophy that ties policing to code enforcement and other quality of life issues. “We will take back our city block by block. »

Nichols also includes code enforcement in what she describes as a “holistic approach to crime,” while including the department in its focus on protecting tenants — “more than 60 percent of the people who live in Troy.” , she notes – who are struggling with poor housing conditions, rising rents and gentrification.

Nichols arrived in Troy in 2006, and traces of her native Texas can be heard when she speaks. She fell in love with the city when she saw it, she told me, but she thinks it can be improved by investing in parks, sidewalks and neighborhoods. She is also committed to protecting access to abortion and fighting climate change at the municipal level.

It would be too simplistic to present Nichols as the candidate of the new Troy and its most recent progressive arrivals and Mantello as the candidate of the natives and the most working-class neighborhoods of the city. But there is an element of division in the race, and it’s hard to imagine that Nichols, a former pastor who works at the nonprofit Unity House, would have had a chance at becoming mayor of Troy ago 20 years.

Nichols, however, said she wants to become mayor of all of Troy and said she knows Republicans who support her campaign.

“People who choose this city know how wonderful it is. People come here and want to love it and work for it,” she said.

If there’s one thing Mantello and Nichols agree on, it’s that Madden has often been guilty of governing as a technocrat and detached lawyer. (Neither said it as harshly.) Nichols, drawing a comparison, presents himself as a “more outgoing person” who enjoys interacting with voters. Mantello also said she would be a much more visible mayor, one “on the streets every day.”

Both women are committed to running positive campaigns, but we all know what elections in Troy can look like – and there are already signs of toughness, including claims about so-called “push polls” broadcasting in misleading negative messages.

Mantello accused Nichols of being far to the left of Madden, suggested she was ideologically aligned with residents who want to defund the police and claimed the city would be in trouble if the Democrat won. Nichols responded by accusing her opponent of sowing fear while emphasizing that she intended to “staff, equip and train the police department as much as possible.”

Isn’t that fun? Certainly, there may be times when Troy residents wonder if experiencing a real mayoral race is such a good thing. Democracy, as the saying goes, is the worst form of government, except all others.

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