Albany Councilman likes to follow the law

By Jordan Carleo-Evangelist – April 5th, 2012

Albany Councilman Anton Konev is no stranger to political jousting. The first-term midtown Democrat has found himself in all kinds of political dust-ups over the last year two-plus years — from a battle over prayer in the council chamber to a public blowup with the police chief.

But he sparked one Monday night with a much, much bigger fish.

Konev — with the support of Councilman Ron Bailey — blocked the appointments as commissioners of deeds of 10 volunteers for Democratic Congressman Paul Tonko‘s campaign.

The reasoning, Konev said, is not political and is simple enough: The applications illegally claimed that the volunteers lived at county Democratic headquarters on Colvin Avenue and that their primary place of employment was a campaign office on Central Avenue.

Neither of those, Konev said, can be true.

The volunteers were part of an effort by Tonko’s campaign to gather the 1,200 signatures it needs to secure the Independence Party for his November re-election bid.

To collect the signature of a member of a political party, the person carrying the petition either needs to be a member of that party or a notary or commissioner of deeds to administer an oath to the person signing it.

But for the council to appoint someone a commissioner, he or she must live in the city or live in the county with his or primary job in the city.

Tonko’s campaign acknowledges the applications contained inadvertent errors but noted most of the applicants are UAlbany students and a couple of others live in the county and work in the city.

“It was a clerical error,” said Tonko spokesman Clinton Britt ”And obviously, we completely defer to the judgment of the city council.”

Konev alleges it didn’t end there.

On Tuesday morning, he said, he received and angry phone call from Tonko staffer Sean Shortell, who he says in no uncertain terms told him he would “remember this” and not to expect much from the congressman’s office in the future. Though Konev said Shortell took pains to note that it wasn’t explicitly a threat.

“It’s nothing against the congressman,” Konev said. “The point is, follow the freaking law … I don’t like to be threatened when I do my job.”

Britt denies any such threats — or otherwise — were made, calling Konev’s assertions “baseless and untrue.”

“The congressman enjoys a good working relationship with all levels of government, including the numerous city councils throughout the Congressional District,” he said. “We have and will continue to have a positive relationship with all members of the Albany City Council as we work together to advance the needs of the Capital City.”

City, county tug-of-war

The shifting field of Democrats eager to succeed Albany Assemblyman Jack McEneny is top-heavy with hopefuls from the city.

But the head counts in the new 109th Assembly District reveal that most of the voters — and even a slight majority of the Democrats — live in the suburbs.

Of the 39,460 enrolled Democrats in the district, according to Democratic Party Chairman and Elections Commissioner Matthew Clyne, 20,368 — or 51.6 percent — live in the suburban sections: the towns of Bethlehem, Guilderland and New Scotland.

The rest of the Democrats come from the now-smaller section of the city of Albany included in the district, which once stretched all the way out to the county’s rural Hilltowns but has swapped them for Bethlehem.

When you ignore party, suburban voters dominate the 109th’s rolls roughly 2-1 — 51,694 to 26,498.

How significant those figures are depends largely on voting patterns.

In other words: In a district split between suburban and urban Democrats, which voting bloc is more likely to turn out in higher numbers on primary day? Theories vary — and much depends on who the candidates are.

There has arguably been no bigger booster for the city than McEneny, a 10-term lawmaker born and raised in Albany.

But the scrum for his district may come to embody the broader tug-of-war between the city and suburbs for control of the Democratic Party as a whole for the better part of the last decade.

Not suprisingly, the word is that Mayor Jerry Jennings is eager the seat remain in the city’s hands.

As for the Republicans, they number just shy of 16,000 in the district — fewer even than the 17,000 voters not affiliated with any party.

Inside Politics is compiled by Jordan Carleo-Evangelist. Reach the Insider via email at, 454-5445 or on Twitter @JCEvangelist_TU

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