Conservative Party won't dump Democrat Albany County Executive Dan McCoy over oil train stance

Times Union | May 14, 2015 | Column by Jordan Carleo-Evangelist

Imagine you're a politician who's spent much of the last 18 months hammering a major industry. Let's say — oh, I don't know — the railroads.

And let's say that one of your biggest political boosters is intimately involved in that industry.

Potentially delicate, agreed?

Not if you're Albany County Executive Dan McCoy.

McCoy's hard line on tougher regulation of oil-bearing trains that chug in and out of the Port of Albany apparently won't cost him theConservative Party endorsement this year — even though county Conservative Party Chairman Richie Stack spends his days running the railroad at the port.

McCoy will likely win the party's backing again this year, Stack said, in part because the GOP that Stack is periodically at war with has yet to field a candidate.

But even if the Republicans find someone, Stack said he isn't worried about the Democrat's disposition toward oil trains because, well, it doesn't matter.

Yes, McCoy has slapped a moratorium on Global Partners' plans to install oil boilers at the port.

Yes, he's pushing for a law that would make it a jailable offense not to swiftly report oil spills to the county.

Yes, he's called for residents to be moved out of public housing adjacent to the port for fear of a catastrophic explosion.

None of that moves the needle, Stack argued, because the railroads are regulated by the federal government, not the county — and certainly not McCoy.

"That's irrelevant what Danny McCoy thinks about ... the oil," Stack said. "He's entitled to his opinion. It doesn't bother me that he doesn't want the oil to run."

Stack, who calls fears about the oil trains overblown, said he's far more interested in the rest of McCoy's three-year resume, including slowing the flow of red ink at the Albany County Nursing Home and bringing the county's spending within the state tax cap.

"We've got to look at the total record," said Stack, who recently praised McCoy in a letter to fellow Conservatives for making "every effort to keep our taxes low in the face of expanding government costs at every level."

This is no small thing. It's a heavy lift for Republicans to win elections in Democrat-dominated Albany County. Without the Conservative Party line, it's nigh impossible.

In a statement, McCoy campaign spokeswoman Laura Castelli said McCoy "will continue to lead the fight against oil trains in Albany County, and will agree to disagree with Richie Stack on this issue."

Castelli also cited McCoy's work to improve services and control taxes, adding, "these accomplishments are what residents of Albany County care about, regardless of political affiliation."

(Insider suspects McCoy's prospective Democratic primary opponent, Dan Egan, might view McCoy's alliance with Conservatives less charitably.)

Stack's 2011 endorsement kept a Republican out of the race and paved the way for McCoy's election without opposition. Stack's periodic embrace of Democrats generally has seriously chapped the GOP. Last year, the combative chairman sued the statewide leadership of his own party in an attempt to steer the Conservative line to Democratic state Supreme Court candidateJustin Corcoran.

The endorsement and the judgeship eventually went to Republican Lisa Fisher, and the flap prompted then-county GOP Chairwoman Rachel Bledi to suggest Conservatives ought to banish Stack for disloyalty.

But things are more complicated for the GOP this year. According to Stack, Bledi's successor as GOP chair, Christine Benedict, is scheduled to interview next week for Conservative support in a run for Colonie town supervisor.

The GOP has yet to announce a candidate for what was once a marquee seat for the party — one that could very well require Conservative support if Republicans hope to wrest it from four-term Democrat Paula Mahan.

Recent electoral history suggests a Republican would likely need the Conservative line to topple Mahan, leaving Benedict little leverage to convince Stack not to do as he pleases in the executive's race. And based on Benedict's comments earlier this week, it's not clear the GOP is all that concerned with McCoy anyway.

On Tuesday, Benedict told Paul Vandenburgh on Talk 1300 that she'd rate McCoy's first three years as "good" and "an A-minus, a B-plus," and she praised him for his open-door policy toward the GOP.

Not exactly fightin' words.

Once again this highlights how New York's electoral system, which allows candidates to run on multiple ballot lines, turns minor-party leaders into putative kingmakers. (There are only 2,934 active Conservatives in Albany County.)

As much as Stack infuriates Republicans on occasion, sometimes they still need him. And he knows it.

Contact Jordan Carleo-Evangelist at 518-454- 5445 or email jcarleo-evangelist@timesunion.com. On Twitter: @JC Evangelist_TU

http://www.timesunion.com/tuplus-local/article/Conservative-Party-won-t-dump-Democrat-Albany-6264854.php

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PAUSE, People of Albany United for Safe Energy posted about Conservative Party won't dump Democrat Albany County Executive Dan McCoy over oil train stance on PAUSE, People of Albany United for Safe Energy's Facebook page 2015-05-19 23:24:54 -0400
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PAUSE is a grassroots group of individuals who have come together to promote safe, sustainable energy and fight for environmental justice. We engage the greater public to stop the fossil fuel industry’s assault on the people of Albany and our environment.