Challenger Wins Plattsburgh Mayoral Race

Nov 10, 2016

The city of Plattsburgh will have a new mayor in January.  Local businessman and SUNY Plattsburgh Professor of Economics Colin Read won election to Plattsburgh’s top office, unseating incumbent Independent Republican-endorsed James Calnon. But the current officeholder doesn’t plan to concede until all the absentee ballots are counted.

Unofficial results from the Clinton County Board of Elections show Democrat Colin Read has a 363-vote lead, winning in five of the six city wards.  Read says the issues he raised resonated across the city.    “Obviously if you live in the new base and you've been suffering the water mains breakages to have some sort of a solution where we can get started at least to a limited degree pretty soon on the very worst areas of the infrastructure there and then leave it for perhaps more funds and maybe federal grants later on to help with the bigger parts of it as well I think that would be helpful for them. Other areas: everybody's concerned about roads, not just water mains. And of course all residents are worried about their taxes even if they don't own a home it’s still incorporated into their rent somehow. So I think many of them come down to fiscal responsibility and long term planning.”

Calnon says he was not surprised by the result of the election.   “I had expected it would be an uphill battle. Given the fact that Trump was the Republican nominee I thought that it would be a really high turnout and I think that was borne out by the numbers. And in a city that is as predominantly Democratic as Plattsburgh that didn't bode well for the Republican and Independence Party candidate. So I thought it would be a tough race and and it has been. Colin did very well. We both put our messages out there and let the voters decide.”

The Clinton County Board of Elections reports it had received 736 city absentee ballots as of Wednesday.  Calnon will wait until all the ballots are counted before conceding.   “I think conceding is kind of goofy. What's happening is Colin and I have already you know exchanged communications. We’re gonna you know start to talk about how to make a smooth transition. We won't do anything really formal. I mean I'll give him a real formal congratulations once the numbers are all final. But it's just about a smooth transition. And sometimes like on the national level it's meant to be a rallying point for the millions of people across the country that you know have been in this pitched battle. We really haven't been in a pitched battle. So we don't need that kind of thing. We're just going to do the job."

Read is confident that outstanding absentee ballots will not change the results.   “It’s looking good. I’m pretty excited actually. I would only need about 20 to 25 percent of them. The city is leaning Democratic so I don't think that will change the result. But to be fair to the mayor it’s his right to wait till those results are in.”

SUNY Plattsburgh Political Science Chair Dr. Harvey Schantz notes that in the post-WWII era incumbent mayors have won 79.3 percent of the time; Calnon is now the sixth incumbent to lose since then.  Schantz also notes that Republicans have held the city’s top office for the past 17 years.  He says Read presented a great strategy at the same time voters were ready for change.   “Road quality has long been a central issue in Plattsburgh mayoral elections. It led to the defeat of mayors through the years. So I think Colin Read came up with a great strategy to assault the record of the mayor particularly on the problems with the roads, more generally the quality of the infrastructure as well. Then looking more specifically in the last election James Calnon did not receive a majority of the vote where the opposition was divided between Mark Tiffer the Democrat and Chris Rosenquest the independent.”

Charter changes approved by the city council this year extend the mayoral term from three to four years.

Absentee ballots will be counted on November 21st.