Republican Rensselaer County Executive Kathy Jimino is retiring at the end of 2017 after 16 years. Her exit opened the door for today’s high-profile election.
In the September primary New York state Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin finished ahead of Jimino's preferred candidate, Deputy County Executive Chris Meyer. Rensselaer County Democrats picked Andrea Smyth, who says she has run a "great, strong campaign." "I'm excited about the prospect to take this county to a great level. Modernizing our infrastructure, creating jobs and economic development by supporting the county by having shovel-ready sites, and making sure we can take good care of the health and safety with good drinking water and emergency response services."
McLaughlin says although he enjoys his work as an Assemblyman but... "...when Kathy Jimino decided not to run, it was an easy decision, 'cause I had said many times 'when Kathy doesn't run I will run.' It's just a great way to help people on a direct day-to-day basis."
McLaughlin says he has a pro-business record and would make that a priority. "...and do whatever we can to attract business in here so we can grow this economy, which in turn grows your residential base. Proud to say I was rated the number one pro-business legislator, have been named a guardian of small business by National Federation of Independent Businesses a couple of times now, number one by the Business Council in New York, so on top of that, we're going to try modernize our technology in this town. We're lagging behind a little but in some areas. In fact, I'm knockin' on doors yesterday and a guy was telling me how he's right in Wynantskill and he can't even get a cell phone signal at his house. So we need to work on that as a public safety issue as well as a communication and infrastructure issue. The heroin, the opioid epidemic obviously an issue facing every county in the entire country right now."
McLaughlin became a vocal advocate during the PFOA water contamination crisis in Hoosick Falls and Petersburgh, vowing to continue his crusade for clean water. Smyth likewise is focused on the issue. "As I've got out and talked to people all around this county, it became very clear that the water infrastructure is in desperate need of modernization. There are water pressure problems, there are water quality problems, there are an economic development failure by not having a public water system. My priorities are the voters’ priorities, and as I've gotten out and talked to the voters, water quality has really really risen to the top of the list.”
McLaughlin says he "gets along fine" with Jimino's brother, Democratic Troy Mayor Patrick Madden. "Once you get past the campaign season you buckle down and you govern together and try to do the best you can. Doesn't mean we're going to agree on everything, but you work together."
Smyth of late has focused her campaign advertising on an incident in which a longtime aide accused McLaughlin of assault. She defends the decision to employ commercial radio ads containing excerpts of audiotape originally provided to the Times Union in which McLaughlin utters vulgarities. "We have run an issue-based campaign from day one, and as it became clear from day one that this was an issue that the voters in Rensselaer County were concerned about and asked me about, we decided to leave it up to them to hear my opponent’s own words and make that decision on their own, so I don't consider it anything other than another issue that was brought to me by the voters," said Smyth.
McLaughlin chimes in: "She's really never made the case why people should vote for her if all she's gonna be is negative. This by the way is after she promised to run an issue-focused positive campaign and really has done nothing of the sort."
Green Party candidate Wayne Foy is also on the ballot.
Democrats have an enrollment edge over Republicans in Rensselaer County, but there are more unenrolled voters than members of either party.