Dominick Calsolaro

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Calsolaro in for fight amid move to re-vote party support

Published on 5/6/2009 by the Times Union written by JORDAN CARLEO-EVANGELIST, Staff writer

First Ward Common Councilman Dominick Calsolaro — a vocal critic of Mayor Jerry Jennings — said today he expects to lose the backing of his ward committee, which he won in a close vote late last month, because party leaders are calling for a new vote.

Leadership, he said, now contends the first vote was conducted improperly.

And while Calsolaro and his supporters don’t dispute that party rules call for a weighted vote — rather than the secret ballot that the two-term incumbent won by a count of 7-6 with one abstention — they question why the First Ward is the only one being held to that standard.

You may recall a similar dispute roiled the Albany County Democratic Committee in a 2006 battle for control between urban and suburban factions.

Especially galling, they say, is that they asked party leadership — Ward Leader Regina Goodbee and 2nd Vice Chairman Ron Bailey, who were running the meeting — whether the vote needed to be weighted and were told it did not.

“We were told we didn’t need a weighted vote. We asked. I’ve done this many time before as ward leader,” said Judith Mazza, Calsolaro’s campaign manager. Several days later, she said, Goodbee sent out an e-mail explaining the error and saying there needed to be a second vote.

Bruce Shultis, chairman of the city’s Democratic committee, said he typically calls for a voice vote and, if it’s close, it’s standard practice according to county party rules to hold a weighted vote in which weights are assigned to each committee person’s vote based on the voter turnout in their election district in the last gubernatorial race.

“When it’s that close you go to the weight,” said Shultis, who was not present for the vote. “It should have been done by the weight.”

He added: “Judith knows what the rules are … If it’s close, you have to have a weighted vote.”

But Mazza said there’s more to it than that.

“They didn’t like the outcome of the vote, bottom line,” Mazza said, noting the Seventh Ward committee didn’t conduct a weighted vote either. Calsolaro is supporting Jennings challenger Councilman Corey Ellis for mayor.

“Either you do it by the rules or you don’t,” Mazza said. “Why is Dominick being targeted on this issue when no one else is? He received the endorsement of the majority of the people sitting in that room.”

Calsolaro has been a vocal opponent of Mayor Jerry Jennings on numerous issues since the councilman was first elected in 2001. Jennings, in turn, helped establish the city Democratic Committee two years ago and holds significant sway over it.

Even though Calsolaro realizes it will likely guarantee he’ll lose the second vote, scheduled for tomorrow night, he said he’s called on his supporters to boycott it, saying he’d rather face a primary than legitimize what the committee is trying to do.

“We will let the people of the First Ward decide in September,” Calsolaro said after joining fellow Council member Barbara Smith for her re-election announcement this morning.

Goodbee and Bailey a were not immediately available for comment, nor was county Chairman Dan McCoy.