SARATOGA SPRINGS — Current city Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton this week officially announced her candidacy for Mayor of Saratoga Springs. Dalton, who left the Republican Party line earlier this year to become independent of any party – will run on the newly created Saratoga Stronger Together ballot line.
“Right now, we need someone leading the city in the mayor’s position who truly understands the extremely precarious position we’re in,” Dalton explained. “The only person who can understand that is someone who has been on the City Council the past two years and who has gone through this crisis, from the inside.”
City voters in November will elect a new mayor and four commissioners – which comprise the five-member City Council – as well as two Supervisors to represent the city at the county level. Of those seven positions, at least four will see new faces; three incumbents are not seeking re-election, and Dalton is vying for a different seat.
In New York state this year, several party ballot lines have been eliminated. The remaining parties are Democrat, Republican, Conservative and Working Families – the latter of which is currently being litigated among potential candidates.
Candidates may also create their own ballot lines, but those must secure a specific number of signatures for that line to be valid in November. In Saratoga Springs, the number of required signatures is 305, and the dates to secure signatures is April 13 to May 25.
This week, Dalton unveiled the ballot line Saratoga Stronger Together, which lists as candidates: Robin Dalton - Mayor; Adam Israel - Commissioner of Finance; Colin Klepetar - Commissioner of Accounts, and Tara Gaston – County Supervisor, the latter a position that Gaston currently holds. More candidates may be added in the future. Any additional candidates would require additional signatures to the 305 that the four currently listed as candidates must secure as a group.
“The way we will treat each other, and how we treat politics in Saratoga Springs will be with civility and with respect,” Dalton said, of candidates on the Saratoga Stronger Together ballot line. “We can agree to disagree. We can build consensus together and still hear every voice. We’re not really concerned with people’s former political party. We’re united in – not policy necessarily – but how we treat legislating at the City Council table.”
Like Dalton, finance commissioner candidate Adam Israel is a former registered Republican. “I was always a registered Republican, but I did not agree with the previous administration nationally, so I switched my party to NOP (No Party Preference).”
“As we started developing things for the election cycle in November, it became clear to me that the representative parties locally represent what the parties represent nationally, which is, fairly extreme positions,” Dalton said. “What I hear over and over from Saratogians is they’re not looking for (extremes), they’re looking for a middle ground, and someplace that focuses on the city of Saratoga and not on the politics dividing us as a country.”
As of this week, city Democrat, Republican, and Working Families candidates on file with the Board of Elections include: Mayor: Ronald Kim (D), Heidi Owen (R, C); Accounts: Dillon Moran (D), Samantha Guerra (R,C); DPW: Domenique Yermolayev (D), Anthony “Skip” Scirocco INCUMBENT (R, C); Finance: Minita Sanghvi (D), Joanne Kiernan (R,C), Sierra Hunt (WF); Public Safety: James Montagnino (D), Tracey Labelle (R,C). For Supervisor (two seats): Tara Gaston INCUMBENT (D, WF), Shaun Wiggins (D), Matthew Veitch INCUMBENT (R,C), John Safford (R,C), Bruce Altimar (WF), Gabriel O’Brien (WF).
Petitions regarding some Working Families Party line candidates are reportedly being challenged at Saratoga County Supreme Court.
“There’s been a faction of Republicans who have disaffiliated from the Republican Party and re-registered as the Working Families Party, so when people go to vote in November there’s a fairly high likelihood that they’re not actually voting for the people who stand for the Working Families ideology – they’re voting for people who represent something different,” Dalton said.
The majority of the city WF line is comprised of new members who came from various previous affiliations and recently registered with the party. Of those, previously registered Republicans outnumber previously registered Democrats by a near 2-to-1 margin.
“We’re going toward an election season in November where we really only have two options. For Saratoga Springs, I feel that it’s incredibly necessary for us as a community to have a third option, one that prioritizes city over party,” Dalton said. “Once I began articulating that, I had a lot of other voices join in and want to participate in this effort to create an actual independent party line, where people can run free of the constraints of our traditional two-party system.”
Israel, the line’s Finance Commissioner candidate, earned a degree in finance at RPI, and said politics was always in the back of his mind.
“It was really becoming bothersome to me that the moderates in the middle are losing their say at the table. I got to talking with Robin and my view is that there should be a line where people are beholden to the people they serve and not to the party line. That’s really what brought us together. The idea that we may not always agree, but that’s OK, because we are going to do what’s best for the people of Saratoga,” Israel said.
Dalton and Israel say one way they connected was in sharing their experiences of answering a call to duty under unpredictable and challenging circumstances. Israel found himself working on humanitarian efforts in 2017 in the Virgin Islands after being hit with back-to-back Category 5 hurricanes. Dalton’s experience came when the city went on PAUSE due to COVID-19. “I was thinking: how are we going to survive this from a public health perspective, how are we going to survive this as a city, and knowing that I was in charge of that response. It was terrifying, but it was: am I going to rise to the occasion and give it everything I’ve got? Of course.”
“Robin and I quickly learned that we jelled. We didn’t know we would, but we can share these experiences – standing at the cliff’s edge, looking at this impending doom and the fear that grips you. And you can either bow to the fear, or, do the work. It really turned out we had a lot in common,” Israel said.
A grassroots effort to secure signatures began this week and will continue into May. The group says it will look to secure those signatures in open air locations, utilizing drive-by methods, and in other protocol-safe ways. Any registered voter in Saratoga Springs can sign the petition regardless of their political affiliation, as long as they have not signed the petition of one of the endorsed candidates of any of the other parties. For more information about signing petitions or the ballot line, go to: www.saratogastrong.com