The race for Kingston’s Democratic mayoral nomination comes down, in broad terms, to contrasting visions of the way forward for an economically battered city struggling to find its place in the new century.
For Hayes Clement, a newcomer to politics and to Kingston, the path lies with innovation and an outward-looking focus on bringing new business and new residents to the city. For Shayne Gallo, a lifelong resident of Kingston with deep professional and family connections to City Hall, the way ahead runs along the avenues and side streets of a city which must address pressing quality-of-life issues and the needs of current residents before it can realistically hope to attract new investment.
Democratic voters will go to the polls Tuesday, Sept. 13 to decide who will appear on the party’s mayoral line in November.
The primary campaign has a counterintuitive political dynamic. Hayes, the outsider running on a message of change, has the support of local Democratic stalwarts like Kingston Democratic Committee Chairman Frank Cardinale and Common Council Majority Leader Bill Reynolds. Gallo, brother of the late mayor T.R. Gallo and a veteran City Hall insider, is counting on a grass-roots self-described “lunch bucket” campaign to overcome Clement’s advantage in fundraising and political clout.
While this is Gallo’s first campaign for elected office, the 52-year-old attorney has been deeply involved in municipal government since the early ’80s when he worked as the city’s civil service administrator. After law school, he went to work representing municipal employees’ unions, including the Kingston Police Benevolent Association. Since 2004 he has served as an assistant corporation counsel, charged with enforcing and in some cases drafting city ordinances. While opponents have used that background to paint him as the candidate of “business as usual,” Gallo sees it as experience that is needed if the city is going to have a leader ready to start making changes on day one.
“I have the experience,” said Gallo who pointed to his negotiating union contracts, navigating civil service rules and enforcing nuisance abatement legislation. “I don’t need to rely on attorneys, I don’t need to rely on consultants or even department heads. I don’t need on-the-job training.”