The announcements set up a showdown for the Democratic nomination between Gallo, a City Hall insider with deep roots in Kingston politics, and Hayes Clement, a freshman alderman and relative newcomer to the city who has touted his corporate-world experience and commitment to finding new solutions to problems of economic development.
Turco-Levin, meanwhile, became the fourth Republican to enter the race following announcements by Alderman Ron Polacco (R-Ward 6), former council minority leader Richard Cahill Jr. and onetime school board President Jean Jacobs. Steve Ladin, director of Kingston’s New York State Trolley Museum, has announced an independent candidacy.
Gallo kicked off his campaign in a location and with a message designed to appeal to Kingstonians distressed by urban blight and quality-of-life problems in Midtown. Standing in front of the Kings Inn, a dilapidated, vacant former welfare motel on Broadway, Gallo pledged to clean up the city. He said he would use his experience as Kingston’s assistant corporation counsel to prosecute building code violations and help draft a nuisance abatement law to crack down on problem properties.
“Someday soon, this building will be razed and as mayor I intend to swing the first sledgehammer as crews begin the demolition,” said Gallo. “And what a great day that will be for Kingston.”
Gallo continued to hammer on the quality-of-life theme with calls for the creation of a task force to handle the problems of blight, expansion of the city’s Block by Block initiative which targets neighborhoods for intensive code enforcement and amendments to the nuisance abatement law to make it easier to enforce sanctions against irresponsible property owners. Gallo added that he would “require more accountability” from social service agencies which pay for clients housing in Kingston.
Gallo is the older brother of the late mayor T.R. Gallo, and began working for the city as director of personnel and civil service in 1983 before going on to a career as an attorney representing municipal workers’ unions and, finally, as a city attorney and Ulster County public defender. In a campaign where other candidates are working to score points based on their outsider status and promising a clean break with the past, Gallo embraced his roots in the city and knowledge of “the inner workings of city government.” Several of his key themes, including the Block by Block initiative, the nuisance abatement law and a pledge to expand the Operation IMPACT crime-fighting program, rested on initiatives put in place by current Mayor James Sottile. Gallo addressed what he called “the legacy issue” raised by his family connection to city politics by pledging to follow his own instincts when it came to running Kingston.
“I am my own man and I will serve the City of Kingston following my own vision for the future.”
Gallo was joined at the campaign kickoff by a number of supporters, including veteran Alderman Charlie Landi (D-Ward 3) former Ward 4 alderman Clint Brown and local political blogger Jeremy Blaber. Also on hand were Independence Party County Chairman Len Bernardo and Joe DiFalco who recently defected from Kingston’s Republican Committee to lead the city’s Independence Party. Bernardo said that he had decided to officially endorse Gallo after meeting with him six weeks ago to discuss a potential candidacy.
“He had a good solid plan,” said Bernardo. “And Kingston needs someone who understands the culture of this city.”
While Gallo stressed his deep roots and insider’s knowledge of city politics, Andi Turco-Levin (R-Ward 1) is running as a fresh face on Kingston’s political scene. Turco-Levin, who will officially announce her candidacy at a campaign event at Forsyth Park at 4 p.m. on Friday, March 25, is serving her first term on the Common Council. Like Polacco, Turco-Levin’s status as a relative newcomer may work to her advantage as she competes for the nomination with Rich Cahill Jr., who ran a bruising and polarizing against Sottile in 2007, and Jacobs, who was deposed as chair of the city’s Republican Committee in an ugly inter-party spat.
“I don’t come with much baggage,” said Turco-Levin, a real estate agent and past president of the Ulster County Board of Realtors. “I’m pretty much a newcomer into the politics of it.”
Turco-Levin grew up in Kingston, but left the city to pursue a career in radio as a DJ and executive. She returned 20 years later with husband and King Crimson/Stickmen/Peter Gabriel bass player Tony Levin, and is now a real estate agent.
Turco-Levin said that the city needed a new face in city hall to address issues like wasteful spending and “entrenched interests” in city government which stood in the way of meaningful reform.
“It’s time, we’ve had enough of the same old same old, we need a new direction,” said Turco-Levin. “The main goal is really to get city government back on track. There’s a real disconnect between the public and the public’s government that is the first thing that need to be addressed.”