McNulty won't run again
10-term congressman plans announcement; move creates wide-open race for seat
By RICK KARLIN, Capitol bureau
First published: Friday, October 26, 2007
ALBANY -- U.S. Rep. Michael McNulty, who has represented his Albany-based district since 1988, is stepping down at the end of this term.
McNulty's office wouldn't confirm the news, but several sources inside the Capital Region's Democratic organization, confirmed he has decided not to seek what would have been an 11th term in 2008.
Politicians across the Capital Region have received postcards inviting them to the Crowne Plaza for a noon event at which McNulty will discuss the "future of the 21st Congressional District."
In Washington, all while flashing an apologetic smile, McNulty said "no," he wouldn't talk about his planned announcement. Pressed on whether he would be seeking reelection, McNulty would only say "I have no comment now."
McNulty, 60, ran for Congress when Sam Stratton stepped down amid health problems; ironically, that may be one of the reasons for McNulty's departure.
The congressman suffered from a bout of polio at age 2 and was hospitalized for about a year in the 1970s after being struck by a car. He now copes with post-polio syndrome, which, while painless, can cause weakness and fatigue that worsens with age.
McNulty uses a motorized cart to get around the Capitol and observers have noticed that it's been years since he's marched in local parades.
While McNulty was all but anointed for the seat in 1988 by then-Albany County Democratic Chairman Leo O'Brien, who also ran the party's vacancy committee, a replay of that smooth transition is unlikely. Since then, the district's Democrats have fractured into various factions, and along urban-suburban lines.
Names of possible successors were already making the rounds on Thursday.
The early Democratic list was lengthy: State Sen. Neil Breslin of Bethlehem; Assemblyman Ron Canestrari of Cohoes; Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings; former assemblyman and current state Energy Research and Development Authority head Paul Tonko of Amsterdam; Schenectady Mayor Brian Stratton; M. Tracey Brooks of Ravena, an aide to Hillary Rodham Clinton who ran a close race against former Republican Assemblyman Pat Casale in 2002; Shawn Morris, Albany's Common Council president; and Albany County District Attorney David Soares, who beat the party organization to win his post and has strong support from the Working Families Party.
McNulty's sister, Ellen McNulty-Ryan who is the mayor of Green Island village, also has been mentioned.
Based on name recognition, most observers at this early date say Jennings, Canestrari, and Stratton are the likeliest candidates and no one is ruling out a primary.
On the Republican side, newly elected Assemblyman George Amedore's name has come up, as has Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco of Schenectady.
All of the potential candidates have pluses and minuses: Jennings may have the highest name recognition in the Albany area, where most of the district's voters live, but it's unclear how he would do in the more rural sections of Fulton and Montgomery counties.
Breslin has his own network of support in the county Democratic party and the state Senate. Stratton also has name recognition and a family history -- his late father, Sam Stratton, represented the district before McNulty.
Brooks could benefit from Clinton's wealthy and well-connected campaign organization, which also helped put 20th District Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand, another scion of Albany's Democratic politics, in office.
Canestrari is the Assembly majority leader, has fund-raising experience and is said to have good relations with the various wings in the fractious Albany County Democratic machine. The county has half of the district's voters.
Morris is also well-connected; her husband John Wellspeak is a top aide to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Tonko is well-known from his days in the Assembly, and living in Amsterdam could draw votes from the district's western edge, although he might have to leave the NYSERDA job since that agency is eligible for federal funds, which could put him in conflict with federal law.
Of the Republicans whose names have surfaced, Amedore, a home builder, drew lots of publicity, first for his appearance in the Extreme Makeover TV show, and then for running a savvy and energetic campaign in a traditionally Democratic district.
Tedisco, already recognized among Republicans, does well in Democratic Schenectady, and has been making a name for himself lately for taking on Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer over a controversial plan to give drivers licenses to illegal immigrants.
McNulty has been in elective office since 1969 when he became town Supervisor in Green Island at age 22, the youngest in New York. Emerging from a Green Island political dynasty, with relatives who served as tax collectors, mayors and village trustees, McNulty went on to the Assembly in 1982.
He was hand-picked in 1988 by then-Albany County Democratic Chairman Leo O'Brien for Stratton's seat, and since then has handily beaten back Republican challengers every two years, thanks in part to an enrollment margin in which Democrats outnumber Republicans by roughly 170,000 to 121,000 voters.
Last year, he defeated Warren Redlich with 78 percent of the vote.
McNulty's most serious challenge may have been from within his own party, when Lee Wasserman, representing the Democratic party's progressive/liberal wing, launched a primary challenge in 1996.
During his 10 terms, McNulty has earned a reputation as an in-the-trenches congressman who, while not making national headlines like some of his counterparts, has worked hard to protect the region's interest.
He has served on Armed Services, Small Business, and International Relations committees, and perhaps most importantly has spent 14 years on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over taxation, international trade, health care, human resources and Social Security. Recently, McNulty, like other Democrats, has been an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq.
Jennifer Dlouhy of the Times Union Washington Bureau contributed to this report. Rick Karlin can be reached at 454-5758 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
# Neil Breslin,state senator
# Ronald Canestrari, assemblyman
# M. Tracey Brooks, aide to Hillary Clinton
# Jerry Jennings, Albany mayor
# Ellen McNulty, Green Island mayor, McNulty's siste
# Shawn Morris, Albany Common Council president
# David Soares, Albany County DA
# Brian Stratton, Schenectady mayor
# Paul Tonko, former assemblyman
# George Amedore, state assemblyman
# James Tedisco, Assembly minority leader
Michael R. McNulty
Born: Sept. 16, 1947 (60)
Residence: Green Island
Career: Town supervisor of Green Island, 1969-1977 (was youngest town supervisor in New York state at 22); mayor of Green Island village, 1978-1982; New York assemblyman, 1983-1988; congressman, 1988-present. Re-elected to a 10th term in 2006 with about 78 percent of the vote.
Personal: Married to the former Nancy Ann Lazzaro; four daughters, five grandchildren
The 21st Congressional District
The 21st Congressional District (which is different from the 23rd when McNulty first ran) includes all of Albany, Montgomery, Schenectady and Schoharie counties, and portions of Fulton, Rensselaer and Saratoga counties. McNulty was re-elected to his tenth term in the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2006, with roughly 78% of the vote.